Running into a primo muscle car is rarely a Craigslist coincidence or a word-of-mouth barn find. It usually takes being in the know. This was especially true in the days before people shopped for cars on the World Wide Web. Back then, die-hard car guys joined clubs to meet like-minded gearheads. The club publications were where they got their news and their leads on potential purchases. It’s how Jay Williams first came upon this hyper-rare ebony 1970 Cougar Eliminator.
“In 1983, I bought a 1969 Cougar Eliminator, which was my daily driver through college,” he says. Jay joined the Cougar Club of America. In the fall 1986 edition of the CCOA’s newsletter, At the Sign of the Cat, he read an article by Jim Rakowski about a mysterious black Cougar Eliminator.
Rakowski was the registrar who chased and recorded all the known Cougar Eliminators built, 2,250 in 1969 and another 2,267 in 1970. During its two-year run, the Cougar Eliminator was known for special appointments as well as powerful engine choices to back its tough image and name.
Standard 1969 and 1970 Cougar Eliminator features included front and rear spoilers, racing-style exterior mirrors, bright rocker moldings, a hoodscoop, and a blacked-out grille. Black or white graphics called out the Eliminator name against the bright colors that most Eliminators were sprayed.
Eliminators were available in a limited pallet of very noticeable colors, many of which had Competition in their name: Competition Orange, Competition Yellow, Competition Blue, and so on. However, a handful were sprayed in other hues by special order. When this black 1970 Eliminator appeared at the 1986 Spring Carlisle swap meet, it set the Cougar world abuzz.
Jay says, “[Rakowski] had gone to the Carlisle swap meet, and he didn’t actually see it, but some friends of his told him about seeing a black 1970 Cougar Eliminator. It had the 428 Super Cobra Jet and dual-quad carburetors. At that time, he had never heard of —nobody had ever heard of—an Eliminator painted black.”
In addition to the nonstandard dual carburetors and jet-black paint, the Cougar at Carlisle was missing an Eliminator-only feature that helped smokescreen its past. “That car had a standard gas filler door, while Eliminators had a special one, so they decided it was a fake,” says Jay.
Soon after the swap meet, Rakowski learned that a club member had bought the black Eliminator. That club member wasn’t happy when informed by Rakowski that the car was likely a fake. “So Jim told him how he could get a copy of the factory invoice and a few other things he could do to document the car,” Jay says.
The car’s new owner got the invoice and even tracked down the original owner. The invoice proved it was a real Eliminator 428 Super Cobra Jet, with special-order paint on the invoice. The original owner also confirmed that the dual quads, a solid-lifter cam, and some other performance equipment had, in fact, been installed by the dealership.
“Rakowski took all that info and put it in this article that I read in 1986,” says Jay. “The article stuck with me. This car just sounded really, really cool. As far as I was concerned, it was the ultimate Cougar, the Cougar I’d have bought if I hadn’t been 6 years old when it was built.”
Through the pages of the CCOA newsletter, Jay kept track of the slick black Eliminator. He learned that “a guy I knew in Oklahoma bought the car. I got in touch with him and went to see this car that I had read about and thought was so neat. I asked him if he had any plans to sell it. His idea was to do some restoration and turn around and sell it, and I asked if he would consider selling it as-is.”
He would, but the sum he tossed out was all the money in the world for an Eliminator, and certainly exceeded a college student’s budget. Jay had to pass, but it never fully left his mind
In 1989, after Jay graduated from college, passed the bar exam, and got a job, his thoughts returned to the black Eliminator. “I was single and didn’t have any dependents and expenses. Long story short, we made a deal and I bought the car.”
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