KTL – Bringing New Life to Cats
by Rob May (CCOA #9623)
We have all heard of cats and their nine lives. KTL Restorations Inc. is an auto restoration shop out of Danville, VA. They specialize in bringing new life to our treasured cats. Kurtis Thomas Lawrance (KTL) is known for rebuilding concours Mercury Cougars. They have helped many CCOA member’s with their rides such as Richard Taylor (CCOA #9104) and his 1967 Cougar GT. New standards for excellence have been demonstrated including at the Mecum Auctions with a 1970 Convertible this year.
Kurt (CCOA #7112) grew up with Cougars courtesy of his dad’s fondness for these fine cars. Kurt’s dad, Thomas (known as Tom) Lawrance, served his country in Vietnam. While there, Tom was saving his money for a car in hopes of buying a GTE (or at least a 1968 with a 427/428). Kurt’s grandfather helped with a purchase of a 1968 Cougar that is Nordic Blue in color. This one optioned with a 6.5 liter (390ci) engine and 4 speed transmission. Funny side note, Tom’s dad wanted to save $1000 and optioned for the 390 versus 428. After enjoying the car for a couple years, it was traded for a Competition Yellow 1970 Eliminator with the big 428 engine (the size he wanted in the first place)!
In high school, brake replacements was one of the initial mechanical jobs Kurt performed to make a few extra bucks. Summer projects in their two car garage included working on the 1970 Eliminator which Kurt still has today. He attended automotive school after high school. Ironically, he happened to stumble upon a job in electrical, and there he found out he was really good at it which directly led to helping with diagnosing Cougar electronic headaches. Kurt went to work part time with his dad. Shortly after 9/11, he lost his job and went to work with Tom full time. Kurt also went back to school for paint and body. Initially the shop started smaller jobs such as floor pan, electrical, and mechanical work. Their reputation of quality craftsmanship led to full restorations.
With many fond memories of working on the Eliminator, Kurt and Tom were both interested in finding Tom’s first Cougar. Tom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and very sadly passed away 18 months later (April of 2014). Enter CCOA VIN guru Phil Parcells (CCOA #2554) to the story. Phil maintains the CCOA database tracking VINs on as many Mercury Cougars as possible annotating as much current status data as known. He found the car in New York City. Phil was able to purchase the car and hold it for Kurt until a safe reunion was completed. Kurt now personally owns his dad’s original 1968 Cougar.
Ressurected and Rare Cats
Previous builds include Richard Taylor’s 1967 Polar White 390 GT. Richard, who lives in Virginia, was looking for a big block 1967, automatic, with non-vinyl top. He spent 4 to 5 years searching for an original condition car that was not chopped up. In 2008, Richard bid on his car on ebay. The reserve was not met, but a deal was made with the Arizona seller to meet in Las Vegas to look over the car. The seller acquired this Cougar from an AZ dealer where the car was recently taken in trade. In an interesting twist of fate, the dealership was also the original dealer from 1967! Richard relayed the story that while calling West Coast Classic Cougar (WCCC) for references on where to have the car repaired to driver quality status. Don Rush said that Richard was very lucky indeed to be living near KTL who is highly praised for their Cougar rebuilds. He gladly waited over a year for KTL to make room for his car on their schedule. Richard stated that during the phone call to KTL, Tom guaranteed him that there would be typical rust contrary to Richard’s claim on the well preservation of the car. After being put up on jack stands, the dry clean body was realized. Initially the rebuild was to get the car mechanically to a daily drivers with good visuals. KTL helped explain the rarity of this Cougar (including the 1 of 1 Marti report). Typical to many restoration efforts, more and more things were returned to original status and the project ended up as a concours effort (over 1,000 hours) in 2010 and 2011. This car was first shown at a Carlisle event.
Legendary Cougar Magazine (www.legendarycougar.com) volume 2 issue 2 featured a KTL Cougar on the cover with photos and article courtesy of Richard Truesdell. This stunning Dark Aqua with White top 1969 Convertible XR-7 powered by a 428 Cobra Jet with Ram Air and C6 transmission is owned by Tim Prieur of Calgary. In 1969, this car was delivered to Bud Egolf Motors in Aurora, IL. It is 1 of 96 for ragtops with this drivetrain option. As Tim states in Legendary Cougar Magazine, this car “spent forty plus years in California.” It was sent to Danville, VA for restoration at KTL due to their reputation of attention to details. Several original documents remain with this car including invoice, purchase, loan, registration, and maintenance. This car hit over six digits in purchase price from RK Motors Charlotte at $129,900.
Ever hear of the Dan Gurney Can Am Racing Champion Award car? KTL restored a 1 of 1 1969 Convertible XR-7 powered by a 428 Cobra Jet with Ram Air. Per the dealer invoice, this car was originally built as a Canadian –American Challenge Cup gifting car. Dan Gurney test drove the car at Laguna Seca. In 1969 Dan Gurney presented this car to the winner (Bruce McLaren) of a Can Am Race. Many decades later, this car was found in New Hampshire in very rough shape. KTL revived this cat through several thousand hours of meticulous work. At the time of editing this article, the car was found to be for sale by a private party.
(Let’s add an example from any of these events).
While Haggerty may claim the interest in Mercury Cougars drastically dropped, reality suggests otherwise. Recently in Jan 2017, a KTL Mercury Cougar restoration set a high mark at Mecum Auctions earlier this year. The Competition Blue 1970 XR-7 428 CJ Convertible (1 of 2 per Marti report) reached $150,000! Sadly this event reached little publicity.
Next up for revival is a standard (non XR-7) 1969 Cougar. A 428 with 4 speed transmission provides the power. It is Ivy Green in exterior color with Saddle interior. Everyone in the Cougar community awaits this car’s completion along with many more precision restorations from KTL. Typically 4 to 5 cars are in rotation at various rebuild stages in their shop. KTL has always been a welcome addition to the Mercury Cougar community. Preservation with a focus to returning cars to their original showroom factory stock detail is their specialty. Thanks to KTL, many rare cats get their nine lives back for all to enjoy!
If you have any questions, please contact us at ( Click here!)
Article Written by:
Rob May (CCOA#9623)