I love a good 1978 Mercury Cougar XR7. I also know, having learned the hard, demoralizing and expensive way, that survivor cars are best when they belong to someone else, and you can just shoot or drive them on occasion. Basically ownership, without the expense.
So, I will have to pass on this fabulous opportunity.
I live in metro Phoenix.They call this the Sonoran desert, which is notHopi for “cactus-littered wasteland.” To people who hail from places with real seasons, and real weather (and water), Phoenix is like Mars.Kalamazoo is a virtual rain forest compared to this place.Here, everything you don’t water (except cacti) withers and dies in the sun.The lush greens in the travel brochures stop at the city limits, or the extent of irrigation, whichever is shorter.Hence, “Mars.”
But this is not a hate piece about the weather.It’s about the upside for car guys: survivor cars. They are everywhere. The weather kills the paint, but rotting away takes decades, not seasons.Lots of old soldiers are still on the road.Some at least offer sturdy bones for some foolhardy motivated zombie car reanimator.
“Ran when parked”
My particular flavor of survivor car poison is the from Quinn Martin era of TV.Big 1970s Ford/Mercury/Lincoln sedans are the Holy Grail; Plymouths, Chrysler sedans, big Pontiacs or Cadillacswork almost as well. They are all over out here. In April last year, a 1978 Continental dropped anchor in my driveway.Blue velour seats, padded vinyl roof and, most importantly, a 460 4-bbl honest-to-God V8.The power windows were finicky; the “twilight sentinel” automatic headlights worked, technically, if you’re fond of blepharospasms. Over the course of the Phoenix summer, something just didn’t seem right.The car ran hot.It fell out of the weekly commuting rotation.Radiator leaks, intransigent thermostats and 115° F in the shade will do that.
Feeling a little bleary-eyed at the moment
At the moment, its chief duty is floating over to the Kwik-E-Mart for an energy drink on Sunday mornings, while I save and track down parts.I am not driving it father than I am willing to walk in the summer.
Plans?We got plans.
First on deck for this car are some obvious repairs.We fixed the starting problem with a new cable and a courtesy charge at the parts store. It needs a cooling system overhaul before it goes rolling to the office again. The front power windows are finicky.And then there are the leaks: Oil, diff, tranny, rain (hence, “Project InContinental”).
If money were no object, it would do more than let me blockade narrow lanes and parking lots in pillowy isolation
·Otherwise the full presidential treatment – black paint, fender flags and a black Suburban or two for my entourage.
One winning Powerball ticket and the word is given. Stay tuned.
Editor’s Note: This is the first of an ephemeral series of posts that will follow this car from recovered tree fertilizer to semi-functional style box for me and/or my kid. Keep your eyes peeled for wholly irregular and whiny updates, and feel free to ask questions in the comments. Especially questions like “how can I help?” or “when did you go off your meds and think this was a good idea?” I absolutely love that second one.