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Greg Rennish
'Houndstooth' Cat Fulfills Childhood Promise
In the mid-1970s, DCC Secretary Gregory Rennish almost lost his parents in a fiery crash that claimed another close family member: a fully loaded ‘70 XR-7 with the limited edition "houndstooth" interior and roof.
The cat had gone into a spin on wet pavement and hit a telephone pole. It came to a rest on top of the downed pole, its wheels still turning. "The car caught on fire and my parents were trapped inside," Greg says. "Luckily, they escaped before the car exploded."
Greg, who was about 10 at the time, had become attached to the car since the day early in 1970 when his father drove it home new from a dealership near their home in the borough of Queens, New York City. He washed and waxed it often and even became "protective" toward it, he says. He recalls the loss he felt when he saw the wrecked Cougar shortly after the accident.
"When I asked my father what had happened to the car, he said it was finished," Greg says. "We went to the holding area so I could see for myself. I couldn't believe it. As I watched the charred remains being towed away, I swore I would own a Cougar like that some day, even if I had to build it myself."
Greg, who now lives in Fredericksburg, Va., made good on that promise, but only after two attempts to purchase the same car.
Greg Rennish
In 1991, he came across an ad in Auto Trader for a 1970 XR-7. A call to the seller revealed that the car had a houndstooth vinyl roof! Even better, Greg discovered, was that the seller lived nearby ("small world," he notes). Greg checked out the reconditioned cat and liked it, but he had a problem: He'd have to go into debt to buy it and that debt could jeopardize a pending deal to buy a townhouse. The car would have to wait.
"I called back, after the deal was done with the house," Greg says. "But Frank [the seller] had moved and could not be found."
A year passed, and Greg continued his search for a houndstooth cat. Again, Auto Trader provided a lead on a ‘70 XR-7, this time in Fairfax, Va. "I called," Greg says. "It was Frank! I said, ‘Say no more; I'm coming to pick it up!' And I did. I was the happiest man alive."
The gold XR-7, one of only a handful known to exist with the houndstooth trim, has a 351-4V Cleveland engine with a 750 cfm carburetor and an FMX transmission. Greg has made numerous modifications, including 3.89 gears in a 9-inch rear end, a front scoop and rear wing, dual mirrors, heavy duty springs and shocks, an export brace and Monte Carlo bar and various suspension improvements. The car has "dog dish" wheel covers, trim rings, an electronic distributor and trunk-mounted battery.
Greg's been active on the show circuit, too. His houndstooth cat has won second-place honors at several shows, including at Carlisle in 1997 and at the 1998 All-Ford show at Jerry's Ford in Annandale, Va. The cat also was featured in the May 1999 issue of Popular Hot Rodding.
Plans for the car include a motor oil and transmission cooler rebuild and new paint. Greg, as protective now of his rare cat as he was for his parents' car nearly 30 years ago, notes that he'll get work done on the car only "when I can find the right people I can trust with the right skills."