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Bob Armstrong 1940 Mercury




Bob Armstrong from Alhambra California owned this nice looking 1940 Mercury Convertible in 1955.

Here is another bit of a mystery Custom Car that I would like to know some more about. I have a feeling that this car might have been build in the 1940’s by the way it looks. But so far all I have been able to find on the car are photos from around 1955. It started with one photo that was offered on ebay. I noticed the ’46 Chevy grille, smoothed hood and heavy bumper. My first though (only for a split second) was that it could be Buddy Ohanesian Westergard/bertolucci’s 1940 Mercury sedan convertible. But on closer inspection of the online photo I noticed that the car was actually a regular 2 door convertible and that there were no running boards.

The photo was offered without any information, and there was no date on the photo. The Mercury looked like it could have been done around 1946, when the ’46 Chevy grille and Olds Bumpers were brand new items. But on closer inspection of the photo I noticed that the cars in the picture were all waiting in line for their turn on the drag stip. And the car waiting behind the Mercury looked to be a ’53-54 Ford. So the photo must have been taken in 1953 at the earliest.

The first photo I came of this Mercury was on eBay. No info, no date, just a really nice looking Custom Mercury at an unknown drag-strip.

Zoomed in I could see all the very nice details of the car. The front end of the car with the ’46 Chevy grille, modified hood, and Olds bumper looked particular nice. It looks like the car was pulled to the event judging the what looks like tow straps next to the bumper guards. The club plaque on the front bumper could not be read in this photo. I also noticed the emblem or something like that painted on the cowl.

I checked my files for ’40 Mercury historic Customs and could not find it there… I saved the photo and did not think about that Merc for quite some time. Several years after the ebay auction the American Hot Rod Foundation AHRF shared a photo on their facebook page showing a side view of a Chopped padded topped Mercury convertible. I recognized the car from the eBay offering a few years earlier. The tall rear bumper, removed running boards and most of all the small thing painted on the cowl. I checked the eBay photo, and yes it sure was the same car. and the best thing of them all, the AHRF shared photo came with some good information.

From the AHRF facebook posting Bob Armstrong’s customized ’40 Mercury Convertible. He had come all the way from Alhambra, California to partake in a little racing at the First Annual NHRA Nationals in Great Bend Kansas (9/29-10/2/55).Under the hood was a potent ’48 Merc that enabled him to cop First in Class C Fuel Coupe and Sedan. His speed was 78.74 mph. Bob also established a National Record in the class with a speed of 90.54 mph. We guess the lead sled moniker doesn’t apply here.

The Josh Mishler AHRF shared photo showed the rear of the car with the padded top on. Very nice lines with the long wrap around Oldsmobile rear bumper, and round, post likely Pontiac taillights. The photo showed the same emblem painted on the cowl as the eBay photo. Notice how short the fender skirt is, necessary to not interfere with the Olds wrap around rear bumper. It looks like the car was jacked up and used different, larger? rear tires for the drag races.

So now I knew that Bob Armstrong from Alhambra was the owner of the car, at least he was in 1955 when the AHRF shared photo was taken. The photo was shared to the AHRF by Josh Mishler, and belonged to his father. It looks like the first photo I had found of the Mercury was taken at a dragstrip in California, but I do not know where.

The third photo I came across that showed Bob Anderson came from the Hot Rod magazine (Rod & Custom) website. They shared a few photos from taken at the 1955 Petersen Motor Revue Show held at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles. (formerly known as the Petersen Motorama show) the photo did not come with much information: Here Are Some Examples Of Car Club Involvement. From The Hanging Banners It Looks Like The T Timer’s Had Five Chapters In California: Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, San Fernando, Santa Ana, And Culver City. The Road Rebels Displayed A Carson Topped Full Custom And A Nice Deuce Three Window.

The most recent photo I came across of Bob’s Mercury was taken at the 1955 Petersen Motor revue at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles. The car was part of the Road Rebels San Gabriel display at the event.

At first I did not recognize the Mercury in the pictures, but more recently I was looking at this picture again and noticed the Olds bumper, and ’46 Chevy grille. This must be the Bob Armstrong Mercury. I checked the other photos on file, and it sure was. Great, another photo of this really great looking Mercury Custom, another piece of the puzzle. But yet again a photo of the car from 1955, and not from in the 1940’s, when the car might have been restyled. So now we have three photos of this car, we have a name of the owner, Bob Anderson from Alhambra, Southern California, but still no information on who was the builder, and when it was restyled. If anybody recognized Bob Anderson’s Mercury, knows more about it, or about Bob, please email the CCC. We would love to know more about this Mercury Custom.

Zoomed in we can see a bit more details. Smoothed hood, all trim removed and although hard to see I think that the car had white wall tires on the rear now as well, something white is peaking out under the fender skirts, just above the 32 Ford hood. It appears that the rear fenders were protected by some sort of rock shields, perhaps rubber units.

About the Mercury

What we can see in the photos is that Bob’s Mercury had the windshield chopped, a nice flowing padded top was created for the car with a slightly angled forward B-pillar. Mosre likely to have been done by Bill Gaylord’s shop and not one created from the jigs at Carson, which always looked slightly more boxy. The front fenders and hood were modified to accept the ’46 Chevy grille, and the work looks to have been done very nice. A splash pan was added to the front to make the ’46 Oldsmobile bumper fit the Mercury. The running boards were removed and filler panels added below the body to hide the frame. Both front and rear fenders were molded to the body and the taillights look to have been replaced by 1948-52 Pontiac taillights. The rear bumper of the ’46 Oldsmobile was also used. And because this bumper has very tall wrap around sections the fender skirts used on the car had to be very short, possibly some ’46-48 Ford skirts were shortened to make them fit this car. All the trim and handles were shaved from the body, and everything was smoothed before being painted a dark color. It looks like the car had Fiesta three bar spinner hubcaps installed in the eBay photo.

Some of the Road Rebels San Gabriel Car club members. Perhaps one of them is Bob Armstrong?

(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)

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