Wally Welch Mercury 02
THE BARRIS VERSION
Wally’s 1950 Mercury was among the first customs based on this iconic Mercury model. Originally restyled by the Gil and Al Ayala, this milestone Custom was redone by the Barris Kustom Shop in 1952.
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n part one of this story we ended when Wally’s girlfriend Jeannie Christman had expressed her dislike for the lime gold color Wally had Gil Ayala paint his mercury. Wally also wanted to have a full custom interior. So, in late 1951 it was time for an update on the car… not even a year after it was finished by the Ayala’s. For unknown reasons Wally took his Mercury to the Barris Kustom Shop on Atlantic Blvd in Los Angeles for the remake. Barris decided the grille needed two more grille teeth. So the grille mounting holes were filled and now 7 1951 DeSoto grille teeth were spread out evenly inside the hand made grille opening. Most likely with Jeannie’s approval a very deep organic purple was chosen for the new paint color. Reportedly 30 coat of paint were applied to the Mercury to get the depth and color just perfect. Sam Barris also painted the Appleton Spotlights interior handle plastic part in the same body color.With the new paint all done the car was send off to the Carson Top Shop for a full custom interior.
This version of Wally’s Mercury was never featured in any magazine, but some photos of the car did appear in a few magazines in the early 1950’s including Trend Book Nu. 105 Restyle Your Car, which was published in December 1952. Two photos of the car appeared in this issue. It must have been a really great deal for the Barris Shop. WIth only minimal efforts they could produce a complete new very stylish custom car. They put the Kustoms Los Angeles plaques on the car, and in general the car was now known to be a Barris Custom. Wally drove and showed the car for a couple of years after it was finished and then in 1954-55 he decided it was time to let it go.
The April 1953 issue of Popular Mechanics had an article named “Four Wheels Waiting For A ace Lifting” which showed some very interesting Ayala, Barris and Valley Custom Shop photos. Included were two of the Wally Welch Mercury. This one is particularly nice since it marks the modifications for the untrained PM readers. The chop is now listed as a 3 inch in the front and 7 inch in the rear!
The other photo in the Polar Mechanics shows Wally demonstrating the hidden door locks in the side trim.
This photo of the freshly Barris finished version of the Wally Welch Mercury was taken by Jack Campbell in 1952.
The Barris version of the Wally Welch Mercury was never really featured in a magazine back in the day. But there are two photos, taken my Jack Campbell, in the Trend book No. 105, Restyle Your Car from 1952. The booklet lists Barris as the builder, and does not mention the car was originally built by the Ayala’s.
The Mercury at the Hot Rod show in the National Guard Armory in Los Angeles held at April 24-27, 1952.
Wally Welch sold his Mercury to Joe Contrero of East Los Angeles in 1954-55. Joe took out the tired stock Mercury flathead and replaced it for a much more powerful new Ford Y-block V-8. He drove the car regularly up to 1957 when he joined the Army and parked the car. Back at that time, or perhaps later in its life somebody painted the car with a heavy coat of white housepaint, to protect it from the elements. This, or perhaps the fact that the remainder of its life the car had been stored inside made sure the Mercury was in relatively good condition when Joe Eddy of Rosemead, California, purchased it in 1985.
This is how the Mercury looked like when Joe Eddy picked it up in 1985. Most of the body was covered in a heavy coat of white household paint to protect the body from the ellements. The trick worked well, since the car was very well preserved. (Street Rodder magazine image)
Joe Eddy finds the car in 1985
Joe Eddy was a well-known Ford F-100 truck customizer who also appreciated traditional Hot Rods and Customs. A kid from Joe’s neighborhood hung out a lot watching Joe working on his car. Every time this kid came by he told Joe about this old Custom mercury that he had spotted sitting under an old avocado tree while he rode his bike in East Los Angeles. But Joe did not think anything of it, he was more into the truck and Hot Rods at the time. One day this kid shows up with the Street Rodder magazine with Richard Zocchi’s 1950 Mercury on the cover and told Joe, something like this is sitting under that tree in East LA.. Now Joe was interested and took the kid to the place. There he saw this sad looking 1950 Mercury covered in heavy coats of white paint. The car owner told Joe the Merc had been sitting for nearly 30 years, but that everything was still there. Even though Joe had no idea about the history of the car he decided to buy it anyway. He could tell this was an original 50’s customs… and he loved the lines on it.
Street Rodder magazine May 1988 featured the Mercury after Joe Eddy had restored it. The first version had a bit of an Hot Rod look to it, with its black wall tires, deep rims and forward rake and no skirts.
Joe did not wait too long before he started the rebuild on the Merc. When he started to take it apart he still had no idea what the cars origins were. Being a Hot Rodder Joe removed the Ford engine and replaced it with a 350-cid Chevy V-8, a Turbo 350 transmission, a Ford nine-inch rear end, and power steering from a ’76 Ford half-ton pickup. He reversed the front spindles, cut some coils and added black wall tires with deep dished wheels. The car now had a slight forward rake to it… Joe loved it. The interior was redone in silver gray velour kind of material, he added more modern touches as AC and stereo and a Grant steering wheel on a tilt column. When Joe was far into the rebuild of the car he came across the April 1952 issue of Hot Rod magazine, and realized that the car on the cover, the Wally Welch mercury built by the Ayala’s was the Merc he now owned. He did some more research and found out that Barris later redid the car in Purple. It was now to late for Joe to restore the car to the early 1950’s specs. He would have to turn back a lot of modern touched he had done already. But he decided to at least paint the car close to one of the original colors, in the Barris Organic Purple. When Joe bought the car some of the parts were stored inside the car, including the original Appleton S-552 Spotlights. Joe kept all those parts, but for his version he decided to go with a set of smaller size Spotlights. Later when he found out about the cars heritage he also found out that it was Sam Barris who had painted the plastic handles on the Appleton Spotlights.
In the late 1980’s Joe decided to give the car a bit more of its original Barris look and feel. White wall tires with Sombrero hubcaps were added, the stance was now level again and the skirts were put back on. The interior, inset photo, shows the all gray velour and Grant Hot Rod steering wheel.
These two David Dale photo show that the car now has a bit of original feel back. The original S-552 Appleton spotlights were replaced with smaller units.
Jack Butler captured Joe Eddy with his Wally Welch Mercury in his famous Pinhole Camera Series. This print is part of Jack’s Hot-Rod-Kulture-Culture book.
In August 1989 Rod & Custom did a feature on Joe Eddy’s cars, including the Wally Welch Mercury. For the cover the semi staged it as a scene from Rebel without a cause. The cover was an unique fold out version.
Joe enjoyed the car for some time as he had built it. Then in the late 1980’s he decided to give it a bit more of a custom feel and added some white wall tires with Sombrero hubcaps, raised the front and added the fender skirts. The car now looked a lot more like how the Barris shop had rebuilt it in late 1951. The Mercury remained like this until 2004, when Custom Car enthusiast Justin Mozart talked Joe into selling the Mercury to him.
Justin Mozart, the new caretaker
Justin Mozart planned to restore the car to its original early 1950’s version. Al though at that point he was still debating if it should go back to the Ayala or Barris version. Justin collected as much information as he could. He got in touch with people who knew the car from the 1950’s and with Wally Welch his daughter, who was able to shed some light on a few details and shared some old photos. In the end Justin decided he would bring the car back to the Purple Barris version. Basically because of two reasons. One, Justing wanted a full custom interior in the Mercury, and as far as he could tell the original lime gold Ayala version only had the original cloth interior.
The restoration Justin planned for the car was a complete restoration. Even though the mercury looked still pretty good when he bought it from Joe, and possibly some back dating of parts would have brought the car to a very respectable status. Justin decided to go all the way and get the car back to bare metal, remove all the updates done by Joe and get it to a period perfect condition. And period perfect means 1951 condition in this case. While the car was send off to the restoration shop Justin begun to hunt for the missing parts. A set of Appleton S-552’s, (since Joe had not included the originals that came with the car when he bought it in 1985), the Monterey Accessory steering wheel, plus original Mercury steering column, a 1950 Mercury flathead engine and a lot of other small parts.
When Joe restored the car he left the glued in place taillights on the car. And just taped them when it was time to prime and paint the body. On the full restoration under Justin Mozarts supervision, the glued in place taillights were removed. The Ayala’s used a simple textured metal plate as reflector for the taillights.
Before the restoration on the Wally Welch Mercury could start the car was dissembled completely. New added parts from the previous Joe Eddy version were discarded or where possible changed back to how it was on the Barris version of the car.
When Joe restored the car in 1985, he removed all the paint from the outside of the body to get the body to bare metal, but fortunately he did not touch the inside of the body. The inner door panels had several old layers of paint. The door jambs even had the original Ayala and barris paint colors in very good condition. The uncut floor was in good condition as well, only needing a good clean-up, and a fresh coat of protective paint.
At the restoration shop the car was disabled, the interior was removed and the paint stripped. They knew Joe Eddy had stripped the paint before he started his rebuild in 1985, so on the outside of the car they team could easily remove the paint. But they did hope to be able to find traces of old paint on the inside of the body. And they sure did find them. It turned out that the door jambs still had all the original paint layers in some sections. The team was able to carefully sand layer by layer and reveal the original Ayala Lime gold and the Barris Organic Purple. Justin was extremely excited about this news. Now he was able to match the color exactly. All the body work from the Ayala’s was still in rather good condition, but some sections needed some work. The bottom corners of the cowl needed a lot of work, so it was decided to remove the welded and molded in front fenders, in order to be able to get in there and do the repair work. Later the front fenders were molded in again. with all the restoration work done the car was painted in the matched Organic Purple paint.
Most of the body work from 1950-51 was still in very good condition. It needed to freshen up here and there. The front door jambs.lower cowl sections needed some more work, so it was decided to remove the molded on fenders at this point to get better access to the to be fixed sections. Later the front fenders were welded to the cowl again.
The front fenders have been welded and molded to the rest of the body and the main body is in primer waiting for the final touches before paint.
With the front end in bare metal we can see the Ayala made grille opening and section that is hiding the lower sections of the 1951 DeSoto grille teeth really well. The deep sitting grille teeth look very good on this car.
The Wally Welch Mercury Colors
The happy surprise came when the guys at the shop carefully started to sand down the paint on the door jambs. Slowly all the old layers of paint were discovered. The Dark purple paint the Barris Shop applied was carefully matched and duplicated in more modern paints using this sample.
If we look at the photo of the sanded layers of paint on the door jamb we can see the following. The Lime Gold applied by Gil Ayala, after a year the car was repainted at the Barris shop with a dark gray primer first. This was followed with a dark color, possibly black which was followed with a dark purple. Next up came the Joe Eddy restoration which starts with an light green/tan coat, followed by an off white, a silver and then the final purple color built up in layers. It is really amazing all these colors were still on the car after so many years. At this time in the restoration Justin Mozart was still debating which version of the car he should restore it back. I had hoped the car would go back to the first lime gold Ayala version. But sadly Justing never cared much for light colored 1949-51 Mercury’s and he really wanted to have a full custom interior in the car, which was never installed in the Ayala version, so the Barris Organic Purple version was the obvious choice for Justin.
I even did a very quick not all to accurate color version of the unrestored car in a sort of lime gold to show how good that would look. Sadly Justin went with the second version of the car in Barris Organic Purple. Also a wonderful color.
The Mercury during the final paint stages.
Debut at the Mercury Gathering
In 2009 Justin was asked to debut the Mercury at the Mercury Gathering exhibition held at the Sacramento Autorama. The car was not finished for the show, it lacked an engine, interior and a lot of other details. But it was still great to finally be able to see this car in person. In 2011 the car was again invited to be part of the prestigious Customs Then & Now exhibit at the GNRS in Pomona. The car was now almost finished, only lacking a new interior. Justin had not been able to find any photos showing the original Carson Top Shop interior really well. So in the end photos of other similar styled cars were used for reference and the few original photos of the Barris version that are in Justin’s collection, were digitally adjusted to be able to study them as good as possible. The new period upholstery design was discussed with the upholsterer, stitched and installed… now the car was finally completed and looked it as if rolled fresh out of the Barris Kustom Shop in 1952.
Justin Mozart’s was invited to the Mercury Gathering at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama. Even though the car’s restoration was unfinished the car was a huge crowd pleaser. The car sits extra high in this photo since there is no engine installed.
This original Houser’s Carson Top Show tag was taped in the Wally Welch Scrapbook. Assumably Wally took the tag out of the car when he sold it to Joe Contrero.
In 2011 Todd Olson took these photos of the Wally Welch Mercury at the Palo Alto Concours D’Elegance. The car was finished a bit further with a lot of details added, including the engine. But the interior was still missing at this time.
When Joe Eddie sold the Mercury to Justin Mozart, the original Appleton S-552 Spotlights were not part of the deal. Joe had taken them off the car when he restored it, and had later replaced them with a different set of spotlights. He kept the Sam Barris painted original in his personal collection. Until he decided to sell them in March 2011. The set sold for $3,000.- to an unknown buyer.
At the Customs Then & Now Exhibit
The side view shows the wonderful flow of the top, and the large radius on the back of the rear quarter windows.
Justin was able to find an Mercury Monteray steering wheel in rather good condition to replace the Grand Steering wheel Joe Eddy had installed. The interior was not done for the 2011 Grand National Customs Then & Now exhibit.
Closer look at the taillights of the mercury. The Ayala’s crafted the suround from metal rod and shaped metal molded to the rear fenders with lead. The stock 1950 Mercury lens was installed from behind to create this smooth looking effect. Justing used NOS Mercury tialight lenses, to replae the original units that were drilled for a set of Blue dots in the 1980’s.
The author of this article, Rik Hoving, with the Wally Welch mercury at the 2011 GNRS Customs Then & Now Exhibition.
Howard Gribble too this photo of the now with completed interior Mercury in May 2012. Justin Mozart, the car’s caretaker stands behind the car.
Resources and more info
- Trend Book 105, booklet, Restyle Your Car 1952
- Hop Up, magazine, April 1952
- Motor Trend, magazine, December 1952
- Hop Up, magazine, April 1953
- Street Rodder, Magazine, May 1988
- Rod & Custom, magazine, August 1989
- How stuff works, website http://auto.howstuffworks.com
- The Rodder’s Journal, Magazine issue #39
- 1951 Autorama winner, CCC-Article
Go back to part One of the Wally Welch Mercury
(This article is made possible by)
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3 thoughts on “Wally Welch Mercury 02”
Rik Thanks for the story on this outstanding Kustom. I agree that the Ayala Lime Gold looks best but the extra grille teeth Barris installed is an improvement to me.
exelent story rik, i too agree the car should have been painted the way it came it out of the ayalas stables in lime green after all it was an original ayalas built custom, good photo of you rik standing by the car,
Nice job Rik. Really cool to see the pictures of the restoration. I love seeing these old customs in bare metal to see how they were done back then and the Ayala and Barris cars always seem to have top notch metal work!