Coming off winning Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award in 1967 with the Cougar, Mercury designers wanted to create something in 1968 that would set the automotive world on its ear. The Cougar was already a step above the Mustang in styling and comfort, so designers decided to stuff the potent 427 FE into a Cougar package—creating the ultimate blend of power and styling. The result was the Cougar GT-E.
Equipped with the legendary 427 side oiler engine Ford used to homologate its NASCAR racing program, the GT-E represents the end of an era, as it was the last Ford product sold with the 427, and the only Ford product sold with it in ‘68. At a cost of over $1,300, the GT-E package was perhaps the most radical performance package ever offered in a pony car. Factory options included C-6 Merc-O-Matic transmission, FR70x14 wide oval radial tires, power disc brakes, power steering, AM radio, décor interior group and styled steel wheels. The factory GT-E package included blacked out front headlamp cover and special front trim, blacked out taillight bezels, special extruded aluminum body side moldings, 3.50 standard axle ratio with nodular 9-inch rear end, super competition handling package, engine dress-up package, and a two-tone paint scheme.
There are only 78,316 original miles on its matching-numbers drivetrain.
This tireless five-year restoration was completed recently in carefully documented, factory-shipped detail. All original or N.O.S. parts were used exclusively throughout. This car is registered with the Cougar National Database and the Cougar GT-E registry. Painstaking attention to detail has resulted in what many Cougar professionals believe to be one of the most complete and correct examples of this rare car known to date.
|1968 Mercury Cougar GT-E 427 Coupe
|357 (For GT-E 427)
|Original List Price:
|$4,244 (Cougar), $4,542 (XR7)
|Tune Up Cost:
|Chassis Number Location:
|Passenger side dash near windshield
|Engine Number Location:
|Date coded; below oil filter mount on left-hand side
|Classic Cougar Automobile Club
|1969 Dodge Daytona, 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu Z16, 1969 Ford Boss Mustang 429
This car, Lot 1247, sold for $181,500, including buyer’s premium, at the Barrett-Jackson sale in Scottsdale, AZ, on January 22, 2011.
When it comes to big-money muscle, one very rarely thinks of a Mercury as a pinnacle of speed and performance. With the exception of perhaps Cyclones, you’re more likely to recall your Father’s ’69 Montego convertible or wagon. It wasn’t all bad—at least The Steve Miller Band had a catchy tune about buying a Mercury and cruising down the road.
Enter the 7.0 liter.
By 1968, the Ford 427 “side oiler” (so called because, to ensure proper lubrication to the main bearings, it used a separate oil passage along the left hand side of the block to channel oil to the bearings) had already reached legendary status. Years earlier, Carroll Shelby had already figured out how to stuff it into a 2,350 pound alloy-bodied AC Cobra, and we all know how that story goes. The 427, not to be confused with the 428, was Ford’s heavyweight contender to the Chrysler Hemis and Chevrolet 427/435 Corvette engines—and it was certainly a beast to be reckoned with. Out of the box, it was rated at a stout 390 horsepower, which was wildly underrated to keep the insurance boys happy.
Most Ford enthusiasts will froth at the mouth for anything with two doors and a rabid 427 under the hood.
The 427 wasn’t easy to come by. It was quickly supplanted by the 428, which was deemed more “streetable” and easier to keep in tune.
By 1968, the only Ford production car you could still order with the 427 side oiler was the Mercury Cougar or the Cougar XR-7. As such, only 357 GT-E 427s were ever built (Standard Cougars and XR-7s combined). All of them came equipped with the C-6 automatic transmission. In the performance department, stock GT-Es clocked in at 15.1 seconds at 93.6 miles per hour—not “stick to your seat” fast, but quick for a luxury style muscle car.
First time ever offered?
Drilling down into the SCM database, we come up with, well, not one other GT-E 427 as a comparable car. Why? Well, this is reportedly the only 1968 Cougar GT-E ever offered at public auction. The best way to break down the result is to look at other rare, high-performance, low-production muscle cars. We can zero in on the Dodge Daytona, Boss 429 Mustangs and perhaps Z16 Chevelles, to name a few. These cars routinely trade well into the six-figure range for fully sorted, highly restored examples.
It has been estimated by various resources that only 50 to 75 GT-Es have survived the test of time. Further, it is widely speculated that only about half of those are intact, running cars. Our subject car may just be the world’s best example.
The five-year-long restoration is well-documented and used only original or N.O.S. parts. The individual cost of some of the parts, especially N.O.S. 427 components, most likely could have purchased a nice-driving ’65 Mustang coupe. Although the cost of the restoration was not made public, it could easily have run past six figures—even if you didn’t pay all that much attention in math class.
A great car to begin with
This GT-E was originally sold at Frontier Lincoln-Mercury in Springfield, PA. It had been under the care of one owner until about 2005. At the time of restoration, the numbers-matching drivetrain was still intact. The body was fully intact and reported to be primarily rust-free, which resulted in a finished 7-Liter Cougar sporting all its original body panels. Documentation included the original owner card and the original dealer invoice. A deluxe Marti Report also backed up the build, options and other details. The car was also registered in the GT-E Registry. As such, the new owner can be assured of purchasing one of the best, if not the best, GT-Es in existence.
The cat’s out of the bag
This isn’t a case of investigative homework. With very few public sales to note, it’s more of a gut-check to define the end-value. The SCM 2011 Price Guide shows $75k on the top end, but remember this is for a very high quality #2 car, so twice this number would put us spot-on at $150k for a #1 example.
Looking at other rare and desirable muscle cars, we have seen sales both north and south of this number. If we simply analyze the cost of the restoration, knowing that a proper N.O.S. approach is going to give you writer’s cramp from issuing checks, we can assume that the restoration dinged the owner’s bank account pretty hard. Keep in mind that all this started with a damn nice car.
A $181,500 result will likely fire up a few more owners to bring one of these rare cats to auction to see if they can bring the same, or perhaps even more, greenbacks the next time out. In fact, it has been reported that six other GT-E owners came to the auction to witness the result. I think the GT-E’s tree has been thoroughly shaken, so let’s stand by and see what happens next.
Until then, congratulations to the new owner and hats off to all the bidders for setting the bar high. Well bought and well sold until the market can speak with more clarity.