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Brian Champagne

SLC man's love of Mercury Cougars prompts him to buy 7

By Brian Champagne, KSL.com Contributor  |  Posted Mar 9th, 2017 @ 11:53am


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Editor's note: This is part of a series at KSL.com featuring some of Utah's coolest cars. If you own a customized vehicle — from sports cars to semitrucks — email fjolley@ksl.com with a photo of the vehicle and a brief description for consideration.

SALT LAKE CITY — Would you watch a YouTube video of a car’s taillights? Well, more than 30,000 people have watched a video of a 1967 Mercury Cougar. Those lights and a few other things made Gary Hart a huge Cougar fan.

The word “fan” is often misused: short for “fanatic,” it’s now used to describe anyone in the stands, crazy or not. Hart is a true 1967-68 Cougar fan and has the cars to prove it.

Like many car enthusiasts, his love for this car started in high school when he bought a 1968 Mercury Cougar. He later sold it to earn money for his LDS mission, but he wanted another after he came back home a few years later. In 1983, he bought a 1967 model and fixed it up, giving it a major color change. Five years later, he sold it to buy a house.

He then went the longest period of his life without owning a Cougar, but 18 years later, he bought another and fixed it up. While browsing KSL Cars a few years later, he found another, bought it and fixed it up.

He asked his wife Wanda what color he should paint it before he sold it. “Why would you sell it?” she asked. “What if I want it?” Wanda’s Cougar is now yellow.

Later, Gary met a man at a car show who asked him if he liked Cougars. After Hart told him the obvious, the man sold him another. That Cougar is now green and owned by Hart’s daughter Krisla.

In 2013, Hart bought a 1967 Cougar with a 351 Windsor under the hood and fixed it up. Next, he found a rare 1967 GT XR7 model with a 390 and sold the 351 to finance the GT. He fixed up the GT, then sold it to buy a Model A. He also owns a 1947 Ford truck with a flathead.

The family shows the three Cougars together at car shows. Gary’s has NOS which he demonstrates to “rice burners” now and then. Wanda drives hers gently on weekends, and Krisla’s gets the same treatment.

Hart said the most popular part of the car is the sequential taillights, with people often asking him to turn on the car and give a demo. The three Hart Cougar lights still run off tumblers over three tabs, but modern electronic versions are available.

Gary said his fanaticism is only for 1967-68 models. He has run a Facebook page for two years, which now has 1,500 members.

Buying seven of the same car has worked out for Hart since knowing how they work makes them easier to restore; it also makes it clear that he is a Cougar fan.


Brian Champagne has reported on cars for more than nine years. He holds a master's degree in communications from the University of the Pacific and teaches at Utah State University. Contact him at iaabfl@yahoo.com.

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