Lots of guys claim to be car builders, but few literally build them for a living. That’s the case with 22-year-old Mike Hauenstein of Hamilton, Ohio, who works on the “line” at the Ford Motor Company plant in nearby Sharonville, Ohio. Mike tells us that they don’t build Mercury Cougars at his particular facility, but the new breed of “Cat” was his ride of choice when it came time to turning out his latest creation, one worthy of flying the Super Tight Customs logo (Mike’s club) in the rear window. The young master mechanic already has a ’91 Chevy Beretta (that must have been before he started working at Ford) and a ’97 Ford Ranger pickup truck to his credit, but he really “purr-fected” his skills with this 2000 Mercury Cougar that he calls “Phat Cat.”

Being a 2000 model, Mike had neither the time nor the need to do much under the hood. The stock Duratec 2.5-liter 24-valve DOHC V-6 engine was plenty powerful as it was, but Mike did paint the engine covers to match the rest of the car and added an Injen air intake to make this Cougar even quicker. A Borla dual exhaust kicks out the fumes efficiently and looks cool at the same time (especially to the cars that it’s pulling away from).

If this Phat Cat looks a little lower to the ground than the Cougars you’ve seen on the freeway during rush hour that’s because our Buckeye State builder fit his pet project with Eibach springs, giving the mean Mercury a 1-inch drop in the front and 11/2-inch drop in the rear. Razzi ground effects and high-rise spoiler bolted on by Sean DeKert at Kerry Body Shop in Fairfield, Ohio, further bring up the lowriding Cat’s show point total.

The guys at Kerry Body Shop are friends and associates of Mike’s so it was natural that he entrust them with matching the stock paint on the aftermarket add-ons for what Mike calls a “monotone” effect. As for the interior, Mike matched the exterior color on the dash, console and speaker grilles, and had his buddy Chris Metz at Metz Customs in Fairfield equip the cool cruisin’ Cougar with a supersonic sound system, namely a Clarion head unit/CD player, Zapco amps, Audio Control crossover, Diamond tweeters and mids, and Alumapro subwoofers.

All of these modifications have allowed this Cat to keep its cool in competition. Specifically, Phat Cat has feasted on the competition at a number of big shows in the East and Midwest. But being a master mechanic (and born tinkerer), Mike can’t resist constantly updating his custom Cougar. In just the few short months since we photographed Phat Cat, Mike tells us that he’s added a tweed interior and swapped out his chrome AFX wheels for color-coordinated 17-inch Team Dynamic Monza rims. He’s also toying with the idea of juicing his wild Cougar with a two-switch hydraulics setup. Oh well, they say that every cat has nine lives, so maybe Mike’s just getting started.

Mike would like to thank his sponsors, including Perfect Sounds in Forest Park, Ohio, and Princeton Tires in Tri-County, Ohio, as well as his family and fiancee (who kept telling Mike that he loved his car more than her). Mike also wanted to give special credit to NECO (New Edge Cougar Owners), a nationwide network of new Cougar owners who helped him with his parts search. Finally, Mike informs us that he’s created a web site for his car club. You can catch a glimpse of Mike’s Cougar and other club rides at www.supertightcustoms.com.

TECHSPECS

Owner: Mike Hauenstein
Vehicle: 2000 Mercury Cougar
City/State: Hamilton, Ohio
Club: Super Tight Customs
Engine: Duratec 2.5-liter V-6
Setup: Eibach 1-inch (front) and 1 1/2-inch (rear) dropped springs
Tires: P215/45-R17 Marshal
Wheels: Chrome AFX