GT-E Defined: Performance Features

While many classic Cougar sport options were more “show” than “go,” the GT-E was a true performance package.  This page summarizes the performance features included on the GT-E (including both versions of the 7.0 Litre engine), and performance equipment available as additional options.

7.0 Litre 427 V8 Engine


Displacement427 cu. in.
Horsepower390 @ 5600 rpm
Torque460 ft. lb. @ 3200 rpm
Valve LiftersHydraulic

Special Construction Features:

427 cubic inch (W code) engine
427 cubic inch (W code) engine
  • High compression cylinder heads and aluminum intake manifold with large, unobstructed intake passages.
  • Special high rpm camshaft, hydraulic valve lifters, large intake and exhaust valves and heavy-duty valve springs for maximum torque output and power at higher rpms without valve float.
  • Impact extruded pistons and special connecting rods for high strength and superior resistance to heat and stress.
  • Cross bolts through lower cylinder block casting to main bearing caps for precise bearing alignment under high rpms.
  • High capacity oil pump for more positive lubrication at high rpms.
  • High capacity fuel pump with integral fuel filter.
  • Low restriction dual exhaust.
  • Power Booster Fan for reduced sound level and higher performance. Requires only 10% to 20% as much power as conventional fans at highway cruising speeds.
  • Engine Dress-Up Kit includes bright air cleaner assembly, rocker covers, oil dipstick handle and oil filler cap.

Engine Exhaust Control System:

The thermactor system includes a belt-driven air pump of new design, check valves, hoses, an air distribution chamber for each bank of cylinders and air injection tubes.  All GT-Es came originally equipped with the Thermactor system.  These “smog” systems were often removed early on, and many surviving GT-Es no longer have them.

Air Cleaners:

Standard air cleaner for the 427 was an open element type, featuring a chrome lid and blue base.  An oil vapor hose ran from the right valve cover (containing an in-line PCV valve) to a tube neck on the underside of the air cleaner base plate.  No heat shields, S-tubes, or snorkels applied.

Several original low mileage GT-Es are known to have the 390-4V GT-type, closed element air cleaner, with snorkel, S-tube and heat shield.  These have the top lid either chromed or painted Ford corporate blue, with the appropriate decals in place, and are      believed to be factory installed, although it remains possible that these were switched out at the delivering dealership.

Exhaust System:

The 427-4V GT-E used the same exhaust manifolds, “H” pipe, intermediate pipes and mufflers, as the ’68 390-4V GT Cougars.  However, tailpipes and exhaust tips are unique to the GT-E.

7.0 Litre 428 V8 Engine


Displacement428 cu. in.
Horsepower340 @ 4600 rpm
Torque462 ft. lb. @ 2800 rpm
Valve LiftersHydraulic

Special Features:

428 cubic inch (R code) engine
428 cubic inch (R code) engine

“This new 428 Cobra Jet V8 provides a high performance engine for street use that is above the 10 to 1 weight/horsepower ratio, and that is simpler to maintain than the 390 hp 427 cubic inch V8 developed directly from Ford Motor Company’s racing engines.  Lincoln-Mercury announcement of the availability of the 428 Cobra Jet engine was stimulated by the response at the dealerships to the Cougars 1-2-3 sweep of the inaugural 250 miler in NASCAR new Grand Touring Division at Rockingham, North Carolina.

“The cast iron cylinder block is of deep skirt design, and the cast iron intake manifold has large runners for low restriction and high mixture volume.  Both the header type exhaust manifold and the air cleaner are of low restriction design, and the hydraulic lifter camshaft has a higher lift and longer duration to improve breathing.  Forged steel connecting rods improve durability.  For additional breathing it has a Ram Air induction system which utilizes a functional air scoop on the hood.”  So said the sales literature.

Engine Exhaust Control System:

The Thermactor system described above for the 427 engine, applied to the 428 as well.

Air Cleaner:

Standard was the Ram Air closed element air cleaner with Ford blue base, snorkel and lid, and a special top cover incorporating the vacuum actuated “flapper” panel and surrounded by a rubber molding ring that sealed the unit to the underside of the hood, around the pre-cut passage to the functional hood scoop.  The lid was supposed to be black, but a few GT-Es have lids painted the same Ford blue as the base.

Exhaust System:

The exhaust manifolds on the 428-4V are unique to Cobra Jet (CJ) engines, resulting in larger diameter exhaust tubing thorughout the car. This in turn required larger exhaust clamps all along the system–the same ones used on a 1968-1/2 428CJ Shelby.


Select-Shift Merc-o-Matic (C6):

On the one hand it is tempting to conclude that since the 427-4V GT-E was spec’d and sold only with the C6 automatic transmission, that Lincoln-Mercury never intended to build a 4-speed manual shift GT-E.  Recall though, that early evidence suggests the XR -7S, the GT-E prototype, was announced as having the 428 Cobra Jet engine with 8V carburetion, and a 4 speed manual transmission.  No records have so far been found to document the engine and transmission combination of the one known red XR-7S prototype–the one that was destroyed by the factory.  However, the HF II XR-7S, that survives has a 428 engine teamed with a 4-speed manual transmission.  Unfortunately, the owner thus far has refused to supply the vin# and left door data code plate information from this rare car. This is most likely a factory prototype, modified after “normal production.”

Top-Loader 4-Speed Manual:

The factory built three GT-Es with 4-speed manual transmissions.  They were ALL 428 CJ Ram Air cars.  Only one has been found.  Several other GT-Es are rumored to exist with 4-speed transmissions, but no documentation or other verification has been received to substantiate such claims.

Super Competition Handling Package

This package consisted of heavier duty, and therefore stiffer, componentry than the 390 GT suspension, and was standard on the GT-E.  It is not known for sure if this package was an option available for order on non-GT-Es, but the suspicion is that it was.  It includes:

  • Stiffer front spring rate (365 lbs./in. deflection)
  • Stiffer rear spring rate (135 lbs./in. deflection)
  • Larger diameter stabilizer (sway) bar; .95” dia. (this 15/16” front sway bar was new for 1968)
  • Heavy duty shock absorbers–Gabriel Adjustomatic with 1 & 3/16” piston.  Autolite shocks have been found as original equipment on some GT-Es.

Note: Adjustable air springs, consisting of a butyl rubber air cell, a coil spring surround, brackets, and air filler hose on each side, could be mounted between the rear springs and the underbody side rails, just forward of the rear axles on any Cougar.  This was a dealer installed  option only.  One GT-E is known to have been thus equipped.

Tires and Wheels

According to the dealership Salesman’s Databook, the FR70 x 14 radial-ply WSW tires were standard for the Cougar 7.0 Litre GT-E; and, while red band, or red-line, tires appeared in the brochures and advertisements, they were not available as of 1/1/68; no examples on regular production GT-Es have been verified.

The tire design trend was toward lower and wider cross-section tires.  Wider, meant more rubber on the road, and lower section height made the carcass sidewalls stiffer for more effective cornering, high speed stability and response.

Series 70 tires indicated a nominal 0.70 section height-to-width ratio, meaning that the section height was 70% of the tires width.  This compared to the 80%-82% for the then current low-section-height (LSH) tire, brought out in 1965.

Two manufacturers supplied new tires for the GT-E package, Firestone with its Super Sports Wide Oval, and Goodyear with its Speedway Wide Tread.  B. F. Goodrich was supposed to have supplied tires also, however no known examples of GT-Es so equipped have been verified.

The Space-Saver spare was listed as optional extra cost equipment for any 1968 Cougar model.  However, no GT-E is known to have come with the Space-Saver spare.  This is probably because only the GT-E, and XR-7 G, came standard with the Styled Steel Wheels, and this includes the fifth, or spare, wheel as well.  All other Cougar models, including the GT, ordered with optional Styled Steel Wheels, came with a regular steel spare rim and tire.  Space-Saver spares have been verified as original equipment on such cars, but have not been verified on a GT-E.

The package of five (5) Styled Steel Wheels that came on GT-Es, and XR-7 Gs, included a special protection pad for the chromed spoke center section of the spare tire and wheel.  It is a pressed cloth and fiber disc through which the spare tire J-hook passes before being secured with a unique washer sized to fit the wheel center-cap opening.

The Styled Steel Wheels for 1968 were slightly different than those for 1967; the slots between the polished spokes featured smaller windowless, thus reducing the potential for cracking.  No longer available were the optional color coded accent areas between the spokes, keyed to match the basic exterior paint color of the car.  All known GT-Es came with the wheels with argent paint between the spokes and the outer rim, which was painted black.  Replacement wheels are thought to have had the rim painted argent also.  Obviously, color coded wheels were easily produced at dealerships as options, as well as converted by owners if they so chose.

For more details concerning the definition of a GT-E, select from the options below: