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Rescued From a Watery Fate

Scotty Lachenauer - September 12, 2013 10:00 AM

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After high school graduation, a young Bob Entwistle followed his passion, much to the chagrin of his parents.

He went to work full-time at a mom-and-pop gas station/garage in the heart of central New Jersey. It was the late ’70s, and things were changing in the auto industry, but probably not for the better. To a young motorhead like Bob, though, the move was a positive step forward and a chance to do what he really loved.

Bob loved to wrench on cars, but he also religiously read the ASE study guides that regularly arrived in the repair shop’s mail. Before long, he took and passed a number of exams to become a fully certified mechanic, all at the fresh faced age of 18.

Soon after that milestone, Bob started looking for a new car. His Toyota daily driver had been rebuilt from a pile of parts. Now, he wanted a little more “motor motivation” for his new project.

A rough “gem” caught his eye when he spotted a ’70 standard Cougar that had been awkwardly put together from a ’69 front clip and a handful of hardware store parts and some scrap metal. For a measly $300, the low-buck 351 Cleveland powered three-speed would become Bob’s new muscular pride and joy.

Improvement was on his mind when Bob located a Toploader four-speed transmission, along with a posi-traction rear. The car went through a transformation from parking lot junk to powerful cruiser. Painted in black lacquer and nicknamed “Cleveland Rocks”, it became Bob’s sidekick. Getting to say “I built it” was a powerful potion to Bob. The individuality of having a car that few owned, but many admired, also hit home with the owner. Those feelings would stay with him for years to come.

Flash forward about 15 years. After attending college and pursuing a career in electrical engineering, Bob was in the market for his next project Cougar. His search led him to a car that had been through a rough ordeal. After being dunked into the salty Chesapeake Bay water during Hurricane Isabel (which has given the car its name), the ’69 XR7 convertible was totaled by the insurance company. The owner bought back the car, but had to sell it. Bob answered an ad and bought it on sight, hoping that he could rebuild her with some of the choice parts of his now-weathered “Cleveland Rocks” coupe.

It was going to be a test. The worst damage was not from the storm, but just from being an East Coast car. The inner rockers were Swiss cheese and the cowl was worse. There were holes everywhere.

Even in this state, Bob wanted to see if the engine would run. He drained about 10 quarts of seawater from the engine. Since it suffered hydraulic lock-up, it would need a little “sledge hammer persuasion” to unlock the engine components.

All the rust was replaced with clean sheetmetal over a multi-year chassis restoration. The quarters were toast, so the bad areas were sectioned and replaced. Next, the trunk lid lip, door bottoms, and hood frame rust were all taken care of, either by replacement or repair. The driver’s side fender was also swapped out due to collision damage.

Bob turned his attention to underneath the car. The suspension was stripped and placed aside while he blasted the undercarriage to get the remaining rust from its nooks and crannies. Wheelhouses were repaired and a set of Global West subframe connectors were added and massaged to fit.

The hood, trunk lid and doors were stripped, repaired and worked into shape. Bob laid down a layer of self-etching primer and sent them off to the body shop. The finishing touches were being done to the shell, which was sanded, stripped to bare metal and primed, then sent to the paint shop.

Wiring harnesses, instrument cluster, heater/AC box, AC components, upper and lower dash and console refurbishment, seat upholstery installation, engine, top pump, starter, and differential rebuilds were all handled by Bob. He even etched the replacement glass with homemade stencils to replicate the original markings.

The 40th anniversary Mustang Crimson Red for this cat was expertly laid down by Jeff Posey at Denville Bear. Once the car returned from paint, it was an 11-month journey to bring this cat back to life.

The 351C and Toploader combination from “Cleveland Rocks” were re-used. Tim Hull at Tim’s Automotive Machine Shop in Toms River, New Jersey, provided the machine work and Bob jumped in to help as well. A COMP Cams XE262 cam moves the Ferrea 5000 Series stainless steel valves, Magnum lifters and ProComp roller rockers. A set of Australian 302C heads and a Boss valvetrain top the cylinders. A Holley 4777C 650 DP, with mechanical secondaries and fitted with an electric choke, feeds air and fuel into an Edelbrock Air Gap intake.

A Duraspark distributor works in conjunction with an MSD 6AL ignition (hidden) and Blaster 2 coil to get the right spark out at the right time. Custom “Dial-A-Rev-Limit” control designed by owner resides in the glove box. Cragar 4V headers lead into a custom (and homemade) 2¼-inch 409 stainless steel exhaust, complete with Magnaflow no-baffle stainless mufflers.

The RUG-E3 Wide Ratio Toploader is fitted with a Centerforce dual friction 11-inch clutch. Horsepower is sent to the rear wheels by a 28-spline nine-inch Ford differential with 3.25 gears and a Detroit TrueTrac helical gear driven limited slip. Wheels of choice are Foose Legend with Nitto NT555 Extreme Radials.

An original Eliminator hood scoop with proper ram-air hood cut-out gets cold air into the hungry engine by way of a custom made ram-air air cleaner. A repro Eliminator spoiler sits out back. A CalTrac leaf spring traction system helps keep this cat planed on take-off.

Inside, this Cougar has some creature comforts. A custom-made leather interior keeps up with the upscale theme. There’s factory A/C (taken from a parts car) and a modern Kenwood CD/MP3 receiver. A LED dash lighting kit with load resistor (preserves factory dimming function) and later model Ford intermittent wiper control module and switch find a home in this modern cockpit. A modern 8,000 rpm electronic tach, retrofitted into a stock 6,000 tach housing, keeps the owner privy of engine speed.

Bob would also like to thank Tom Lawrance of KTL Restorations for his expert advice, willingness to help and friendship during this rebuild odyssey. Future plans include a stroker 408 Cleveland and a five-speed Tremec TKO600 will do the shifting, because to Bob, it’s gotta be a manual to be a true muscle car.

Of course, keeping Isabel out of “bad weather” will be a priorityfor Bob. She deserves muchbetter now.

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