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Perfect Remake




Original customized by Dick Dean in the 1980’s, this 1939 Mercury received a perfect remake by Scott Guildner for new owner Ron Martinez in the 1990’s.

[dropcap]The[/dropcap] Perfect remake was chosen as title for this article because that is exactly was owner Ron Martinez had Scott Guildner do to his 1939 Mercury. Remakes on Custom Car happen a lot, sometimes these remakes are improvements over the original version. However a lot of remakes are to please a new owner and to make it their own, not necessarily leading to an improved Custom Car. But in the case of Ron Martines we can talk about the Perfect Remake, since everything Scott Guildner did to the old Dick Dean customized 1939 Mercury Coupe is an improvement over its original version.

CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-12Jon Gobetti photo in the first issue of Hop Up Magazine 2000

Dick / Keith Dean version

The first time I saw something about this car was in the Tex Smith how to Chop Tops books first published in 1990. A small article was devoted to chopping a 1939 Mercury coupe by Dick dean. It showed two in-progress photos and one of the finished car with musical note them graphics painted on the complete side of this otherwise nice looking Custom.

The next time I read about the car, not knowing it was the same car, was in an 1990’s Custom Cars magazine from England. This magazine had a series of articles showing what was going on in SoCal, and always had some great Hot Rod and Custom Car photos (in fact this series was the main reason I subscribed to the magazine).
In one of these articles a photo was shown of this mercury in primer and guide coat with later model Mercury bumpers and a Packard Clipper grille in the Scott Guildner shop… I was intrigued!

In May 2016 Keith Dean let us know that it was in fact him who had done the chop on the car. This is what he mentioned.  “I chopped this car for Harold Saul. When Ron bought the car from Harold, he had the windshield opening redone. Said he didn’t like the larger window. The funny story on the wheel openings was my father (Dick Dean) never turned the wheels when he dropped the nose down. They went to take it to a show and the wheels wouldn’t turn. So he found some tin-snipes at the show and cut the wheel openings. I later put a rod on the lip to finish it.

CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-01From Tex Smith How to Chop Tops book (1990)

CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-15Pat Ganahl took this photo of the Mercury in primer at the 1989 LA Roadster show parking.

CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-16 Photo from the Southend Kustom website shows how father Dick Dean and son Keith Dean finished the car for owner Harold Saul.

CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-03Chrome and flames magazine (Dutch version) March 1989, scans by Marc Petiet 

CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-08Custom Car magazine from the UK, So Cal diaries article

The Scott Guildner Remake

It would take a couple more years after that before I saw the finished car. It was at a late 1990’s GNRS coverage I found online. I cannot remember where I found the photo, but it showed this 1941-’42 Packard Clipper grilled 1939-40 Mercury with 1948 Mercury bumpers. I recognized is as the same car from the Custom Cars magazine article. The car looked stunning… now I wanted to see more. One more photo showed up in the online version of Hop Up magazine, this one showing the nice red and white interior and the rear bumper guards with taillights integrated into it. Again only a small photo.

But then Mark Morton published the first issue of Hop Up magazine in 2000. And this first issue had a nice article on the Ron Martinez 1939 Mercury, it even showed a small photo on the cover of the magazine. The article by Jon Gobetti gave me lots of info on the car and showed some really great photos by Jon. However it did not mention anything about the car being originally chopped by Keith Dean and further restyled by Dick Dean.
I found out about much later, I think it was on the HAMB that somebody mentioned that Ron’s 1939 Mercury was once bright orange with a musical theme painted on the sides. It was then when the Tex Smith Top Chop book came to mind, and it was then when I realized the car was originally customized by Dick and keith Dean in the the typical 1980’s style. WOW… what a Perfect Remake.

CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-13Hop up 2000 cover image 


CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-10Two images from the 1999 Grand National Roadster Show when Ron’s 1939 Mercury was shown.

When the car was originally built by Dick and Keith Dean he had installed a 1979 Camaro front end and 1968 Chevelle rear end. The much wider than stock front decided Dick Dean to open up and flare the front wheel openings. A very common practice in the 1980’s were you see a lot of customs with too wide front clips. When Scott redid the car they decided to keep the modern set up but with some clever reworking they were able to move the front wheels inboard a little bit, enough to get ride of the flared opening. Usually I’m not a big an of the wide front track, but on Ron’s car it looks really good.

The addition of the 1941-42 Packard Clipper grille was also a perfect choice for this car. Scott had to a do a lot of work to get the grille to fit the car perfectly. New front sheet metal and a reshaped hood made sure the grille looks as if it came from the factory that way. Another thing you notice when you look at Ron’s Mercury is the heavy bumpers. When Dick Dean did the first version he choose 1949 Plymouth bumpers, but Ron had set for a “it has to look like it could have been built in 1948” theme, so the ’49 bumpers were replaced by narrowed and re-contoured 1948 Mercury bumpers, front and rear. The front bumper was dressed up with a Kustoms of Los Angeles brass plague, which went very well with the reproduction Barris crest added on the cowl.

All the good stuff that the Dean’s had done in the 1980’s like the chopped top, molded fenders, door handle removal and other touches was left in tact, or fine tuned. For instance, Scott created a new smoother sloping interface between the rear window and the trunk, it had a lot of bondo in this section from the first chop. John Williamson, who worked with Scott at the time remembered he had to clean out all the bondo, out using a torch and scraper. Scott rolled and welded in some new sheet-metal to make a smoother transition. Once the body work was completed it was painted the old fashion way, with super black nitrocellulose lacquer. The interior was done by Jim Collins in eggshell and carmine red tuck & roll. The 1939 Dash was replaced with a 1948 Ford dash, with a 1948 Mercury steering wheel added.The car debuted at the 1999 Sacramento Autorama.


CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-04Both photos on top show the wonderfully reshaped 1948 Mercury bumper and Packard Clipper grille and how everything works together to create a perfect front design.

CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-06 John Tretten took this photo of Ron’s mercury at the perfect angle. It shows how good the slightly wider than stock front end fits perfectly in the reshaped front wheel opening. The addition of stock 1940 Ford headlights are a huge improvement of the molded in units from the 1980’s version.

CCC_ron-martinez-39-merc-05This rear  3/4 angle shows the bumper guard taillights, the molded in fenders and the wonderfully angled forward window trim.


In 2011 we invited Ron’s 1939 Mercury to the GNRS Customs Then & Now exhibit, since it would show the perfect transition from a typical 1980’s built custom to a well designed early styled, with modern drive train Custom Car. Ron agreed, but sadly Scott Guildner who had the car in the shop for some updates or detailing could not get the time ready in time for the show. I would have loved to be able to see this car in person. Perhaps one day…





(this article is sponsored by)

CCC-Sponsor-KingKustomsTShirt-602Contact Rob Radcliffe at King Kustoms for more info on these T-Shirts Email Rob







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)

8 thoughts on “Perfect Remake

  • Great write up…. I really like this mercury and wanted to also see this in the custom show. I find it very disappointing that the car couldn’t get freshened up in time for the show. I think this car is one that a lot of custom diehards would of loved to see in person.

  • Wow, thanks Rik!

    That’s the car that sold me on the idea of the Packard grille for my project. As you know, missing the purchase of a grille was the catalyst for me to finally make my own and in the process I was able to make it fit the shape of the car rather than make the car fit the grille as these guys did. As it turns out I do have a 46 grille now, but won’t be using it now I have the custom made one.

    The orange version is an atrocity that makes my head spin. Luckily, it was saved in the end!

  • Funny how it wasn’t mentioned that Dick Dean built the car but I do notice it has Barris Crests and a K.L.A. plaque on it. What a gorgeous mercury.

  • one of the best example because of the Packard grille. Most of the customized 39-40 Merc coupe are looking the same because of their mild customization… this one is really different AND looks beautiful !

    Jeff, it’s even more odd when you consider that Barris kustoms didn’t have crest in ’48 !!!

  • Beautiful Car Ron!
    I’m sorry that it couldn’t be shown…
    (To the point of why it couldn’t make it to the Then & Now exhibit)
    In 2011 we invited Ron’s 1939 Mercury to the GNRS Customs Then & Now exhibit, since it would show the perfect transition from a typical 1980′s built custom to a well designed early styled, with modern drive train Custom Car. Ron agreed, but sadly Scott Guildner who had the car in the shop for some updates or detailing could not get the time ready in time for the show.

    I have heard mixed reviews about Scott’s work and I’m not surprised that you had to suffer missing the show because of his lack of delivery!
    The world needs to see your fantastic Merc and I hope to see it myself one day!

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