Ride Of The Week 11/29/2021: Matt Shuman's 1968 Mercury Cougar
Matt Shuman has owned a lot of ’68 Cougars over the years. This happens to be his fifth. “I’ve done a lot of cars but none have gotten the amount of attention that this was does," Matt says, “I’ll restore a car. Getting it looking good and people say, ‘oh that’s nice’. And move on. But this car, this car keeps people talking.”
The story of the Snot Rod starts out with a call from friend in Florida who recently acquired a 1968 Mercury Cougar from New Mexico and was having issues getting it running. So, he called Matt who has a lot experience. “I asked him to send me a picture and he said ‘No, you’re just gonna want to buy it from me.’ As I probed further, he said that he bought the car to flip it. So, I made him an offer to save him the trouble of restoring it.”
Matt made a deal for the Cougar, but now how to get it from FL to PA. Turns out another friend knew a trucker who made runs up and down the east coast from Florida. When Matt spoke to the guy, he was located just 3 miles from where the car was sitting. Within 3 weeks he had the car and began to diagnose its issues. When they started it up, one of his kids said, “It sounds like someone with a stuffy nose.” Hence the name Snot Rod.
“We rebuilt the top end of the motor and drove it to Carlisle for a show and on the way, it started to vibrate something awful. We babied it to there and by the time we were on our way home, we could barely go over 40 mph.”
At home he pulled the motor only to find someone tried to do some ‘weight saving’ by drilling all thru the crank shaft. He took it to race engine builder Phil Miller for some help. “Phil said, there’s the dumpster. Put everything I tell you in to the trash. So out went the rods, the pistons, the balancer…I said, ‘what’s still good?’ He said, well the block seems to be in decent shape. So we just kept the block.”
They rebuilt the engine, added a stroker kit and 1969 351 heads. The result was an engine dyno test yielding 400 hp and 425 lb ft of torque. But even after the engine rebuild there were issues with the automatic transmission. Matt got a hold of a new Silversport T-56 6-speed and the complete kit to convert the auto to a manual. He enlisted the assistance of Dale Merrill (a past ride of the week honoree ) at DAM garage to make the swap.
“The only thing we were waiting on to finish was the drive shaft. The shipping said it would be 10 days, so we were just going to a show in Pittsburgh. Then, 3 days into the wait, it showed up. Once it was installed, we knew we could make the National Cougar show to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ’68 Cougar. We drove it 785 mi with no trouble at all and took a trophy!”
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