RARE FINDS

Muscle Car Review - - Con­tents - By Jerry Heasley

1968 Cougar GT-E

Find­ing a 1968 Cougar GT-E with its orig­i­nal 427 is “al­most un­heard of,” Royce Peter­son said. The GT-E pro­duc­tion run, which be­gan mid­way through the 1968 model year, was a mere 393, of which 356 were 427s and the re­main­ing 37 were 428 Co­bra Jets. Ap­par­ently, Cougar mus­cle cars were pop­u­lar tar­gets for en­gine har­vest­ing, with 427s go­ing into kit car Co­bras back in the 1970s and 1980s.

That’s why we were so ex­cited to go along on this ex­pe­di­tion to the home of the orig­i­nal own­ers, Turner and Bur­nice Ro­bie of Ard­more, Ok­la­homa. Their 1968 GT-E was com­plete, down to the num­bers-match­ing big-block.

“Some­how there’s a part of that car that’s hu­man,” Bur­nice said as she stood with Turner and his nephew, Phillip Sones, in the drive­way of their home.

Peter­son had pulled his en­closed trailer 110 miles north from Dal­las to pick up what he be­lieves is the “best un­re­stored GT-E that any­body has ever seen” for his friend Jim Pinker­ton, who lives in Seat­tle and runs the on­line Cougar GT-E Reg­istry (gte.mer­curycougar­reg­istry.com). Pinker­ton had known about this mus­cle Mer­cury since 2005, when he first cor­re­sponded in a Cougar fo­rum with Sones. At that time, the Merc was not for sale. Pinker­ton kept the car’s lo­ca­tion se­cret, per Sones’ wishes.

Then, in late 2017, Sones called Pinker­ton with the news that his aunt and un­cle were ready to sell their GT-E.

Pinker­ton and Peter­son are close friends. Peter­son runs the Cougar XR7-G Reg­istry (xr7g.mer­curycougar­reg­istry.com) and doc­u­mented the GT-E for his friend so he could make a deal over the phone with the Ro­bies.

Bur­nice said, “It’s go­ing to bother me when I get up to­mor­row morn­ing and it’s not there.” But she ad­mit­ted it was “time to sell. . . be­cause it’s sit­ting there rot­ting. I’m 80 and he’s 85. What are we gonna do with it?”

The in­spec­tion sticker on the wind­shield re­vealed 1975 as the last time the Cougar had been reg­is­tered. The fam­ily had so many mem­o­ries and so much love for this car!

Sones said, “I can re­mem­ber go­ing to the gro­cery store and some guy pulling up be­side us—this was in Moun­tain View [Cal­i­for­nia]—and revving his en­gine, and my aunt telling us to put our seat­belts on. She just smoked him, left him sit­ting at the light. When we got up to the next light, he said, ‘Geez, lady, what have you got in that thing?’ And she smoked him again, left him sit­ting there again. He was all kinds of up­set.”

Bur­nice said, “It’s too bad Michelle couldn’t be here. Our old­est daugh­ter raced every­body.” An Ard­more High School stu­dent au­to­mo­bile reg­is­tra­tion wind­shield sticker dated 1973-74 con­firmed Michelle’s con­nec­tion to the 427-pow­ered Mer­cury.

“Yeah, they built a High­way Pa­trol of­fice right there on the road, so they’d stop rac­ing it,” said Turner. He and his wife ex­changed fond mem­o­ries and chuck­led.

“We left Cal­i­for­nia in 1972. I drove the Cougar with the two dogs and the two girls.

“She just smoked him, left him sit­ting at the light”

n The 1968 Cougar GT-E, red on red, had been pulled from the garage and parked in the drive­way when we ar­rived. Jim Pinker­ton has en­tered 288 GT-E Cougars in his Reg­istry, and about a half-dozen have had their orig­i­nal driv­e­trains.

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