It was pretty high-dollar. I mean, he was asking $40,000 for a car that needed a complete restoration," Royce Peterson says.
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.
"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.
Most avid car enthusiasts have heard at least a few tall tales about a rare vintage car parked in a barn somewhere. Most of us usually dismiss it as just that—a tall tale. Rumors of a 1970 Chevelle SS454 sitting in a collapsed barn in Ohio have swirled for many years around the Chevelle enthusiast circles. Solid proof confirming this story had never been available until May 2017, when a short cell phone video of the car surfaced, along with a contact email address.
An email was quickly sent to the owner in an effort to gain additional details about the Chevelle and its whereabouts. The owner responded a couple days later that the car was located just a few-minutes-drive from Urbana, Ohio, and was in fact an original 1970 SS454. The owner also explained that the barn had been slightly collapsed for many years, and the car had been parked there since 1978 and never moved.
Arrangements were immediately made to rescue the Chevelle just a few weeks later. The majority of the rafters in the barn were broken and very unstable, which made the removal of the car very dangerous. The front entrance of the barn was collapsed to the point that an attempt to remove it through the front door was rendered impossible. The only available option was to stabilize the broken rafters around the Chevelle, then knock down the concrete-block back wall of the barn and remove the car out the rear. Once the back wall of the barn was removed, a farm tractor was used to pull the Chevelle up and out of the barn and to safety for the first time in nearly 40 years.
After the Chevelle was successfully removed from the barn, the original assembly buildsheet was found and carefully removed from the inside of the passenger-side door panel. According to the buildsheet, the car was scheduled to be built on January 29, 1970 at the Lakewood Plant in Atlanta, Georgia, and sold new at Graham Chevrolet in Mansfield, Ohio. The car was optioned with the base RPO Z15 SS454 LS5 engine, raised white-letter tires, cowl-induction hood, Muncie M22 manual transmission, power steering, special instrumentation, Positraction rear differential, bucket seats, center console, door-edge guards, and front-bumper guards. The original color was Tuxedo Black with white hood and deck stripes and black-vinyl bucket-seat interior.
The original engine and transmission were not present on the Chevelle. The original engine had been removed in the mid-1970s and replaced for a small-block Chevy engine. The small-block engine went down in 1978 and was also removed from the car. The Chevelle was then parked in the barn without an engine or transmission.
1970 Chevelle SS454 RPO LS5 360hp-equipped muscle cars featured two-bolt main-bearing engine blocks; a 10.25:1 compression ratio; a high-lift, hydraulic flat-tappet camshaft; a low-rise cast-iron intake manifold; and a Rochester Quadrajet carburetor. Transmission options available behind the RPO LS5 engine were the heavy-duty Muncie M22 manual and Turbo Hydramatic 400 automatic.
A 12-bolt rear axle was standard equipment with 3.31:1 gear ratio, with an optional limited-slip. Additional rear-axle gear ratios were not available for the RPO LS5 option unless dealer-installed. Total production figures for the 1970 Chevelle SS454 equipped with the base RPO LS5 engine tallied 4,298 units, 299 of which were assembled in Canada.
One interesting feature on this car is the absence of the "Customer Order" designation on the buildsheet. This designation is usually present when a car was assembled with a host of top-of-the-line options. The absence of this designation means the car was assembled to a go-fast- SS454 by the original dealer.
Driving down Gratiot Avenue at 25 mph I was looking for the next street race with my best friend Jeff. The year was 1976, the month was June. My car was a 1967 Plymouth Barracuda Formula S that came with a big block 383. Of course, the engine was beefed up quite a bit with a racing cam, 750 double pumper dual feed Holley, 3:91 Rear,4 speed, dual point distributor and a few other goodies to make it scoot better.
Alongside us pulls a whale of a car that looked like a Pontiac Catalina Convertible. On the very front center of the fender, a large 2+2 glared at me.
Why did this guy and his gal want to race me? Looks like he borrowed his dad’s car and wanted to impress his girl.
So of course, we raced…… and I got my doors blown off!
I pulled over in the Burger King parking lot at 12 Mile and Gratiot. He pulled in behind me, both him and his girl laughing!
I found out he had a pretty rare 1966 Pontiac called a 2+2 which had a 421, tri-power carbureted engine that had 376 HP and a whopping 461 ft. lbs. of torque. All put to an automatic transmission. Man was I embarrassed and light $50 for losing the race.
The Pontiac 2+2 was made for just a few years as a full-size car and built on the B-Body chassis
Starting in 1964 it debuted as a trim-only option for the Pontiac Catalina and had special door panels, buckets seats, a center console, and exterior badges. The 64 model offered choices of 2-389 motors of 283 HP and 330 HP with the Tri-Power. Also the 421 motor,320 HP with a Rochester 4 barrel carb.
Billed as the big brother to the Pontiac GTO it never reached the sale numbers the GTO did. 1965 brought about the demise of the Catalina name on the car but it was still an option for the Catalina.
The 1965-66 models all came with the 421 motor with 3 options. 338 HP 4 barrel, and 2-421’s with tri-power carbs. One with 356 HP and the HO
version with 376 HP.
In 1966 it became a separate series that sported dual exhaust, heavy- duty front springs, and outer body trim.
In 67 it was made an option because of poor sales and the only engines available were the 428 360 and 376 HO motors.
Canadians were able to buy a much-revised version of the 2+2 until 1970 as the Canadian-built versions had a Pontiac body on a Chevrolet chassis and the full array of Chevrolet engines available.
A resurrection was attempted in 1986 with the Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2 but only 1,225 were built.