I have had this car since 2004 but have not done much work on it since that time other than taking care of it. Well the time has come…
Back in 2004 I was perusing our local Craigslist and ran across this 1967 Mercury Park Lane for sale at $950. It caught my attention but since I was living in an apartment, with four cars already, this wasn’t something I needed. However, month after month it stayed and I told myself if it goes another month it is meant for me to buy. Well the fourth month came and so I called. Turns out I was the only one who even called in that time. Also turns out that Don, the owner, was a NorCal Cougar Club member and I was a Stray Cats member.
So I arranged to drive down to Fremont to see that car. The interior was still covered in plastic from years before and so it was pristine. Someone had a bit of a problem making turns in this long car and managed to hit the rear quarters against some objects. The C6 slipped a little between 2nd and 3rd. The car was Seafoam green and I already had a Seafoam green Cougar. I floated around several blocks and I was in love. Sold, and I drove home so I could catch BART back down to Fremont and drive the car home. Don was the second owner and this car was one that his kids grew up in only now his oldest son was into BMW rather than an old Mercury. Sentimentally, the car did mean a lot to them and I promised to take care of her. Some years later I did communicate with the son that the car was fine.
Then in 2006 we bought a house where upon I set out to replace the old single pane windows and rebuild 60 feet of fence. That means I need a truck! So I found a 1965 F100 out of Fremont to help with transport. After all that was done I told myself I need to restore this truck. So that is what I did.
While doing that we come up to 2010 and I am at a Stray Cats picnic where a club member drives up in his 1973 Air Resource Board Polara replica instead of one of his Cougars. I thought cool I like it. Looking at Craigslist again, it can be habit forming, I saw a 1973 Polara four door hardtop for sale in white. Once again if it stays up this long I have to buy it. So guess what? Yep, it stayed up, I went out, the young seller was in over his head, all others wanted parts, I bought the car. So the truck’s body work is all done and I move on to the Polara. Haven’t seen another one since then. I also have eight cars now and Car Acquisition Syndrome.
So here we are in 2018 and I want to take the big Merc on a possible trip on the east side of the Sierras on Highway 395. This means new tires and a rebuild of the front suspension. Upper ball joints were shot. The control arm bushings were shot. The rest was just old and my trunk had all the new parts needed for the last 5 years. Now I wasn’t all that bad as I did replace the water pump and Ford’s notorious nylon tooth timing chain, with half the teeth under the oil pickup screen, back in 2004.
Dropped out the steering linkage to replace the tie rods. The OEM idler arm was rebuilt with a new bushing. The pitman arm was solid and I only replace the seal. The only strange thing was the fact that the somewhat newer tie rods used metric zerk fittings and I had only SAE in stock. Next the Kelsey-Hayes calipers came off followed by the rotors which were good as were the bearings. Yet new seals and grease for the hubs. Now with the shocks out I brace the lower control arm so I can remove the spindles. Once out I let the lower control arms down while the car is raised up and I am able to remove the springs by hand. Last the upper control arms which are torqued to almost 150 lbs. need to come out and one bolt is directly below the master cylinder. I need an extension here.
My extension made that easy although I just tweaked the master cylinder a touch which came back to haunt me. With the four arms out I drill out the upper ball joints and unbolt the lowers. Clean up the arms really good and go over them with some Picklex 20.
With that I grab my new bushings, some of my tools, and then drive down to the USS Hornet to use the machine shop. Found just the right shaped chisel to remove the first bushing on the upper control arm to start the process. Saw the trick on a Youtube video. The other side could be pushed out by using a socket on one end and a cup on the other. I went through stock and found pipe that could make a cup and put it in the saw to cut to length. Then into the vise to press out old and in new.
The work for Sunday is now done. All bushings in and all hardware cleaned up on the large wire wheel in the shop. Time to go home and paint the control arms with Eastwood Extreme Chassis primer and black paint which will take a week.
Next Sunday and time to reassemble. Control arms and steering linkage go in easily. Now while I could take out the springs by hand they couldn’t go back in by hand. I needed my spring compressor to give me some space to coax the spring into it’s lower seat. Like how I got my glove stuck in there? I did get it back.
Notice above that the caster looks to be slightly negative. So I moved the upper control arm back bolt towards the engine to give me positive caster to start. More on this but first the tires go back on as I now have an appointment to take my car into the tire place for new whitewalls in 15″ diameter.
The car is raised on four jacks and they set about removing and replacing my tires. I then back the car out into a parking spot so I can install four NOS wheel covers I have had since 2005. No gorillas are going to bang these on. I put the stock set on while I have another set of five NOS wheel covers for a different look. Last picture the finished job.
Now comes the part where I could find no one who would consent to doing it. That is the front wheel alignment. It was being left up to me to attempt it. I read the manual and learned how they set caster and camber on this car. Upper control arm mounts with two bolts into slots and the position in the slots determine + or – caster as well as + or – camber. I wanted as much positive caster I could get along with some negative camber. I could tell the previous placement gave me neutral caster and positive camber. After that would be set then I would shoot for 1/8″ toe in.
Here are the tools I would be using. The claw looking tool is what is used to move the upper control arm mount forwards or backwards. You can see the small hole in the before picture.
Being Sunday this parking lot was empty and best of all I knew was flat. I already had the rear bolt all the way inboard for maximum positive caster or at least maximum for this car. Estimate between +2 – 2.5 degrees. The front bolt was all the way outboard. That combination gave me an initial camber of + 1.5 degrees. Therefore I needed to move the front bolt inboard to decrease the positive camber which will also decrease my positive caster. A slight tweak on both sides got the bubble between 0 and -0.5 degrees so I am good to go. These cars were always set for positive camber but I prefer some negative, depending on the car and for a cruiser this was good enough. These tires will never see 20,000 miles in their life so no concern with wear. My caster is still at least +2.0 degrees on both sides.
Crude but it works. I have ship made toe plates, braced with a brick, and then my tape measured pulled taut with the wheel covers bringing up the middle. The measure, adjust, drive back and forth and then repeat all over again took me 1 1/2 hours to get the car to 1/8″ toe in. So I drove home the 2 miles on city streets for now. Still had two more tasks before going out on the freeway for a test drive.
Remember I mentioned tweaking the master cylinder? Well it started a very subtle leak out the back and down the booster. Look around for a new one and see them all over $120 and I’m thinking drat! Let’s take a look on eBay and there is the exact one, Made in the U.S.A., for only $45 including shipping. I check the seller and see that he is my favorite seller who has supplied me with a lot of NOS and NORS parts. Arrives in four days, before the weekend, so I can bench bleed it. Once installed the lines were bleed and checked to see all was good.
The last task. I removed the valve covers for new gaskets as there was the typical small leak out the back end. While at it I pulled the rocker shafts off so I could install a #80 Holley jet in the oil feed and then put the shafts back on after cleaning. The FE engine sends a lot of oil up top when it could be used down below which is the reason for the Holley jet.
Wednesday, my off day, and time to take her out once commute traffic dies down. I hit the freeway at 11:00 am quickly as there is nothing like the torque of a 410-4V FE engine. The wheel handles great. There is none of the small movements of the wheel at 65 mph. On a level spot my hands come off to see if the car will track straight and it does. The car is truly fun to drive and is possibly my favorite due to the ride. My pleasure drive is interrupted by a call from my wife which means I have to get off the road and park to call her back. She asks me to pick up my 4th grade son from school as she can’t make it. So I cruise over at pickup time among all the Escalades, Tahoes, Range Rovers, Benz and BMW SUVs and assorted minivans in line. The looks of the teachers and kids as I turn the corner, as in what is that, is priceless as my son recognizes the car immediately without having his name called.
Now the car is ready for that spring break drive although a large sway bar would be nice. After the return the engine will be pulled for a rebuild at 155,000 miles and at the same time dive into the C6. As for CAS I now have ten cars with one daily driver having been stolen 3 weeks ago and replaced by a new 2018.