Friday, July 6, 2007

Before he retired, Kenny Holloway taught social studies at J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church.

His students knew he liked cars because he often would weave some historical automotive fact into the lesson plan. On Oct. 30, 1999, one of his students informed him that a neighbor was selling an old car.

Mr. Holloway asked the student to get more details, and the next day he reported that the car was a 1973 Mercury Cougar XR-7 convertible.

After school, Mr. Holloway went to see the car, and upon opening the garage door, he thought, “Here’s a Mercury Cougar in need of some of my assistance.”

The widow of the original owner accepted his offer, and just one day later — Nov. 1 — cash and title were exchanged, and Mr. Holloway became the second owner of the Cougar.

The odometer showed that the car had been driven about 60,000 miles.

Mr. Holloway discovered that his Mercury was built Jan. 3, 1973, in Dearborn, Mich., and left the factory wearing a coat of bright red paint and a black convertible top. The base price was $3,903.

Records indicate that his XR-7 was one of only 3,165 convertibles manufactured, while the total of hardtop coupes was 36,110.

c Console.

c Power seat.

c Tinted glass.

c Power steering.

c Cruise-O-Matic.

c Black power top.

c Protection group.

c Wire wheel covers.

c Tilt steering wheel.

c Body side molding.

c Convenience group.

c Intermittent wipers.

c AM/FM stereo radio.

c Front bumper rub strips.

c WhisperAire conditioner.

c Color keyed racing mirrors.

c F70x14 raised letter tires.

c Leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The car had not seen any use for two or three years before Mr. Holloway became the owner. “I went over the whole car with a toothbrush,” he said.

The car has a black console, dashboard and carpeting contrasting with the parchment-white seats and door panels. When Mr. Holloway got the car, the original black top had been replaced with a white one, which then needed to be replaced. He sought out the same shop that had installed the first white top for work on the second one. He also found out that the interior had been reupholstered in 1990.

Mr. Holloway had the original 23 snap boot duplicated in white. The car had been beautifully repainted in the original red at a shop in Wardensville, W.Va., in 1990. The triple pin striping along the lower body panels was replaced.

When Mr. Holloway purchased the car, the left front fender had some wrinkles that he wanted removed. He took his car to the Wardensville shop, and they advised him to get another fender rather that straightening the original. A wrecked blue Cougar in Elizabethtown, Pa., donated a fender. Incredibly, the shop still had some of the paint they had used to paint the Mercury nine years before. As a result, the freshly painted fender perfectly matches the rest of the car.

The tilt steering wheel was looser than Mr. Holloway thought it should be. Research showed him that the mechanism that allowed the steering wheel to tilt was prone to early wear. He said that until he can locate one that has not been worn out, he is using a non-tilting steering wheel.

Mr. Holloway has been fortunate in finding parts for his car, not that he has needed many. He was in a North Carolina junk yard when he found a needed Cougar emblem on the ground. “It was there for me to find,” he says.

The 1973 Cougar, Mr. Holloway explains, is the last year with no catalytic converter. The XR-7 features full instrumentation including a tachometer. In keeping with the high-tech image, the Cougar features several toggle switches in place of the more tradition knobs.

The 16-foot-7.5-inch Cougar weighs a hefty 3,530 pounds and rides on a 113-inch wheelbase to provide a very nice ride. Since he has owned the Cougar, Mr. Holloway has added just 7,000 miles to the odometer. “It takes you back,” he says with a smile.

Mr. Holloway retired in 2002, which gives him more time to enjoy his Cougar XR-7 convertible.

Whenever he settles in behind the two-spoke steering wheel and gets comfortable in the bucket seat, he speaks of the mission that he has assigned to his Mercury: “She goes to car shows and keeps me happy,” he says.

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