FOMOCO SEDAN CUSTOMS
When you say ’39-’40 Ford or Mercury Custom, most people visualize a chopped Coupe, or Padded topped Convertible. But what about a full Custom Sedan based on these cars?
One of my all time favorite Custom Cars is the Westergard Bertolucci built Buddy Ohanesian 1940 Mercury sedan convertible with metal removable top. I hold this car responsible, in a good way, for my passion for 1939-1940 Ford / Mercury sedan Custom Cars. And the Mercury is on top of this list, since I personally feel the more rounded body lines of the sedan lend to even better looking Customs. I cannot really say I like the sedans over the much more common subject of customizing, the coupe or convertibles of this type of car. But I do like them a lot, and I do see a lot of potential in them as Custom Cars.
The Harry Westergard – Dick Bertolucci built Boddy Ohanesian 1940 Mercury Seden convertible is why I like these FoMoCo sedan’s from 1939-1940 so much.
The Buddy Ohanesian Mercury was of course not a real sedan, it was a Sedan Convertible with a lift of metal top. But if you leave out that “technical” detail, then you can see the car as a sedan with all the wonderful plus points of a Sedan. The Sedan’s being it the two door or four door versions both have a lot of space with a full rear seat with plenty of vision all around for the passenger. A large trunk for plenty of cargo for those long family trips. And of course the wonderful round torpedo shape at the rear, and almost cartoonish instant Custom look, perfect for any tail-dragging custom, since all the optical weight is already moved to the rear of the car.
My father had given his old 1939 Mercury brochure to me many years ago. In it are a series of really nice illustrations in a typical for that era done better than real life look. Those illustrations show a lightly chopped top, slightly lowered version of the real Mercury. When I look at the old brochure I really do not understand why not more of these Sedan Mercury’s or Ford sedans were chopped and fully customized back in the 1940’s. Other brand cars of the same year have very nice sedans as well, but none of them really have the same wonderful flowing lines as the FoMoCo cars from 1939-1940.
The wonderful illustrations Ford used back then already give these cars a slight custom look. Drawn slightly lower and longer than they really were.
Over the years these 1939-40 Mercury and Ford Sedans took a special place in my heart. I really loved those wonderful round shapes and when we decided to move from down-town Amsterdam to an old farm in rural part of the Netherlands in 2008, I set out to design my dream custom, and decided to use a 1939 Mercury two door sedan as a base for it. Basically because I just loved the shape of these bodies so much and was really wondering how good they would look as full custom, since I had never seen one done the way I envisioned it. And perhaps also because I wanted to have something quite different than what you normally see when you say Chopped 1939-40 Mercury Custom.
At the time I did this car I even had a hard time locating a good photo of a 1940 or 1939 Mercury sedan to start my digital projects with. The photo I found was not ideal, but I used it anyway since I really wanted to see how the car would look like. After a lot of cutting, reshaping and adding the right details, I was very happy with the design for my own dream Custom. Designed as how it could have been built in the mid to late 1940’s. I showed them to my friends, who all really loved it. This inspired me to do one more version, an early 1950’s Hard Top version with full fade aways. Later I showed the designs on the HAMB, and more people than I expected responded very positive on it. But at first nobody really got inspired enough, to actually start a project of a full Custom based on one of the designs I made.
This was the first version of my Digital Restyled version of my Dream Custom. I really like the way it came out, and in fact looked even better than it had done in my head. Getting the top to look like this will take some work, but it is possible. Something that could have been built back in the 1940’s.
After I had shared my first Early Style Custom version of the sedan to a few friends, I decided to take the sedan a step further. I re-chopped the top, made it a hard top and extended the front fenders into full fade away units. Something that could have been built back in the early 1950’s.
Now several years later, at least three projects that I know of have been inspired by this design and are either currently being built, or already finished. And what I have seen made me very happy. They all look really great. And this proofs that this body style lends itself exceptionally well to the full Custom treatment. Hopefully these projects will leed to many more sedan Customs. Not only because they look so good, but also because the coupe and convertible variants of these cars are getting harder and harder to find, and when found the prices are rather high.
When I discussed the Sedan Customs possebileties with a friend some time ago, and asked him if he knew why so very few Sedans were fully customized compared to the coupes and convertibles. He mentioned that the resale fallue might have a lot to do with it. He told me he used to see a really nice 1940 Mercury sedan, maroon, all stock for sale for about 22K. The was was for sale for a long time, and he really want tempted to buy it. But the more he thought about it and why it was for sale at the same place he figured that if he would buy it, and re-built it to fit his own taste he would never get the money for it as would the same car as a coupe or convertible. He did see the potential of the car and it would have been perfect for the family, with lots of space. But the fact the car might not generate enough money later on to finance a new project made him decide not to go for it.
This was many years ago and I do think that the market has changed quite a bit since then. Especially with the sedans now getting a more popular subject for customizing, and some famous shop working on them, Sledge Customs for instance is one shop that is working on a 1940 Sedan for Vic Jiminez (who also works at the shop). All this combined with the fact that the coupes and convertibles are getting harder to find makes these sedans a more attractive project car than ever before.
This 1940 Mercury ex-4-door Sedan does not really fit the theme, but I wanted to show it to you anyway. Since it demonstrates that those often overlooked 4-door sedans can be turned in something really nice. Left as a four door, or even redone as a two door sedan convertible with padded top. Brian Wright did the hard work on this one several years ago.
A really great sample of how good these sedans can look like is John De Angelo’s 1939 Mercury ex-4 door sedan. Take a look at the flowing lines of that chopped roof and how the fenders complement the shape of the top.
The 1939-40 sedans might perhaps not be as easy as an convertible or a coupe to get just right.But even that makes a well done full Custom Sedan even more desirable, and the challange to work on one greater.
The good points of the 1939-40 FoMoCo Sedan bodies
- Large car, with lots of interior space makes it a perfect family car.
- wonderful teardrop shaped body
- body with all the weight in the back suits the tail-dragger look extremely well
- more plentiful than the Coupe and Convertible bodies
- Unique look, compared to the Custom Coupes and Convertibles we have seen since the early 1940’s.
Vic Jimenez worked together with Kevan Sledge at Sledge Customs. This is Vic’s personal project, an Early Style chopped 1940 Mercury sedan.
The Australian Custom Car enthusiast have even one more body style they can chose from.. The so called sloper. Not available for the Mercury bodies, but the 39 and 40 Fords were built as more streamlined sloper bodies. But even those, already amazing looking in stock form, sedans are rarely treated to the full Custom treatment. CCC’s own Tony Moore however is working on an ultimate chopped sloper Custom right now. Going with the full tail dragging chopped top with leaned forward B-Pillars treatment, detailed Packard grille and a many other period elements.
Australian Sloper full Custom currently being built by Tony Moore. The roofline of these Australian made bodies are very different from the US manufactured bodies. Once chopped the bodies take on an even more streamlined look. Odd that we do not see more of these done as full Customs like Tony’s.
If I look at Chris and Gina Baker’s chopped Mercury, I see nothing but beuatifull lines. The favorable teardrop shape is so evident in the main body, perfectly balanced by the similar shaped front and rear fenders. The extreme round shape of the side windows give the car almost cartonish proportions, but in a very good way. The Ford model of the same year has a little less rounded side windows, or in fact the whole main body is slightly less round than the Mercury’s. But the Fords Sedan’s can be turned into a wonderful styled full Early Styled Custom Car just as well as the mercury of the same years.
For the openings photo of this article we used a photo of Chris and Gina Baker’s 1940 Mercury 2 dr sedan. This car was chopped as a Kingsman club project at the BC Classic and Custom Car show. Later some of the body work was fine tuned by FooDoo Larry.
Keith Brown took this photo of Chris and Gina Baker’s 1940 Mercury Sedan, and I Photoshopped it a few inches lower in the back. When the photo was taken the Baker’s had not started on lowering the rear cross member, but this is about how it will sit when done.
And then we also have the four door sedans and their potential as full Custom Cars. I personally think the could make excelent customs as well, but the are even more work to get just right. With all the pillars and window frame to line up, and create just the right balance in opening top and lower part of the body. And to be honnest I have to admit I have never seen one done with a perfect chop, still left as four door. But just by looking at these four doors I know it can be done, and it will look very good. Who will be the first one to do it?
Great sample of a recently built mild custom taildragger based on a 1940 mercury four door sedan.
From the 1939 Mercury brochure. Perfectly shaped teardrop body.
Below are a few nice samples of the 1939-40 FoMoCo cars done as Custom Cars back in the day. But non of them are done in the style we have seen done on the same year Coupe’s and Convertibles. A nice tail dragging speed boat look with wide white wall or black wall tires for that very early look. Full hubcaps and fender skirts. I have seen some sedans with a very nice stance with skirts. But I have never been able to find any old photos of these cars with the combination of all the right elements for a full early styled Custom.
Back in the 1940’s there were some 1939-40 FoMoCo based Customs, but they are rare, and most of them did not go the full route the Coupe’s and Convertibles went. This one was Dean Bachelor’s personal ride. A nice mild Custom 1939 Mercury Sedan.
This great photo from the Bart Bartoni Collection (courtesy of the Don Montgomery books) shows a 1939 Ford 2-door sedan in the mid 1940’s. Wonderful early style custom with a heavy chop. Fender skirts and a slight drop in the back would have given this already perfect Street Custom the look I was looking for as my dream custom.
Another sample of a heavy chop is this 1940 Ford 2-door sedan. Again skirts would have changed the looks of this car completely.
I understand that the 1939 – 40 Sedan bodies and even Four Door Sedan bodies are not for every body. But I hope that we will see more of them and that they will also grow on those who still prefer the Coupes and Convertibles. I think they look fanastic, and I hope I was able to show you that they sure are a perfect base for a full Custom.
Who else likes thes Sedan 39 40 Fords and Mercuries…and what are your thoughts about them. Let us know, and show us if you are working on one, or planning to do one.