Reader’s Wheels: Glenn’s Great White 1981 Mercury XR7 Tribute Build

Winnipeg, Manitoba, native Glenn Beckett has always been a blue oval fan. From the moment he bought his first car, a 1970 Ford Pinto, to the Mustangs that he drove growing up, there’s been a blue oval under the hood.

His latest project car started with a whisper but grew into a full chorus. The one dream that Glenn had growing up was a big block Ford with twin carbs, and when the time was right, he built one.

This project began over 18 years ago at Reicherts Auto in Gimli, Manitoba, when Glenn pulled a 460ci big block out of a 1973 Lincoln Town Car. With nothing other than an engine, he marched forward, building the big block Ford of his dreams.

Unable to find a suitable Fox Body Mustang, Beckett stumbled on this Mercury XR7 and tailored his project after the legendary Ford Thunderbolt Fairlane.

Sending the short block out to Custom Crank in Winnipeg, Beckett began collecting parts to complete the engine build. He began with a set of forged pistons and steel rods for a combo that made 10.5:1 compression with 92cc cylinder heads.

When I tell people that it is a Cougar, I get strange looks.

As the engine came together, Beckett began looking for a car to transplant his dream engine into, initially he began looking for a Fox body Mustang. The Ford Fox body platform was a unitized chassis (unibody) utilizing the traditional front engine and rear wheel drive layout.

Primarily used in Mustangs from 1993 through the early 2000’s, the Fox platform was designed to accommodate 4-cylinder (naturally aspirated and turbocharged), inline-6, V6, and V8 engines in a wide variety of Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln cars in the 80’s.

Beckett had trouble finding a Fox Body Mustang that he liked, yet he kept searching until he heard about a 1981 Mercury Cougar XR7 that was for sale for $700. 

Fearing that the car would have serious rust problems on the underside due to the weather and salt used in snow removal in the winter seasons, he committed to giving the car a courtesy look. As luck would have it, the car had an engine and transmission that leaked so badly that the underside was about 95% rust free. Even covered with oil on the bottom of the floorpans, Beckett bought the car and was happy with his future tire boiler.

Over the course of the next 17-years, the Mercury has seen a lot of changes. “I love the ’64 Ford Thunderbolt and did this as a modern tribute,” said Beckett. 

The initial build was accomplished in a week.

Ford’s Fairlane Thunderbolt was a limited, factory experimental drag race car in which 1oo-cars were built by FMC in 1964. The Fairlaine’s intermediate unibody chassis was fitted with a 427ci V8 engine with dual Holley carbs, an engine setup for a full-sized car like a Galaxie. The similarities between the Thunderbolt and Beckett’s project car doesn’t end there. Beckett has removed all the badges and trim for a smooth look which also confuses anyone that sees the car. “It gets attention where ever it goes, but most people don’t know what it is,” said Beckett. “When I tell people that it is a Cougar, I get strange looks,” he added.

He bought headers, transmission mounts, and the motor mounts from Kaufmann Engineering. Using an F350 rear sump oil pan helped the big block fit into the engine bay and keep the mill supplied with plenty of engine lubrication. 

The 460ci engine is equipped with a Blue Thunder dual carb manifold with twin Edelbrock 600 carbs and Blue Thunder aluminum valve covers. Overall, the big block makes 425 horsepower to the rear wheels as measured on a chassis dyno. According to Beckett, “It passes everything but a gas station.”

Beckett did a little custom work to make everything fit then shot the exterior paint in his garage.

Beckett had Currie Enterprises build a 9-inch positraction rearend with 3.70 gears and disc brakes on the rear. The transmission is a C6 with TCI stall converter. 

He added the grills in the hood to assist in getting rid of heat created by the monster big block. The hood scoop is painted white to match the exterior with 1/8-inch stripes for accent. 

“These cars are never really finished,” he stated, adding, “I did the work on everything except the automatic transmission. I painted the exterior of the car myself in my garage. I’ll never do that again because the whole garage is white now but the floor is sealed! I Experimented with different colors until I finally decided on Ford Wimbledon white. I used an interior paint to renew all the panels on the inside.”

Taking seats from a 2003 Ford Escape and installing new seat covers to match the interior panels finished the interior look.

The seats came from a 2003 Ford Escape with seat covers from Wetokole. “The color is suppose to be mocha but it looks more like tan to me,” Beckett said. 

“Initially, I put this car together in one week and have been upgrading it steadily for the past 17-years. There is at least thirty-thousand dollars in parts, not including my labor, into this project,” he claims.

Beckett's lifelong dream of a bog-block blue oval with twin carbs is complete.

Beckett says that he lives in Canada so the car is not his daily driver. “I take it out on weekends and evenings. I drive it routinely during the summer and have for the past 17-years. I’ve not had it in any car shows but it does go to the drag strip with me to relive my youth. In the ’80s I spent a lot of time at Gimli Dragway with my Mustang IIs.

Beckett already has designs on his next project, a 1964-1965 Ford Falcon two-door hardtop. We can’t wait to see that one hit the streets. If you’d like to share your ride with us here at SLTV, send us an email at Reader’s Wheels, and tell us a little about your car. Get some pictures ready and we’ll contact you and get more information and you’ll be on your way to sharing your car with the rest of our readers.

About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
Read My Articles

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