1970 Mercury Cougar “Ghost Cat” Revealed | Danville, VA
The Ghost Revealed
An Eliminator Story: A Ghostly Cougar Stalks Aruba ” The Ghost Cat Revealed ”
Back in 2009, Jay Daryanani made a post on one of the Classic Cougar forums. He included pictures and a description of the now-well-known Competition Orange “Aruba Eliminator”. While the Orange Aruba Eliminator has become somewhat internet-famous over the years on a various barn find and rusty relic webpages, there was another single picture that Jay posted at the same time. One that has intrigued some of us in the Cougar Community for years now. That picture appeared to be of a Silver 1970 Eliminator – something that was not previously known to exist, and until the advent of Marti Reports a decade or so earlier, was not even known to be a possibility. If it was the factory color, then silver would have been a Special Paint Order color, and so exceedingly rare that only about a dozen “Special Paint” Eliminators are even currently known to exist. Most likely, this was just another ’70 Cougar that had received a repaint in silver and had some stripes slapped on it to kick it up a notch. Besides, there was another car to discuss that was very obviously a really tired and tattered Eliminator. So the silver Cougar faded into obscurity, like a ghost cat disappearing into the jungle, to become just another picture saved in my “mystery Eliminator” files.
Then in October 2016, a silver Eliminator turned up in Colorado. It was the real deal, with the documentation to back it up: a Special Paint Order Boss 302 Eliminator in Light Gray Metallic (aka “Silver”). That got my Eliminator senses tingling! Whatever happened with that silver Cougar on Aruba? I did some digging around and eventually was able to get in touch with Jay Daryanani via Facebook. Jay remembered the silver Cougar, but did not know where it ended up – but he said he would find out, telling me “legend has it that it is a real one” and that it was originally sold at the Ford dealer right there on the island. Very cool. Let the search begin!
A short time later I got a message from Jay saying that he had tracked down the owner of the silver Cougar! Sweet!
…and that it had been crushed. Oh no!
That owner had a silver ’67 Cougar, and they stripped the ’70 to use some of the parts before it was crushed. That was disheartening, but being an Eliminator sleuth I still wanted a VIN so that we could properly check that one off as “accounted for”. I asked Jay if he could try to get the VIN from the owners, thinking they might have kept some paperwork, or the buck tag, or anything like that. Jay was still keen on tracking this one down to the bitter end, but the owner had no paperwork for it anymore, and was a little evasive about the crushed car and didn’t really want to discuss it. Jay was persistent though and explained to me that in Aruba “crushed” doesn’t always mean “gone”. Sometimes a crushed car gets flattened by an excavator and hauled to the recycler, and sometimes it only gets pushed into the bushes, or into a shallow hole behind a shed. Jay did some more asking around to see if he could find out what happened to the body, and if a VIN could be pulled from it.
The Ghost Cat Revealed
Unfortunately, during Jay’s search his brother-in-law Gerald passed away. After some time, his family decided to try and find a home for Gerald’s beloved Aruba Eliminator, where it would be restored and live on. Eventually, the car was purchased by a collector on the island – a friend of Gerald’s, who specifically sought out KTL Restorations in Danville, Virginia to assess the car and determine if it could be saved. The Aruba Eliminator was shipped to the US, arriving back in New York, nearly 50 years after it was first delivered to Long Island from the factory in Dearborn. Today KTL Restorations is working diligently to bring the Aruba Eliminator back to its former glory. With the Aruba Eliminator restoration underway, Jay returned to the hunt.
By now Jay was quite certain that the silver Cougar was no longer on the island and was likely hauled away as scrap metal to be recycled and sent to Venezuela. But what about the original drivetrain? Surely the owner would have saved the engine and transmission when they were stripping the car. Those received partial VIN stamps from the factory. If that original drivetrain could be found, then we could put together the VIN from that and at least order a Marti Report to determine the pedigree of that elusive silver Cougar. So Jay tried again with the previous owner and again hit a roadblock – the parts were “stored away” and not available for inspection. The silver cat wasn’t going give up its secrets quite that easy.
Now you might be thinking to yourself when do you say “well, that one’s gone” and call it quits? Well, we’re certain to that point. Jay had already contacted the Ford dealership and learned that they had no records going back that far. It was beginning to look like the elusive silver Cougar was going to remain a ghost haunting my mystery files. But Jay had one more idea: “I am gonna try and check with the tax office (DMV) here to see if they have a record of the silver cat. It’s a long shot but you never know.”
This is the part of the story where you expect to hear “and at the Tax Office Jay discovered the VIN, and there were rainbows and unicorns for everyone!”, but that just didn’t happen. Jay never did get to the Tax Office to hunt for that VIN. At around 70 square miles and a population of 100,000, Aruba is like a large small town. People know people, and the story had apparently gotten around that Jay was looking for the silver Cougar. Out of the blue someone, local sent Jay a picture. It showed the rear flank of a silver Cougar with “ELIMINATOR” prominently called on it! It was no ghost after all. Jay was going to skip the Tax Office and go right to the end of the quest that same day.
But let’s step back for a minute. What about the car that was crushed? Well, all we can figure is that there was some sort of mix-up about the fella’s silver ’67 Cougar and that the owner probably had another ’67 or ’68 Cougar that was parted and scrapped. When he said that he used some parts from the scrapped car (what we thought was a ’70 Cougar) for his ’67 it sounded a little odd, but considering how hard it might be to find Cougar parts on Aruba, it also seemed plausible. It was almost like the silver Cougar had laid a false trail for us to follow while it lay lurking in the brush.
And brush there was! Jay “chopped quite a bit of brush to get to it” and braved “tons of spiders” to finally see clearly the silver Cougar that he had been chasing for the last year. The silver Cougar had been purchased by Marcelo Kock, the local car enthusiast who had sent the picture to Jay, and owner of a few classics including a ’67 Shelby GT500 project (yes, it’s a real one, #1047) that he had bought in Venezuela 30 years ago and brought with him when he moved to Aruba. Mr. Kock’s elder brother had purchased the silver Cougar with plans to use the drivetrain in a project that never took off. With the silver Cougar now before him, Jay took pictures and video while recording the VIN as well – 0F91M541404. At last, we finally had this Cougar’s number! But was it a real Eliminator?
The pictures revealed some very telling Eliminator details… blacked out headlight doors and grilles, front spoiler (an original, no less!), hood scoop… walking cat fuel door, blacked out taillight bezels, blackout paint behind the taillights… no “Cougar” script emblem on the rear quarters… it even had the blackout tape on the trunk lid and reverse light trim, as well as holes in the deck lid where the rear spoiler had mounted. Almost any of these items could be found on your typical Eliminator Clone, but rarely would you find ALL of them together on a clone. But was it originally painted Silver??
Well, there was obvious accident damage, to the extent that it certainly had at least a partial repaint. There were also signs of Blue Metallic paint in places, as well as a white-ish layer underneath the silver that could have been a primer. But soon enough we would know for certain. Armed with the VIN, Crystal at KTL, who had been included in the pictures and discovery conversations, submitted a rush order for a Deluxe Marti Report, while also enlisting the aid of various Cougar experts such as Gavin Schlesinger (CCOA Chairman), Phil Parcells (CCOA Database Registrar), Dave Wyrwas (Eliminator Registrar) and Bill Basore (editor and publisher of Legendary Cougar Magazine).
When the Marti Report arrived it revealed that the silver Cougar was a real Eliminator that had left the factory painted Pastel Blue with a Blue Standard interior. The original drivetrain was a robust 351C-4V mated to an FMX automatic transmission, and it was nicely optioned with Power Steering, a Console, Air Conditioning, and an AM/8-Track Radio. The DSO of 96 indicates an Export car, backing up the belief that it had been sold new on the island. Additionally, it has an Order Type of “Retail” – this was no stock order for lot filler – someone went to the Aruba Ford dealership and placed the order for an Eliminator spec’d the way they wanted. Other interesting options include the almost-unheard-of Metric Speedometer, the Accessory Package, and Touch-Up Kit, which are believed to include touch-up paint and various replacement light bulbs – items that could be very difficult to find outside the US. These options are so rare that the statistics aren’t even included in the Cougar …by the Numbers book (available at MartiAuto.com)! Furthermore, 0F91M541404 would be a new addition to the Eliminator Registry and the Cougar Database as well.
Ah, mission accomplished! Tag that cat and call it a day, right?
Well, Jay felt that his work wasn’t quite done yet, so he got on the phone with Gerald’s friend Ralph, who had bought the Orange Aruba Eliminator and sent it to KTL Restorations. Yes, Ralph was interested. He made a deal and is now the proud owner of two Eliminators that once prowled the streets of Aruba. After all the details are sorted out, this once-elusive Eliminator will join its island comrade in Virginia to begin the long process of a sure-to-be-stunning rebirth performed by the great people at KTL Restorations. Thank you, Jay, for all of your hard work and diligence, and thank you to Marcelo for reaching out to Jay and allowing him to photograph and document this rare cat!
I guess one question that still remains is: what color to paint it? Should it be put back to the ghostly Pastel Blue that it left the factory with, or resprayed in the shade of Silver that it wore while haunting the streets and forests of Aruba?
Have a great day and if you have any question about this cat. Please contact us here!