Good as Gold
Like many car enthusiasts, DCC member Jim Jacobus, of Virginia Beach, Va., has one of those stories about the cherished car he let go and how he regretted the decision.
Jim's story begins in early 1972. He purchased a new '71 Cougar that had sat for an extended period on a dealer lot. It was a standard coupe, red on the outside, with a black interior and black vinyl top.
"That car was sharp!" Jim says. "Somewhere around 1983 and a little over 100.000 miles, small things started going wrong with it. Things that were fixable but were not within my limited budget. Amid family pressure to 'get something more reliable,' I sold the car for $100.
Time passed, and in the late 1990s, Jim started looking for another Cougar. But he could find only cars that needed more work than he was willing to put into them. After a while, he stopped looking.
Fast forward to 2001, to a night when Jim and a friend decided to catch a movie after dining out. "We were near a copy store and were going to go in to use the computer to check the movie listings. On the way in the door, I spotted a newspaper that someone had discarded just outside. It was in perfect shape, neatly folded, complete, and looked like it had never been opened. We used it, found a movie and I tossed it in the car." The next day, Jim says, he decided to check the auto classifieds before throwing the paper away. "I guess it was fate, because there was the ad for Goldie."
"Goldie" is a 1972 XR-7 coupe and turned out to be just the car Jim was looking for. It has a Medium Ginger interior, a 351-2V Cleveland "H-code" engine and FMX automatic transmission. The car was built with air conditioning, power steering and brakes, and stereo.
Jim is the car's third owner, and while he drives it about every other day, the car still has only about 105,000 miles on the odometer.
"When I bought it, the exterior had been roughly repainted 'Goldenrod,' an awful Mercury color that should have been named 'Really Ugly Mustard Yellow,'" Jim says. "Although I never would have chosen a car in that color, the car was in too good a shape to pass up. I soon had the car repainted to its non-original but head-turning 'Pimp-Mobile Gold.'"
Since purchasing the car, Jim has steadily restored it back into a solid driver. He replaced the coil springs and front shocks, rear leaf springs, front disc brake hubs and rotors, weather stripping, one front and two rear floor pans, the headliner, front seat covers, carpeting and interior door panels. He's also added a dash pad cover, replaced the front and rear bumpers, and painted the car. Other replaced parts include the radiator, distributor (now a Mallory electronic unit), fuel pump, and front wheel bearings.
Jim says he's learned the lesson familiar to many of us: "Buy a car in the best possible condition that you can afford. Restoration is always more expensive than you anticipate."
He says he has modest plans for his Cougar, beyond driving and enjoying it. He wants to detail the engine compartment, put on bigger wheels and tires and improve the engine's performance.
Jim says he got his love of old cars from his dad and from "growing up in the '50s with all those beautiful cars. My Dad always owned Mercurys. The first car I ever owned was a '64 Comet that he handed down to me."
Jim, a project manager for a Virginia Beach millwork company, adds he would love to someday own a blue '63 split-window Corvette.
That 'vette may be waiting somewhere for you Jim—just keep an eye out for free newspapers.