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Custom Car Builders

March 23, 2017

Al Glickman 1949 Mercury

 

AL GLICKMAN 1949 MERCURY

 

Al Glickman 1949 Mercury Hop Up Magazine cover Custom was restyled by Gil and Al Ayala at Gils Auto Body Works. An uniquely restyled full Custom Merc created around 1952.



One of the few Ayala Custom Cars created at Gil’s Auto Body Works in East Los Angeles that was both on the cover of a magazine and had a full feature inside was Al Glickman’s 1949 Mercury Convertible. The Ayala Custom was featured in Hop Up magazine of May 1953. For the Ayala’s this was a really great magazine because not only Al’s Mercury they had built was featured in it. There was also a two page feature on the Gil’s Auto Body Works 1951 GMC shop truck in it. But for this article we will concentrate on Al’s Mercury.

The way the Ayala’s treated the flow from the rear fenders towards the Oldsmobile rear fenders, with an upwards sweap, give Al’s Mercury an really unique look. This low angle front 3/4 view shows how well proportioned the Mercury was, and how the Chavez padded top made the car look very elegant.

 


Making the cover in full color on the very popular Hop Up magazine in May 1953 must have been HUGE for both Al Glickman, as well as Gil and Al Ayala. For unknown reasons the photo was mirrored and the front license plate blacked out so it the mirrored numbers would not show. Most likely the art director liked the car better coming from the left.

 



According the Hop Up Magazine Al Glickman went to Gil’s Auto Body Works to have them do something totally unique to his ’49 Mercury Convertible. Al was getting tired of seeing so many look alike custom Mercury’s. Hop Up magazine wrote ” Al Glickman decided that his Mercury would be different, Just about every conceivable custom treatment has been imposed on this popular model”. This information is really great to rear concerning the fact Al wanted the Ayala’s to do something unique to his Mercury. But it also means that in 1952, when Al’s Mercury was restyled by the Ayala’s there must have been already a lot of Customized 49-51 Mercury around. Possibly many more than we have ever seen published in the magazines and books. So many that doing something really unique was hard to get done!

The two page spread inside the May 1953 issue of Hop Up magazine showed 6 photos of Al’s Mercury, all set free from the background. Something that was very popular at the time.

 


A small write up about the cover photo shows that Gene Trindl was responsible for the color cover photo (as well as the photos inside) and it also mentioned the car was an 1949 Mercury, which was not mentioned in the main article.

 



Together with Gil Ayala it was decided that a set of new tall ’52 Oldsmobile 98 rear fenders would be grafted onto the Mercury with the round rear end. The Ayala’s cut of the rear fenders from the Mercury and grafted the Olds units onto the Merc body, realising they needed to reshape a lot of the body work to make everything flow together like the 1951 Olds bumpers really belonged on the car. For instance the front section of the Olds fenders had nice shaped “shoulder’s” , but this was not flowing with anything on the Mercury. Gil decided that the line of the front fender, which dips down on the door on the stock Mercury, needed to move up and flow into the Olds “shoulder”. This created a completely new look for the Mercury.

I have mirrored the cover image back to how the original photo was taken. Mainly the position of the rear view mirror and the black out license plate gave away the photo was mirrored. 

 


Cropped section of the color photo shows the large radius rounded hood corners, the rounded rear hood corners, an Ayala Trademark feature (which they also added to the Louis Bettancourt Mercury). It also gives us a good look at the molded in grille surround, molded splash pan,  the ’52 Canadian Ford Meteor grille with modified grille bar, the frenched and tunnelled headlights. The Hubcaps are 1952 Lincoln units. 

 


1952 Canadian Ford Meteor grille was used. I wonder how Gil got hold of one of those, special import from Canada?

 



The rear portions of the Olds fenders needed a lot of work to mate with the Mercury rear body work. Extra metal was used on the inside fender wrap around. A new splash pan was created and molded to the body. The Mercury trunk looks to have been left alone, although the Hop Up article mentioned it was modified to fir the rear fenders. It looks like a set of ’49-50 Mercury fender skirts was extended down to fit flush with the bottom of the rear fenders. The Stock Oldsmobile rear bumper was used and a set of long oval exhaust tips were molded into the bumper. The bright work on the Olds fender was all left stock, which looks perhaps a bit odd compared to the frenched and tunneled headlights up front.

The front of the car was also heavily modified. The grille surround was molded to the front fenders, and so was the splash pan. The hood was relieved of all its chrome and the peak extended down into the grille surround. The front hood corners were rounded with a large very streamlined radius giving the front of the car a very elegant look. At the rear of the hood, the sections that wrap around the cowl were cut off from the hood and welded to the cowl and front fender. This was also done with a nice radius which helps the hood flow very nicely into the windshield, and as a plus the back corners now don’t rub against the fenders anymore, a common 49-51 Mercury issue.

This view of Al’s Mercury shows how nice the “shoulders” of the ’52 Olds rear fenders work on the car. They give the car more length and hight in the rear. The reflections in the paint show how nice the Ayala body work must have been.

 



The windshield frame, vent windows and side windows were chopped, according the Hop Up magazine with 4.5 inches. The car was taken to Chavez Interior and Top Shop for a new Padded top and custom interior. Once back at the Ayala’s a new grille was created from a ’52 Canadian Ford Meteor grille which was modified to fit the ’49 Mercury grille surround. A set of parking lights was mounted in the grille opening as well. The front uses the stock ’49 Mercury bumper. All side trim, handles and emblems were shaved from the car, except the windshield frame and belt line trim. Electric push buttons were installed in the Appleton Spotlights to open the doors, and the trunk and hood latches could be operated from knobs on the dash.

Gil then finished the car with 12 coats of beautiful deep Devil Red Maroon Lacquer paint. The lowered car sits on wide white wall tires dressed up with a set of ’52 Lincoln hubcaps on red painted wheels. According the Hop Up magazine article the total cost for Al’s Mercury came to $1,775.-. Adding the Olds rear fenders $600, Hood and grille treatment $ 350.-, Shaving handles and installing push buttons $65.-, Chopping the windshield and side frames $160.-, Cutting glass $50.- And the full upholstery including the padded top cost $ 550.-.

Rear 3/4 view gives us a good look at how the Ayala’s grafter the ’52 Olds 98 rear fenders to the Merc body. The upward lip from the front fender to the new Olds rear fender is an unique touch, changing the appearance of the car dramatically. Perhaps an unusualy choice was to leave the Olds taillights and back up light completely stock.

 


Bone stock ’52 Olds 98 photo for comparing the rear fenders with those used on Al’s Ayala Mercury. A lot of work had to be done to mate the Olds fenders to the Mercury body, it would have been great to see a in progress photo of Al’s Mercury with the rear fenders crafted on, before primer.

 


Close up from the rear shows the ’51 Olds 98 rear bumper adapted to the ’49 Mercury with the Ayala created splash pan that was nicely molded in to the rear, and the Olds fenders. The Ayala’s modified the Olds bumper corners to accept wide oval exhaust openings that were neatly molded to the bumper. Notice the LOS ANGELES license plate surround.

 


A lot of metal needed to be added to the inside of the Olds rear fenders to make them work with the Mercury rear fenders and to meet up with the trunk.

 


Close up of the front end of the car shows the smooth hood rounded hood corners flowing perfectly with the fender shape and tunnelled headlights, the molded in grille surround and splash pan, the Meteor grille and the addition of parking light inside the grille opening. All photos of Al’s Mercury we have seen were taken with 1952 California license plate tags on the car.

 


Al’s Mercury at the 1952 Peterson’ Motorama show in the Pan-Pacific Auditorium in Los Angles. This is the only photo we have been abel to find that shows the car entered at a show. The front license plate has been removed for the show.

 


Cropped section of the photo shows at least one trophy displayed with the car, indicating that the car had been entered in at least one other car show in 1952. And a stack of possible business cards… perhaps Gil’s Auto Body Works cards!

 




Hop Up Motor Life Custom of the Year Contest

The January 1954 issue of Hop Up magazine included Al’s Mercury as part of their 1954 Custom Car Contest. Al Glickman’s Ayala restyled Custom Car was number 12 from 30 pre-selected car. The winner would be announced in the May 1954 issue of Motor Life magazine (the magazine was renamed from Hop Up to Motor Life during this period). The first place winner of the contest (picked from people who entered the coupon)  would get a fifty Dollar united States Saving Bond, a five-year subscription to Motor Life magazine and a 11×14-inch photo of the winning Custom Car.

From the January 1954 issue of Hop Up magazine. Al Glickman’s Ayala restyled Custom Car was number 12 from 30 pre-selected car.

 


In the May 1954 issue of Motor life it was announced that America’s Best Custom piced by the Hop Up Motor Life readers was Ron Dunn’s Valley Custom Shop sectioned Shoebox Ford. The winner of the first price was richard McNaul of New York City. And more important for us, Al Glickman’s Ayala Restyled ’49 Mercury ended on the fifth spot. Not bad.

  1. Ron Dunn Sectioned Shoebox by Valley Customs Shop
  2. Chuck deWitt Convertible Shoebox by Barris Kustoms
  3. Ellton Kanto Ford Convertible Hard-top by Joe Bailon
  4. Bob Hirohata ’51 Mercury by Barris Kustoms
  5. Al Glickman ’49 Mercury Convertible by Gil’s Auto Body Works.
  6. Tommy Thornburgh 1947 Studebaker by Barris Kustoms
  7. Dan Landon ’49 Chevy by Ayala / Barris Kustoms
  8. Buster Litton Panoramic Ford by Barris / Cerny
  9. Robert La Briola Oldsmobile Convertible by Barris Kustoms
  10. Ted Lundquists Kaiser Convertible

5th place in the contest, jut behind Bob Hirohata’s Barris restyled ’51 Mercury, and Tommy Thornburgh’s 47 Studebaker, also by Barris.

 


In the Fall 1993 issue of Custom Rodder Magazine Vern La Coursier of Puyallup, Washington asked the magazine staff if anybody recognised the Mercury in this photo. The magazine staff apparently did not have an answer, so they published the photo. A few issues later they published the photo again, with Al Glickman’s name and refered to the May 1953 issue of Hop Up magazine. A neat rear angle photo which looks to be taken at the same time as the Hop Up Magazine photo. Makes me wonder who many more are there we have not seen? This is the only photo we have that shows the what looks to be extended down 49-50 Mercury fender skirts.

 


Despite the car being featured on the cover and inside the May 1953 issue of Hop Up magazine, Al’s Mercury has rarely been seen in other publications, not in car show coverages over the years. Being an early 49-51 Mercury full custom you would expect to have seen more on this car, but for unknown reasons it looks like it disappeared very early. The Hop Up magazine mentioned that Al Glickman was called overseas not to long after the car was completed, and that Al sold it to Tommy Kamifuji. We have no knowledge what happened to the car after this. A ’49 Mercury with such unusual modifications sure would stand out if it has been around today, even if further modified. Does anybody know anything more about Al Glickman, Tommy Kamifuji, or what ever happened to the Ayala ’49 Mercury Convertible in this article? Then please send a message to Rik Hoving here at the Custom Car Chronicle. We would love to find out what happened to them and the car, and share it with the readers.


Tony Miller remembered this about the Glickman Mercury.
“I saw the Glickman/Kamifuji Merc for sale in a gas station on Santa Monica Boulevard (between Beverly Hills and Westwood in L.A.) around 1955. It was in perfect condition, and as I recall the price was around $3500. I tried to convince my mother that she should buy it as her daily driver. She wasn’t interested.”












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About the Author

Rik Hoving

Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what’s going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)






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6 Comments


  1. Great article Rik. I always found the fadeaway treatment with the upswing a little awkward on this car but other than that another beuatiful Ayala Custom. It is a bit odd that with their panache for smoothing everything out they left all the Olds trim/lights on the rear fenders. It would be cool if this turned up someday. Two great Ayala Merc’s missing. 🙁


  2. Got to agree with Ian on this one. Not sure that the Olds quarters work as well as they could but a very unique look none the less. And besides. Who am I to question any Ayala Brothes custom. LOL 🙂
    In regards to the use of the Canadian Meteor grille. My Clarkaiser “Queen of the Vics used a Canadian grill as well. Every one always thought that it was custom built. LOL But of course being from Detroit the guys at the Clarkaiser custom shop just had to take a short trip across the Detroit river to Windsor Ontario to get one.
    I still think that the Canadian Ford and Mercury Grill were better looking then there American counter parts.
    Another great article. Thanks Rik.
    Torchie


  3. very nice to see this great ayala brothers kustom merc convertible i remember when it came out i liked the cover so much that i got me too mags the color really made it stand out, i had forgotten about this merc hope some body knows what happen to it thanks rik love the atricle,


  4. Always loved this Merc…huge inspiration for Jeff MacMillan and me when building his ’51 Merc kustom. It would be really cool to see someone clone the rear of this car…or the entire thing! That rear bumper is a ’51 Olds 98, not ’52…although the quarter panels are ’52. I think the ’51 bumper looks better myself.


    • Correct on the rear bumper Rob… Thanks. I have it fixed in the text now.


      • I felt bad commenting like the kustom police 🙂

        Man, this Merc must have been stunning in person…I’d love to see the overall feel of the Olds rear quarters in person. It seems hard to take it all in through pictures with this particular kustom. I just feel like it would look totally different in person.



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