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Mark 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?

A: 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?

A: 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.

The 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 and power.

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 your XR7?

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?

A: 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?

A: 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
another project?

A: 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.

Q: What's your opinion about the turbocharged 4-cylinder predecessors of the 89/90 XR7's?

A: 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 thing!

Q: Are you exclusively interested in Ford powered vehicles or are you open to working on other makes?

A: 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 Experimental Lab.

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Who says late-model Ford performance enthusiasts aren't going beyond bolt-ons, exhaust systems, and chips? Take a peak at what a regular guy like Mark Kovalcik has done to make 453.3 ft. lbs. of torque and 357.5 rear wheel horsepower with Ford's 3.8L supercharged V6 of 1989-1995.

Motor Profile
Block 3.8L Ford V6 SC .035 bored block
Crank Stock Forged
Heads Stiegemeier Heads with 1.937 Intake and 1.55 Exhaust valves
Pistons Diamond Forged
Camshaft Fred Holzhauer 580 lift 224/224 duration
Rods CAT H Beam Super Race connecting rods
Compression 9:1
Rockers FMS Stud Mounted 1.73:1 ratio
Headers 3.8 JBA Mustang shorty headers
Supercharger Eaton M90 case reworked by Magnum Powers
Intake Randy Baker Performance Tech Stage II
Miscellaneous BHJ Harmonic Balancer, Magnum Powers 85mm Throttle Body and Inlet Plenum, SCT Big Air MAF, 50lb injectors, Spearco 2-230 Air to Liquid
Intercooler, Fluidyne 03-04 Cobra Heat Exchanger

Chassis Profile
Exhaust 2.5" with Magnaflow X-Pipe and Flowmaster mufflers
Tranny AOD with 4R70W gear set and Lentech valvebody, Precision Industries 2500 rpm non-locking stall convertor
Gears 3.73:1
Sway Bars ADDCO Competition Series front and rear
Springs Tokico 1.25" drop
Shocks Tokico
Brakes 2001 Mustang Dual Piston PBR calipers
Wheels 17" 2001 Mustang Bullit Style Wheels
Tires GoodYear ZR45 245/40/17

Interiors on the early MN-12 chassis Cougars and Thunderbirds were modern but not overly-contoured. The ergonomic but still squared-off look compliments the 1989 and 1990 XR7's well. Mark added an Autometer A-Pillar Dual Gauge Pod with Autometer Air/Fuel and Boost/Vacuum gauges.


Mark won the 2005 Morana V6 Ford Challenge Power Adder bracket this year at Milan Dragway in Milan, MI. He walked away with a trophy for the quickest ET that day. The car's best et is 12.247 @ 110.86 mph but he's confident the car will run 11's once he can get to a sticky track with traction next spring. A nice goal but we're impressed already, these are weigthy cars.






Super Coupe and XR7 production numbers provided courtesy of the Super Coupe Club of America. www.sccoa.com

Background on the MN-12 chassis and Cougar's introduction in 1989 provided by Eric Dess at www.coolcats.net

Additional MN-12 chassis facts from "Thunderbird Fifty Years" by Alan H.Tast and David Newhardt.

Various production facts and images provided by "The Standard Catalog of Ford 1903-2003, 3rd Edition" by John Gunnell.

Image contributions from Chris Peterson, Richard Swart, Jeremy Kovacs, Roland Gauthier, and Mariusz Szewczyk at www.lovefords.net

If you are a Cougar XR7 or Thunderbird Super Coupe owner, we welcome you to register with FordMuscle Webmagazine and add your car to our Reader's Cars section.


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