Custom Car Chronicle
Barris Kustom Shop

Jerry Reichman 1950 Mercury




The 1950 Mercury 4 door sedan was an unusual car to base a full Custom Car on. But Jerry Reichman loved the look of it, and the Barris Shop outdid them self creating this stunning chopped 4 door Mercury Custom.

Jerry’s four door sedan Mercury based full Custom was, and still is a bit of an oddity. It was not totally uncommon to use a four door base car back in the early/mid 1950’s as a Custom Car, but doing it as a full custom including chopped top was very rare, even more because it was based on the so popular 1949-51 Mercury. George Barris added Jerry’s Mercury to his series of four books explaining the Barris Kustom Shop Restyling techniques from the 1950’s, partly to show that even four door were used as base. But at the same time he wrote “Shame it was a four-door”. I guess he rather would have done all the same body mods on the more popular coupes and or convertibles.

Jerry Reichman traveled all the way from Chicago Illinois to have his dream car, a 1950 Mercury four door to be restyled at the Barris Shop. Jerry had seen many Barris Kustoms Shop created custom cars in the magazines and decided this shop was the right one to create his dream custom.  Jerry loved the shape of his stock 4-door Mercury body, the way the rear doors opened at the back and the shape of the side windows. It was around 1952 when Jerry made the trip to the Barris Kustoms Shop with a list of modifications he had in his mind for the Mercury. The fact that Jerry’s mercury was photographed with California plates might indicate that he actually bought the car in California, and not bring it from Chicago. One of modifications he wanted the Barris crew to perform on his four door Merc was a chopped top, and the use of a smaller rear window. Some of the other restyling elements came from proposals made by the Barris crew.

George Barris captured the restyling of the taillights on Jerry’s Mercury hand made pods around 1948 Studebaker taillight lenses.

Jerry’s ’50 Mercury is most likely the first ever four door Chopped 49-51 Mercury to ever be chopped. Being a four door made it a bit harder to chop, than the two door. Of course because of the double door openings that needed to reshaped, and double to amount of door handles that had to be shaved and electrical openers to be installed. And also because the rear of the top had to be treated in a different way than a coupe would have been, especially with the instructions from Jerry who wanted to have the rear door window opening shaped conform the four door much more oval shapes. And also because the complete width stock rear window had to be replaced with a smaller unit.

All the body work is done, and the car is ready for paint at the Barris Atlantic Blvd. Shop. What is also unique about this photo is that it shows that the car still had its stock stance, and was not, like most other cars at the Barris shop already the lowered suspension before the other body would would start.

The Barris crew decided to use a 1949 DeSoto rear window to fit right in place on the four door roof after the chop, and it really looks like it belongs there. It was most likely Sam Barris who set out to do all the restyling on the chopped top on Jerry’s Mercury. According the 1955 Motor Life magazine article the top was chopped 3.5 inches in the front and near 5 inches at the rear, creating a nice flow. When the top came down the rear of the top came forward a few inches and the turret panel from the top toward the trunk had to be extended forward. The drip rail was completely removed for the ultimate smooth look. To make the top flow even nicer with the body the top trunk corners were rounded, helping with the optical flow of the top. All the door corners on the Merc, with the exception of the bottom front and rear corners were rounded.

A good look at the reshaped rear section of the top and the new taillights and how they flow with the body character line.

Close up of the front shows the molded grille shell and splash pan, the smoothed hood with rounded corners, 4 inch extended front fenders, and angled back towards the front of the front fender line.

At the front a lot of work was planned on the car as well. The front fenders were extended 4 inches and ’52 Ford headlight rings were molded into extended fenders. The lower section of the fenders, below the headlights was angled back at the bottom. This was done in a similar way as the Ayala’s had done it on Wally Welch 1950 Mercury. Perhaps Wally had his Merc at the Barris Shop for the redo during the built of Jerry’s Mercury, and was Jerry, or the Barris crew inspired by it. The hood was shaved of all the trim and the hood corners rounded and the grille shell molded to the front fenders and the molded in gravel pan. The floating grille bar was created from a narrowed and v-ed, to match the Mercury grille opening 1953 Dodge grille. At the back of the hood the ends were cut off and welded to the cowl and front fenders creating a new shorter hood line with nice round corners, which also does not hit the fenders, damaging the paint later on. Jerry’s Mercury was one of the first Mercury’s that had this last modification done to it. But I think that the Ayala’s were earlier with this rear hood corner restyling on the Louis Bettancourt Mercury.

At the rear Jerry wanted new taillights molded into the body. The Barris crew came up with the idea of using hand made pods created using half inch round rod bend around 1948 Studebaker taillight lenses. The pods were positioned in such a way on the body that the top of the taillight pod was in line with the body character line., creating a beautiful flow from front to back. The pod was fine tuned using hand shaped sheet metal and molded into the body using lead.

All finished new taillight pod with the ’48 Studebaker taillight test fitted. Next up is primer.

Primer sanding, filling in some small imperfections, more sanding and then cleaning the surface for the final paint-job.

Some of the body restyling techniques on Jerry’s Mercury were captured on photo by George Barris, possibly to use in future magazine features, but the actual chop of the four door body was not captured. Possibly George never took any photos of the process figuring he would never want to use it in a magazine article anyway. There are a couple of photos of the car with all the body work finished, right before it would be painted. And interestingly is that Jerry’s Mercury was not yet lowered. In most in progress photos we have seen from the the Barris shop we see that before the major body work gets tackled on the cars, the ride height is adjusted for the perfect stance. And while doing the body work, and especially the chopped top on cars the overall balance can be checked. But not on Jerry’s Mercury. all the way thru the paint process the car was still on its stock ride height.

These two photos appeared in the “let’s Spend a Saturday at the Kustom Shop” article published in the August 1953 issue of Rod & Custom Magazine. Both photos show Jerry’s Mercury fresh out of the paint booth completely primed. In the left photo we can see a 1953 Cadillac Coupe DeVille which was introduced in October 1952. In the right photo we can just make out the top of the Merc on the right side of Snooky’s damaged ’41 Ford. It helps us a little with dating when Jerry’s Merc was created. After October ’52 and at least two month before August ’53. (it took about two month to publish a magazine back then).

Jerry’s Mercury was painted by George Barris in a beautiful maroon color. George named the color “Mandarin” maroon in one of his book. In the 1955 Motor Life magazine feature the color was described as 25 coats of Golden “Tingia” Maroon Lacquer.

More final preparations before the multiple lacquer paint job can be applied.

George Barris adding one of the multiple coats of maroon lacquer paint coats. Notice that the car is still at stock ride height during painting.

Jerry’s chopped 1950 Mercury 4-door Full Custom was entered at the 1953 Petersen Motorama Show held in October/November 1953. The photo shoot at the famous Compton Drive-In theater together with Bill Bush his un-chopped 1949 Barris Custom Mercury was also taken in 1953. Jerry’s Mercury had a ’52 California tag on his California license plate and bill Bush had a ’53 tag on the plate. One thing that is a bit odd about Jerry’s Mercury is that it had California plates. Perhaps Jerry bought the car in California, and took it home to Chicago later. I have not been able to find any photos of Jerry’s Mercury taken after 1953 or with Illinois plates on it.

The earliest photo I have been able to find of the finished Jerry Reichman 1950 Mercury comes from the 1953 Petersen Motorama Show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium held from October 26th till November 1st 1953. The early version of the car shows that the emblem/scripts above the side trim was added at a later stage. It also appears that the car ran different hubcaps (possibly ’53 Studebaker) than the later ’53 Cadillac units.

Multiple Barris Customs were on display at the ’53 Petersen Motorama. In the front the freshly finished Sam Barris, behind it the 1952 Nethercutt Oldsmobile and on the far right we can see a glimpse of Jerry’ ’50 Mercury.

Stunning low angle photo shows the beauty and simplicity of the front on Jerry’s Mercury. Despite Jerry was from Chicago Illinois, the car did have a kustoms Los Angeles plaque on the front.

Jerry’s 1950 Mercury four door was featured in the February 1955 issue of Motor Life magazine with a two page feature. Including 6 progress photos of how the Barris Shop had handled the head and taillights on the car.

Rear 3/4 view of Jerry’s Mercury shows the super smooth lines, the smaller rear window and the use of 1951 Mercury fender skirts.

The Car Speed and Style Article

The photos for this article were taken by Ralph Poole, and must have been taken in late 1953, after the Petersen Motorama. Jerry’s mercury now has the additional script (which looks to say Royal, but I’m not 100% sure about that) had been added on the front fenders, just above the side trim and the Barris Crest. The car is now also updated with the ’53 Cadillac hubcaps that replaced the ’53 studebaker units used on the car at the ’53 Motorama show. The photos from this photo shoot, would for unknown reasons not be used for another 5 years until the Car Speed and Style magazine article on the Reichman and Bush four door Mercury’s. Both owners names are not mentioned in the magazine article, but the cars are listed as Barris Kustoms created cars.

Jerry’s 1950 Mercury four door Full Custom was in color on the cover of the January 1958 issue of Car Speed and Style. It was accompanied by another 4-door Barris Custom, the Bull Bush 1949 Mercury, restyled much milder, with no chopped top.

Close up of the much smaller than stock ’49 DeSoto rear window which the crew at Barris installed. The photo also shows the rounded trunk corners and the removal of the belt line trim.

Close up of the extended front fender, hood corners and modified Dodge grille.

California license plates with ’52 tags during the ’53 photo-shoot. Notice the exhaust true the rear bumper.

The interior was beautiful upholstered in off white with wide pleats in maroon. The complete dashboard was smoothed and chrome plated. The stock steering wheel was replaced by Lincoln unit that was painted two tone. It looks like the Appleton Spotlight handles are either painted body color, or replaced with hand-shaped Lucite units.


Jerry’s Mercury only had hubcaps on the front wheels. several lower points of view showed the painted wheels on the rear peeping out under the ’51 Mercury skirts.

Even though the Compton Drive-In photos were already taken by Ralph Poole in 1953 most of them were not used until 1958. Possibly shortly after the car had been finished and photographed Jerry might have taken the car back home to Chicago in late 1953, perhaps early 1954. We have no idea what ever happened to this beautiful four door Custom Mercury. If any of our readers has any info on what happened to the car after 1953, please email Rik here at the Custom Car Chronicle. We would love to her more, and if possible add it to our story on the car.

Wonderful profile photo shows the beautiful chopped top and the well balanced side windows. The front section of the side trim with the Mercury Script was replaced with a flipped from side to side rear fender trim section. And it was also shortened around 15 inches compared to the stock trim.

Personally I have always liked the chopped top on Jerry’s four door Mercury, I like the way the chop was done in a far less streamlined way than any of the 49-51 Mercury’s the shop had ever done, making the rear door windows look really attractive. The shape of the top also fits really well with the rest of the restyling of the car. To me the whole design is really well balanced, and I hope that one day a few more good quality photos from the several photo shoots with Jerry’s mercury will surface.

(This article is made possible by)




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)

5 thoughts on “Jerry Reichman 1950 Mercury

  • Beautiful car!
    Excellent job on the rear door windows. It seems to me that this is where some 4 door chops just don’t make it.
    Four doors need love too.. 🙂

  • Always thought this was such a killer kustom and very interesting because it is a four door sedan. I’ve always wondered if there was enough headroom in that back seat, but I don’t think it mattered- the little chopped windows and rear window create a nice look.

    I wonder if the abbreviated hood corners were the first ones done? We have seen a lot of that in recent years ( since the ’70s-’80s or so) and most guys do it because the ends of the ’49-’51 Merc hoods can be a nightmare to fit correctly.

    Looks like a Lincoln steering wheel with the top half painted a lighter color…

    Great article, Rik!

  • The cover photo for the Car Speed and Style magazine was a favorite of mine. That was the only issue of that magazine that I can remember. Both Mercury sedans in the story looked so cool!

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