INSPIRED BY EUROPEAN SPORTSCARS
Gale Morris from Portland Oregon, built and designed his not-very-conventional 1940 Mercury custom somewhere in the Fifties. Charged with some serious sportscar look and feel, we might even say Gale Morris built a Sports Custom.
Gale, who had a background in automotive design from the Los Angeles Art Center, wanted to make his 1940 Mercury convertible unique to all other custom Mercury’s he’d seen around. He was inspired by the looks and feel of the European Sports Cars which he had seen in the magazines and sometimes on the road and at car shows. He wanted to incorporate the styling ideas he had learned in the Art Center and make something really unique from an “ordinary” Mercury.
Before he went to work he made numerous sketches until his idea for the car felt right. One of the first steps he took was to ad a 1950 Mercury coupe roof to the convertible windshield frame. The wide rear window and smooth lined already gave the car a complete new look.The front and rear fenders were raised up into the body which was channeled over the frame. Both fenders had the wheel opening radiuses and he enlarged them for a more sporty look. The front fenders had their lower leading edge reshaped as well, for a much more elegant look.
The running boards were removed and new hand made lake pipes were designed built and chrome plated before getting installed. The rear fender also received a small scoop for air to cool the brakes, and to fit with the sporty theme. The whole front of the car was reshaped and a new hood with air-scoop was crafted. The new hood was shaped with a nice forward angle curve, very much like the high end European sports cars of those days. A set of 1952-54 Mercury headlights were frenched into new slightly tunneled openings in the front fenders.
At the back the trunk was cut down, and the lower edge was welded solid with the body. 1947 Studebaker taillights fit the theme perfectly so those were installed above the 1947 Chevy bumper.
For the interior Gale had some very unique ideas as well. The dash he had designed turned out to be to hard to create from metal. So again he used fiberglass to contract it. The thin, almost airplane wing shaped dashboard wraps around into the door garnish moldings. Five gauges are set into teardrop shaped pods which are molded into the dash. Below this wing shaped upper portion is a hand made panel containing more control buttons and switches. The cone shaped steering wheel looks to come from a boat. The seats are completely hand made from aluminum and detailed with copper accents. They are upholstered in plastic material with a cow hide pattern. Most likely the material was very high tech at that time as well. Gale replaced the flathead engine with a more powerful 1955 Oldsmobile engine and hot rodded it to get even more power.
Gale estimated he had about 2500 hours of work in the car which includes his design time.The end result is a sharp looking sports custom that looks very much like it could have been a production car. Something that Gale had in mind when he designed his dream car. The editor of Custom Cars magazine also thought the same since he spend 4 pages on the car in the September 1957 issue of his magazine. The photos here are part of the Marty Strode Collection and were taken by his friend Wayne Miller at a Tacoma, WA show in 1956.
What started it all.
The Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild was a national auto design competition sponsored by the Fisher Body Division of General Motors. It was a competition especially for teenagers to compete for college scholarships by designing and building a scale model dream car. The competition was held from the 1930s through the 1960s. It helped identify and nurture a whole generation of designers and design executives.
Gale Morris’ national award winning entry from 1949.
Photo from the Ron Will collection shared by Deans Garage