Cat On The Prowl, 1976 Mercury Cougar XR-7 Turns Heads

Jody Dick’s groovy classic car is a rebuilt ride

  • Jan. 28, 2019 8:00 a.m.

– Story by Sean McIntyre Photography by Don Denton

From West Shore Life + Style magazine

Disco can inspire some bold moves, and that’s not just on the dance floor.

Metchosin’s Jody Dick had only just began his gig as a keyboard player in a popular Victoria band called Tight Hair when things started getting groovy.

The band quickly began lighting up dance floors across the Victoria area. They had the sound, they had the look and they had the moves, but it felt like a little something special was still missing.

It was the band’s guitarist, a 30-something Englishman by the name of Christopher Lloyd, who nailed the missing ingredient.” The band needed a “pimpin’ ride.”

Photography by Don Denton

“He’s an old soul who digs retro things,” says Jody. “He’s the one who pitched this crazy idea.”

Nearly two years after the bandmates were tossing around ideas for Tight Hair’s wheeled mascot, “Monica” is nearly ready to hit the streets and, quite possibly, make an appearance at a disco night near you.

“She’s a lot of fun to drive,” Jody says. “It just literally glides likes it’s on air. She screams mid-70s with this long hood, the way the windshield tapers back and these really cool lines.”

You might miss Monica’s distinctive look, but you’re highly unlikely to miss her colour. Pagan Candy Apple Gold is every bit as bright as it sounds. The colour seems to illuminate the surroundings, halo-like, on a wet and dreary West Coast spring afternoon at Jody’s home in the forested hills of rural Metchosin.

“It looks pretty intense,” he says. “In the sun, you literally cannot look at it without sunglasses.”

Monica is a rare breed, a 1976 Mercury Cougar XR-7, which Dick found stowed away by the grandson of the car’s original owner.

Photography by Don Denton

Jody was flabbergasted to discover that, as a teenager, he’d worked as a part-time detailer at the very same dealership where the car was purchased more than 40 years ago.

“There’s a chance I could have touched her then,” he says.

Jody has come a long way since he cleaned cars as a high-schooler. These days he’s the general manager at Victoria Hyundai. Whether in the shop or in the showroom, he’s covered a lot of ground in the automotive sector. The experience and relationships he built up along the way served him well when it came to rebuilding his new ride.

Dick saw promise in those iconic lines and near-mint details, like the rear seat “opera windows” that are stencilled with the silhouette of a fierce mountain cat on the prowl.

As is the case with any creative project, the artist must begin with raw materials from which to carve out his or her vision. From the moment he saw it, Jody was confident the Cougar hit all the right notes.

“I play a lot of music, I’m fairly creative and I come from an artistic family, so I just looked at it and said ‘okay,’” he says.

The car had a pair of minor door dings and a few bubbles of rust. The low mileage was a positive, but years of sitting idle silenced the car’s original purr. Dick says the car’s long-expired gasoline had turned chartreuse green and wreaked havoc on the carburetor. The entire tank had to come out, and the original 351M engine underwent a near complete overhaul.

The gray body colour was peeling badly and needed to be completely stripped and repainted if the old Cougar had any chance of lighting up the dance floor. The Pagan Candy Apple Gold called for three coats of base, six coats of tint and three coats of clear to really make it shine. It’s set to receive a coat of gloss before the job is complete.

Jody went to see an old friend, Doug Thompson, at an upholstery shop downtown to source some chocolate embossed paisley material for the car’s roof. He also found some dark-gold velour for the bucket seats and accents.

Photography by Don Denton

As if that weren’t enough eye candy, the front headlights now feature multi-colour LEDs designed to flash in synch with the beats of funk and disco tunes playing on the car’s stereo. Despite the high-tech upgrade, however, Monica remains true to her ‘70s roots with no air conditioning, hand-cranked windows and an AM radio.

“She started as a low-budget custom and morphed into not-so-low if you know what I mean,” Jody says. “I don’t want to gaudy it up or anything, but I think we’re at that line.”

With the sunny driving season and a full schedule of gigs right around the corner, Jody is nearly ready to call the project done. The car’s inaugural test spin through the winding streets of Metchosin has already got people talking. Jody says a nearby motorist actually rolled down her window to scream, “Oh my god!” while stopped at a traffic light.

With some wide, white-wall tires, a little clean up and a stretch of sunny weather, this cat will be ready to prowl.

“She’s turned a lot of heads already and believe it or not, has a following of sorts,” he says. “This isn’t a Camaro or Chevelle or Mustang. There’s a ton of those cars out there, but nobody is crazy enough to customize a 1976 Cougar.

“Except me, of course.”

Photography by Don Denton

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