Kovalcik's 1990 Cougar XR7
1989 and 1990 Cougar XR7 owners can find
refuge with the Super Coupe Club of America SCCoA.
This is where FordMuscle found this sinister 1990 XR7 owned
by Mark Kovalcik. The SCCoA website was our first stop after
we decided to expose these XR7's to our performance Ford reader
base. We had Mark answer a few questions to help you get in
to the mind of a hobbyist who is willing to take on a rare
project like this one.
Q: What made you seek out the
1990 Cougar XR7?
I wasn't specifically looking for a Cougar. I was looking
for a daily driver with a little performance and just happened
to come across the ad in an Auto Swapper Magazine back in
1997. What attracted me to the ad was the car was listed as
a Thunderbird Super Coupe. I didn't even know Thunderbird's
came factory with the supercharger at that time. I had to
call. When I contacted the gentleman selling the car, he said
it was actually a Cougar XR7, but listed it as the Super Coupe
to get more calls. He knew most people didn't know the XR7
existed. My father and I went to look at the car and I immediately
was impressed with the style and looks of the car. In a way
it reminded me of a Buick Grand National with the all black
body, grille, and moldings. I had always wanted a GN but of
course they're too pricey.
Once we took a test drive and it lit
up the tires from a dead stop, I was hooked and had to have
the Cougar. He was asking $4500 at the time, I picked it up
for $3800 with around 87000 miles on the odometer. I drove
the Cougar as a daily driver for a few years. It had great
performance in its stock trim with excellent torque and very
smooth at high speeds. It surprised many Mustangs on the street.
I came across the SCCoA shortly after
I got the car and that gave me the bug to start modifying
it little by little. It all started with aftermarket exhaust
and then I moved on to a smaller blower pulley, K&N filter,
and so on. If it wasn't for the SCCoA and the great people
and friends I have made on the website, I probably would have
never gone to the extent I have now on the car. The car only
hits the streets occasionally on the weekends. I also take
Cougar to some local and regional events.
Q: At what level were you involved
in the modification and restoration of your XR7?
I generally do all the work on the car myself. I have rebuilt
the engine twice on the car with my father, Ray Kovalcik.
I owe all my passion and interest in performance vehicles
to him. The first rebuild was with stock internals, performance
cam, and a set of ported heads with chamber work. The stock
pistons and rods didn't like a lot of boost and timing and
I ended up with a hole in one piston after I over-revved it
at the track due to tire slip.
second time around, I decided to go all out and use strong
internal components such as CAT 351W H Beam Super Race Rods,
and Diamond Forged
Pistons. The car already had a forged stock crank. All machine
work on the engine was done by A&A Machine Shop in Davison,
MI. I also sent my already ported heads to Stiegemeier
Porting in Missouri and had them weld up and reshape the
exhaust ports as well as some work on the intake ports and
chambers for better flow.
The current Supercharger on the car is
a 89-93 Eaton
M90 case that has been ported and reworked by Magnum
Powers to their Magnum Powers III specs. It also features
a matching Magnum Powers III inlet plenum. I
popped in a set of coated Eaton M90 supercharger rotors from
a 2001 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP. The 89-93 Supercoupe/XR7 Eaton
M90 rotors were uncoated. 94-95 Supercoupe superchargers utilized
coated rotors but the newer Pontiac Grand Prix GTP rotors
have a better coating on them. Using coated rotors helps to
seal up the supercharger case better and makes for more boost
Q: It's positive to see a niche network
of manufacturers and service developing to serve those modifying
the Ford 3.8L Supercharged V6, like yourself. Are there any
other companies that have contributed to the performance of
Randy Baker Performance Tech Stage II
intake manifold and intake manifold plenum with a much larger
inlet and 3" round tube that connects to the intercooler
tubing for better flow. Hardcore
Motorsports of Flint, MI fabbed up the custom 3"
intercooler tubing and mounting of the intercooler and heat
exchanger. All paint and body work as well as mounting of
the Thunderbird Super Coupe rear bumper, Thunderbird Supercoupe
ground effects, and Xenon front air dam was performed by Top
Quality Collision in Davison, MI. I was one of the first to
mount the Super Coupe rear bumper and ground effects on a
XR7. I believe Mercury should have put these on the car from
the factory as they are a direct bolt on and add to the looks
of the car.
David Dalke of Super Coupes Unlimited
has been a great resource for understanding the tuning of
this vehicle. With his tuning expertise the car has performed
well on the dyno as well as at the track.
Q: How does the public react to your
car? How about your fellow
Ford and Mercury performance enthusiasts?
The car really turns a lot of heads and I don't think it is
just because of the exhaust note or whine from the supercharger.
It has a choppy idle and sounds very aggressive. Most think
it is a V8, but are surprised when the hood is popped to reveal
the 3.8L Supercharged V6. It is somewhat of a sleeper until
you open it up. The 17" Mustang Bullitt wheels really
set the vehicle off with its low stance and ground effects.
I get many compliments on the street and much interest at
events and the dragstrip. Most Ford enthusiasts are not aware
that the vehicles were produced. Some are aware of the Super
Coupes, but definitely not the Cougar XR7. Low production
numbers are the most likely reason. Hopefully, this FordMuscle
article will increase awareness.
Q: What are some of the greatest challenges
in modifying and rebuilding MN-12 chassis Cougars, more specifically
the 1989 and 1990 supercharged XR7?
Up until now, I think it has been the mystery of what works
well to bring out the performance capability of the car and
what doesn't. You see, there isn't a long list of proven combinations
like you'll find for Mustangs or stroked small blocks. Those
of us involved with making the most of SC's and XR7's, like
mine, are at the forefront of niche trend in 3.8L supercharged
V6 performance. Their is a wealth of knowledge at SCCoA and
it has taken us a while to get to the point we are now with
these cars. We are seeing more and more running in the 13's,
12's, 11's, and even one in the 10's now. A few years ago,
13's were quick with these cars and there were only a few
of us there. Now there are many more performance parts available
and we are learning the combinations that benefit the most.
Q: What are your future plans for
the car or do you have your eyes on
I will eventually rework some of the interior as it is beginning
to show its age. I plan on some lighter aftermarket seats.
Eventually I would like to add the AR Supercharger package
offered by Super Coupes Unlimited. I know it is the path to
well over 450hp at the rear wheels on my car. I have thought
of doing a conversion to a 5 speed manual transmission as
I would like to run the car on a roadcourse at some point.
The current AOD with Lentech valvebody and Precision Industries
stall convertor really isn't set up for a road course.
your opinion about the turbocharged 4-cylinder predecessors
of the 89/90 XR7's?
I like that they are based off of the Fox chassis, so many
parts are interchangeable. I'm not particular to the body
style though. I prefer the turbocharged Thunderbird body lines.
I think the motor is a great
platform and have seen a few running 10's. Boost is a wonderful
Q: Are you exclusively interested
in Ford powered vehicles or are you open to working on other
I am interested in other makes as well. My first car was a
1974 Pontiac Ventura that was from the south and a beautiful
car, but it met its demise and was sold. I currently own a
1982 Camaro Z28 that I have had since I graduated high school
in 1991. It has a mildly built 350 that my father and I built.
It is rarely driven and in excellent condition, it just needs
a little interior finishing to be perfect.
Eventually I would like to pick up a
Buick Grand National to restore and build up. There is nothing
like a Turbo Buick Grand National, except for the XR7 of course.
My interest in the GN came from my father who worked at Buick's