Harry Unruh's 1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator

First purchased August 1, 1969 ... 
Re-purchased 40 years later, August 15, 2009 ... 
Restoration completed July 15, 2011.

I.  Body Rebuild

1. Interior is stripped


2. Engine & transmission are pulled



3. Front Fenders and Doors are removed

Once the engine and transmission were pulled and front fenders removed, all front end mechanical components were also removed.











4. Body is Stripped

The entire body was then stripped of all paint. It was discovered that the body had been almost completely coated with bondo at some previous "restoration". Additionally, at least 4 layers of paint of different colors were found on the car so that in places the paint and bondo was up to 1/2" thick. Rather than repair body damage, bondo had been used to merely cover it up. After this, a proper determination could be made as to whether the area was usable and repairable, or needed to be replaced.


 Old repairs shown covered with bondo








 Passenger side "C" pillar showing earlier repairs.


5. Driver's Side Door

We started with the driver's door since we knew from the beginning it was quite bad. We quickly decided to replace the door as it had too much rust to be worth repairing. A perfectly clean used door, obtained from an Arizona car was then stripped of paint and prepared for use.


Although the replacement door was almost perfect (no dents or rust), the common rust area at the bottom latch-end corner was cut open and cleaned on the inside and repaired.











6. Passenger Side Door

It was originally thought that the passenger door was in good usable condition that, although it had some rust, would be worth repairing. But as with the previous panels, once we started stripping it down to bare metal, we realized it too would be more work to repair than to replace. So another fairly good used door was obtained from good friend and FordNutz Cougar Club member Kim Friesen. It was then stripped and cleaned, repaired similar to the above shown  driver's door and prepared for installation.



 7. Passenger Side Rear Quarter Panel 

The next section to be tackled was the passenger side rear quarter panel.


We thought at first that we would be able to repair the panel by just replacing the rusted areas, such as the entire wheel house lip and the areas fore and aft of the bottom wheel opening. But as the panel was stripped, it was soon determined that it too was in too bad a condition to repair.

This included the complete "C" Pillar up to the top of the roof line since it too was badly damaged and had previously been very poorly repaired (as seen in the "C" pillar photo Topic 4. Body is Stripped).  A replacement from another Arizona car was procured and prepared for installation.













Replacement Quarter Panel being prepared & repaired

It too was stripped of all paint and the few small rust areas were easily repaired.  By replacing the entire quarter section, we were also able to replace the badly rusted outer wheel house as well as the door post which was also in quite poor condition and had been previously patched. It also enabled us to replace the rear window channel section that was very badly rusted. All in all a big job but solved many smaller related problems.

Replacement quarter installed - showing the join/weld line at the top of the C pillar

 8. Front End

For a change of scenery, the front end of the car was the next section to be rebuilt. We knew this would be the most challenging section to work on since there was some serious damage here from when the car had been in an obviously major crash (see story at beginning of site). Once all the front end mechanicals had been removed, it could be seen that the passenger side front frame rail was seriously bent. We initially thought it would be possible to straighten it. So, first the RH fender aprons and shock tower were removed. They would be replaced later since they too had never been properly repaired and were still badly bent. The shock tower was still in relatively good condition and was repaired.

The front radiator mount and lower cross member had been "modified" to accommodate the bent frame so were also irreparable and would need to be replaced. 












RH Frame Rail and Aprons

RH Frame Rail   















Radiator Mount and Lower Cross member


Once these components were all removed, it was clearly obvious that the frame rail was not repairable. It was bent at the firewall and had a bad zig-zag bend right where the right front suspension assembly was mounted. So it was determined that the entire rail complete with extension would need to be replaced.



New rail extension installed




New Frame Rail Layout



The correct measurements and dimensions were obtained from another 1969 Cougar on site that was completely original and undamaged.















Shock Tower Rebuilt 

New Frame rail,
Radiator mount
and Front lower Cross member











 The new fender aprons and rebuilt shock tower were then installed and correctly aligned. The real test of correct fitment and alignment would come when the motor would be reinstalled. And I can say that when that time came, the motor dropped in perfectly; the motor mounts fit exactly.

Front end structure completed


Once the front end was completed, the car's underside was completely sand blasted. This revealed a few more areas that needed repairs.   

Both the right and left torque boxes were very badly damaged and rusted so were replaced at this time.

Several floor sections were badly rusted and were either repaired or replaced with new reproduction patch panels, specifically

- front passenger floor - patch panel
- DS rear floor under back seat - patch panel
- DS floor-to-firewall (toeboard) section where E-brake cable passes through, was repaired.




 Passenger front floor

9. Driver's Side Rear Quarter Panel

Work was now started on the existing LH quarter panel only to discover it too would be better to replace than to repair; there were too many rusted and previously damaged areas poorly repaired. So a fairly good (grade "B") complete section was procured from a California vendor and prepared. It too was stripped to bare metal and the surfaces were smoothed and repaired.

Although this panel looks rough, it was actually in quite good condition with only one dent to repair and some minor rust at the forward bottom corner of the wheel house opening.










Rust repairs 




Once repaired, it was installed and made to fit perfectly.




Notice the pencil thin join/weld line











10. Front Fenders

It was first anticipated that both front fenders were in relatively good condition as they showed very little damage or rust. This was true of the driver side unit. But as the passenger side fender was stripped of paint, we discovered it had along with the normal rust spots, a large rust hole that had previously been repaired by filling with bondo. It was decided that rather than try to repair this and other rust damage to replace it.

A good used fender was bought (another good AZ find) and prepared.







11. Trunk Lid

The original trunk deck lid also looked quite good before we started but once it had been removed from the car and the chrome trim removed, it was obvious it would also need to be replaced; there was just too much rust under the rear lower lip and also at the hinge mounts. An excellent replacement was found again in AZ and once received was stripped and repaired.









Trunk lid & LH quarter completed

- lid mounted for alignment;  notice the perfect fit & gap!! 





12. Hood & Scoop

The front hood was solid and clean as far as rust went, but had some relatively minor damage; there were two cracks (splits) on either side of the front nose. Interesting damage; we suspect that at some earlier repair someone had sanded or ground down that area too far and the metal got too thin so that with vibration and movement, developed the cracks. These were welded shut and then ground and sanded to the correct contour. The back side was also cleaned and coated with epoxy sealer.

The scoop also had some previous damage that had not been properly repaired  (possibly still from the 1974 collision). Both were properly repaired and would be installed.











Hood damage - split on either side of "nose"   



13. Miscellaneous Other Body Areas

a. Drivers Side Rocker Panel - had been previously repaired and as with other repairs, very poorly; it did not line up properly with the door bottom lip. The problem was with only the outer panel section. We decided that rather than to try and correct what had been done, we would replace it with a new reproduction albeit Mustang unit. This worked out quite well although it did need to be modified somewhat to fit properly.


b. Rear Window Channel - there were several bad rust spots in the rear window channel:

- passenger side at both the top and bottom corners. The area along the C pillar was repaired with the installation of the replacement quarter panel. The top area was repaired.

- driver side, as with the passenger side, also had a serious rust spot midway up the C pillar area, likely a result of the poor earlier repairs. This to was successfully and properly repaired.


Drivers side

 Passenger side






c. Rear Spoiler - The original rear spoiler was still on the old trunk lid so was removed for restoration. It was in fairly good, solid condition though it needed some refinishing work. It had a minor "dent" (if fiberglass can have a dent) which needed to be repaired.


d. Front & Rear Valance Panels and Front Stone Deflector - These were in quite good condition with very minor surface rust; the rear was a bit more dented than the front but was still repairable.



Front Valance & Stone Deflector 







d. Roof Underside (inside) -was badly covered in surface rust. This was stripped and cleaned and the entire surface sealed with POR15 sealer. It will later be covered with a Sound Deadener product prior to installing a new headliner.



All body work was mostly done with no bondo and very little filler; all rust repairs were done by cutting it out and patching with new metal. Even hidden areas we suspected could be rusted were opened, cleaned of rust and epoxy sealed and patched with new metal. I was very adamant; I wanted absolutely no bondo used to repair rust or close holes!


Page II. Mechanical Rebuild