'69 Cougar
Racer From The Start

It's hard for people to know the complete history of their cars when they aren't the original owner. For newer cars, this isn't really an issue, but when you're looking at a car whose value lies in its past, it is an issue. Lucky for Kenny Bailey of Eldridge, Iowa, he got the full scoop.

Kenny bought this '69 Cougar XR7 convertible from a gentleman named Norman Swanson out of New Jersey. Norman purchased this car back in 1971, when it was still relatively new, and immediately started drag racing it. He swapped the four-speed manual transmission for an automatic, which is a pretty common swap for that type of racing. Somewhere along the way, he set an NHRA speed record that held for many years after the car was retired. Norman Swanson's uncle owed the local Ford dealership that sponsored famous racer Al Joniec, who worked on the car once or twice. You may know him as the '68 Winter National winner driving the '68 Mustang Cobra Jet. In 2009, the Al Joniec tribute '08 Cobra Jet took home the win.

When Kenny got wind of this history, he was really excited to find some photos in Internet archives to support the story. He didn't have much luck on his own. He was contacted by Charlie Morris, author of countless drag racing books, who had Al Joniec's personal email address. After a careful interview, Charlie felt Kenny passed his test and gave him the email address. Kenny traded messages back and forth with Mr. Joniec, who remembered the car clearly. Al mentioned that back home the Cougar was a sore subject because it raced in the same class as his wife, defeating her every time. She always blamed Al and the Cougar for her losses.

Today Kenny enjoys the car not as a racer, but as a weekend car. Kenny removed the transplanted automatic and put a four-speed back in because this was one of only 31 four-speed 428 Ram-Jet convertibles ever built.

By The Numbers
1969 Ford Cougar XR7

Kenny Bailey, 46 * Eldridge, IA
475 hp, 500 lb-ft of torque

ENGINE
Type: Ford FE 428 Cobra Jet with Ram Air
Oiling: high-volume replacement
Rotating assembly: forged TRW pistons
  for 10.6:1 compression
Cylinder heads: ported and polished
  factory heads with stainless valves
Camshaft: COMP Cams hydraulic flat tappet
Induction: factory aluminum police
  interceptor manifold,
  750-cfm Holley carb
Ignition: Mallory Uni-Lite conversion,
  Pertronix coil
Fuel system: Carter mechanical fuel pump
Fasteners: ARP
DRIVETRAIN
Transmission/shifter: Toploader four-speed,
Hurst Competition Plus shifter
Rear axle: Ford 9-inch with 31-spline
Moser axles, 3.50 gears,
and an Auburn Detroit Locker
WHEELS/TIRES
Wheels: 15X7 chromed reproduction
Tires: BFGoodrich Radial T/A
225/60R15 and 245/60R15