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Rare: Could 1968 Mercury Cougar XR7 428 Cobra Jet Be Dyno Don Nicholson’s?

It was pretty high-dollar. I mean, he was asking $40,000 for a car that needed a complete restoration,” Royce Peterson says.

There were qualifiers. First, Cobra Jet Cougars are extremely rare. Just 10 or 12 from 1968 are known to exist. Second, this one was probably owned new by drag racer Don Nicholson.

In August 2016, Peterson got a call out of the blue from a “fairly well-known Ford collector from St. Louis” named Mike (last name omitted for privacy). The Cougar community is a small one. Peterson already knew that Mike owned this XR7 Cobra Jet.

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“I’d seen him post pictures of it online, but I had no idea it was for sale or going to be for sale.”

Apparently, Mike realized that Peterson, a well-known collector in Dallas, might be interested in his historic Cobra Jet Cougar. The two talked on the phone. The subject of the CJ‘s Dyno Don heritage was certainly an issue, as was the car’s completeness, rust-free body, and the fact that the Cougar was a numbers-matching XR7 that started and ran.

“After I got through talking to him, I thought about it for maybe a half an hour,” Peterson says. “I called him back and said I was going to do a wire transfer for what he was asking. I wasn’t even going to dicker with him on price.”

Needless to say, Peterson was enthused. He had another connection to this car that excited him even more.

“In the early 2000s I had another CJ Cougar, maroon with white interior. In 2002 I had it at the dragstrip in Hebron, Ohio, just outside of Columbus. They had an all Ford drag race and car show every year, and Ford Motorsports—I guess that’s what it was called at the time—had hired Don Nicholson to be at the event. He was there signing autographs right next to the staging lanes. They had shut down the track for some reason. I was in the staging lanes sitting in my Cobra Jet Cougar, and Don got in my car. He said, ‘Hey, I’m Don Nicholson.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I know.'”

Nicholson is a big deal to Cougar fans. Lincoln-Mercury gave him one of the two Boss 429 Cougars back in the day (1969) to campaign on the strip. So, being a super Cougar enthusiast, Peterson was in awe to have Nicholson jump in his car and start a conversation.

“He said he had one just like this one. He started telling me about his car. He said it was red with a black interior. He said it was really cool, had a Cobra Jet and automatic.”

Being a collector, Peterson asked Nicholson if he knew where that car was, but Nicholson had no idea. Peterson asked if he had any old pictures. The answer was again no, that he had moved and it had been so long ago. Nicholson signed the air cleaner lid on the Cougar Cobra Jet. Peterson managed to have somebody snap a photo of him with Nicholson in front of his Cougar.

Peterson’s mind drifted back to 2002 and his encounter with Nicholson. Was the CJ he just found, red with black interior, Dyno Don’s old Cougar? Peterson figures “it almost has to be.” He has traced this car back to 1993 to a Jack Miller in the suburbs of Atlanta, who bought the car from a “teenager.”

Peterson had the car shipped in an enclosed trailer from Virginia to his home in Dallas. The car has a cheap paint job from the 1980s, Hooker headers, no smog, a “little bit of a cam,” an aftermarket transmission cooler, and the correct date-coded center section to the 9-inch rearend, which is “a real unusual piece” for a 1968 1/2, featuring the original 31-spline axles. The Traction-Lok chirps the tires even when pushed.

When it was new, the Cougar’s options included a black vinyl roof, a “High-Ratio Axle” (3.91:1) Traction-Lok differential, F70-14 belted black-sidewall tires, a console, power disc brakes, power steering, a Tilt-Away steering wheel, an AM/eight-track stereo radio, tinted glass, front seat headrests, and chrome styled steel wheels.

Peterson is still trying to trace the car to Nicholson, who lived in the Atlanta area in the late 1960s. He worked for a Mercury dealer and was professionally drag racing at the time.

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Old vs New, which one would you choose? ... See MoreSee Less

Old vs New, which one would you choose?

 

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There is no comparison, original is and will always look, sound better then anything new. But if u only want speed, strap a rocket to urself

If the retro models made their bodies exactly the same as what they were trying to duplicate I would own a retro vehicle. I do like the challenger over the mustang or camero though.

I hope the New ones aren't as Tinny sound when you close there as the Old ones were,, I like a Nice Thud, when I close a car door not a clunk.

As with the Camaro in the previous post, still the original! But in this case, the new one is a FAR better vehicle than most today.

The OLD definitely. I already have a newer one. But the classic with a shaker hood would be great to own.

New is nice, But....Old is Awesome !

Both are nice but I prefer the original

The verdict is.............OLD!!!

Always old, don't make them like they used to

I have a new one . Now l won't to build an old one. Love these cars.

I love them both but I bet the new one drives a lot better and overall is better .

Old school I prefer cars with chrome bumpers

Old with hell cat drive train

New for everyday driving and old for the good times.

OLD, JUST MORE CLASSY. ALL NEW CARS LOOKS ALIKE. OLD YOU COULD TELL WHAT IT WAS , BY JUST LOOKING AT IT, NOT THE EMBLEN

Old! Been auto detailer 30 years.. Have done both.. Old definitely better built!!

the new one is a good likeness but i would pick the old

The Old For Ever who wants to Drive around Plastic

Old would be my choice. I liked the power steering alot better then what we have now.

Old body with new power plant and chasis! Best of both worlds..

No problem... Old please. Nothing like a classic.

There is only one .the right one

Since I already have the new, I'll take the old.

The new one is better in every way!, with that said , I'll take the old one every time!

Its funny,the new can't beat the old tried and true!!!

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