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Kristie Slindee and her father, Phil, restored this 1967 Mercury Cougar in 2012 for her everyday vehicle. Photo by Jillian Gandsey.

Kristie and her Cougar make the scene in Blackduck

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BLACKDUCK -- It was the spring of eighth-grade for Kristie Slindee when she, like others her age, began thinking about how she would soon be getting her driver's license.

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She had a slightly different mindset than her peers, however.

"I want a car I can work on before I get my license," Kristie told her father, Phil Slindee, some three-plus years ago.

"We had no idea what that really entailed, how much we wanted to do, or even what we wanted," said Kristie, now a senior at Blackduck High School.

So, Phil started asking around while Kristie took a welding class. After a few months of negotiating, they found what is now her everyday vehicle.

A 1967 Mercury Cougar.

The pair pressure washed and stripped the entire car down to a shell. As they began a search for the needed parts, they found the biggest one of all.

"I told a friend of mine what we were doing and he asked what kind of motor it had," Phil said.

It happened to be just the right one. Phil's friend had the motor out of Kristie's grandfather's 1966 Ford.

The majority of parts have come from a parts store specializing in the Mercury Cougar in Eugene, Ore., which happens to be where Kristie's uncle lives.

At Phil's birthday party in April 2012, a friend of his and Kristie's cousin placed a bet with her and her father. They bet the restored car wouldn't be finished by August.

It seemed like a strong bet at the time, because at that point, the car was simply completely stripped, which gave Phil and Kristie four and a half months to put it all together.

"I had her do a lot of the taking apart and putting together, like the motor, brakes and axle," Phil said.

"I wanted something that people would know it was me when I drove through town," Kristie said of her carbon black 1967 Mercury Cougar.

One area Phil and Kristie shied away from was the bodywork. But Kristie would have to pay for that herself, Phil instructed.

"I told her she had to get a job to help pay for this so she went to every place in town," Phil said. Soon enough, Kristie was employed by Deerwood Bank and from that first paycheck, she put two $20 bills on the workbench for the bet and said "they're not getting those."

"On weekends we would work on the car, after school we would work on the car and after work we would work on the car," Kristie said.

The hard work paid off.

After the finishing touches, they took it to a car show on the bet deadline date, Aug. 31. They were the only 1967 Cougar at the show. This past year, she has taken it to the Blackduck Car Show and the Paul Bunyan Vintage Auto Club car show.

"The one sad thing is that I don't think I'm going to be able to take it to college," Kristie said about her plans to study international finance at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

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