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Porterville 1950 Mercury


Who knows more about this mystery 1950 Mercury that was photographed in 1958 in Porterville California. The car was later found in San Diego.

UPDATED April – 11 – 2018

In July 2017 Derby Ahlstone from California send me some photos of an vintage 1950 Custom Mercury that a friend of his father considered to sell. He asked is I had seen this Mercury before, and knew more about its history. At the time I did remember seeing a few photos of a similar Mercury sitting in a garage with some boxes on top of it, but I could not find it in my archives. So I send a message to Anthony White, (the best source to go to if you have a Custom 49-51 Mercury that you like to know more about the history), asking if he knew more about the car.

Anthony sure knew more about the car, he recently had found an old High-School Yearbook photo showing the same Mercury in the late 1950’s that was shared by 46-to-64 on Instagram. It turned out to be a photo of a Del Simpson’s Service Station in Porterville Ca (between Fresno and Bakersfield) that showed a few cars, most likely of friends and or from the owners of the service station. One of the cars sure was the chopped Mercury from the photos Derby had send. The photo was shared by 46-to-64 on Instagram and came out of a 1958 Porterville High Shool yearbook.

46to64 Intagram post.

Derby was very excited about the new information that the photo showed that the car was at least from 1958, and more likely even older than that. And that he now had a location the 1958 owner was located. Derby decided to buy the car from his late fathers friend, and shared some more information with us to see if we can find out some more info on the car’s history. Derby plans to restore the car back to how it used to be, but would like to know a bit more about it. All he has right now is the one photo from 1958, and of course everything on the car itself. So far we have not been able to find out more about who owned the car, and who was the original builder From what we can see in the photos it appears to have been restyled in the early to mid 1950’s, and was perhaps updated a bit here and there over the years.

The photo as it appeared in the 1958 Porterville High-School Yearbook.

Close up of the Merc shows a little more of the details, and also the primer spots on the doors. The other dark sections is shadow from the late or very early in the day photo.

This is all we know about the car.
The car was purchased by the previous owner (friend of Derby’s father) in 1971 in San Diego. From what has been told then the car had sit outside from 1967 till the moment it was sold. The guy, who is a Mercury guru stored it inside a barn where the photos in this article are taken at as well. Derby remembered seeing the Mercury every time him and his father went to visit the friend. And each time Derby asked his father to see if he could buy the Merc, but the friend never wanted to sell the car, until 2017. The previous owner has never been able to find any history of the car from before the time he bought it, only that it had been stored outside from 1967. The car came without an engine and there is still no engine in the car as it is today. The former owner figured all the work on the car was done in the late 1950’s.

This is how the car sat in the summer of 2017 in the garage of the previous owner.

Frenched stock headlights, molded grille surround and splash pan and rounded hood corners. Lavender and light metallic blue paint are the colors the car was painted last. But we do not know when. It appears the car might have been painted white when it left the factory. And most likely it was primer white in the 1958 photo.

The car was very dusty after having sit in the garage since 1971. But it was all there the same as how it was put in there.

Narrowed 1955 DeSoto grille.

Spotlight mounting brackets on the chopped A-pillars.

The top was chopped, with the drip rails removed, a technique often used in the early to mid 1950’s. The sharp body line below the rear window was retained after the chop, most of the times this line was smoothed in the early years. The B-pillars were angled forward during the chop and the door rear top and bottom corners are rounded. All handles were removed (in the ’58 photo we can see primer spots were the handles used to be), the hood was nosed and the trunk decked. The grille shell was molded to the fenders and the hood corners are rounded. The stock grille was replaced by an narrowed 1955 DeSoto grille. The headlights are frenched, most likely using the stock Mercury headlights. The taillights of the Mercury were removed, the holes filled and the stock lenses placed lower on the rear fenders and molded in using hand made molded in surrounds for a smooth frenched look.

The chop on the car looks to be expertly done with all the fit and finish work done very well, including the chopped working vent windows.

A look at the back shows the lowered taillights, straight corners on the trunk, nice flowing roof after the chop, with the character line below the rear window still in place.

Close up of the nicely molded in and lower mounted stock 1950 Mercury taillights.

A better look at the flow of the chopped top, the nice shape of the rear quarter window, angled forward B-pillar and rounded door corners. The rear quarter panels are not molded to the body. Notice the location of the door push button.

Close up of the rear quarter windows, which are still pivoting, and the shaved drip rails.

Quarter window at the passenger side.

An very unique feature on this Mercury is that the body was actually channeled over the frame. Something we often read in the old magazine, but was actually very seldom done on the car. But this Mercury really was channeled. Not an easy task on the Mercury. The interior was done in pink and white and has some characteristics that indicate it could have been done in Tijuana, Mexico. Especially the rear bench is shaped unique and upholstered in a very particular way. The steering wheel, or what is left of it, is most likely added later, and so are the extra gauges below the stock dash.  The car had Dual Spotlights with interior handles (not the Dummy kind). The side trim appears to be 1955 Buick, and on both sides of the car a bush button to open the doors was located between the top of the side trim and the door character-line, a rather unusual spot for this, since most of the time these buttons were hidden as much as possible. At this point it looks like the car might have been painted a lavender, as well as a light metallic blue.

Interior photo showing the amount the body was channeled over the frame.

Pink/lavender painted dash with later added steering wheel and extra gauges. Notice the unique upholstery on the engine and drive shaft tunnel.

Custom rear seat with unique upholstery… what is left of it.

Pink upholstery.

Rear quarter interior panel.

Closer look at the pink upholstery.

White or perhaps light gray carpet with pink piping.

We, and especially Derby would love to know more about the history of this Mercury, where was this car restyled, and by whom? And who was the owner of the car, originally, or when the 1958 photo was taken, and what happened to the car after that. How did it end up in San Diego? If any of our readers has seen this car before, or knows more about it, please email Rik here at the Custom Car Chronicle. We would love to know and share the information with the Derby, the car owner, and add it to this article.

UPDATE April 2018

From Derby

“First I want to thank many of you that spent the time to help me search for the history about this car.
I was able to correspond with Barry Simpson Sr. who is 2nd from the right in the old B&W photo, he was the son of the owner of the gas station. He owned the Corvette next to him (not bad at the age of 20!). Anyway, the gentleman next to him is Audie Galloway who owned the Mercury in 1958. He worked at the Gas Station and is the one standing next to Mercury. He did pass away in 98. Barry also mentioned that there was a “The Mad Russian” in the area who used wire hangers for welding rod and no bondo/lead… (implying that he was quite the craftsman), but did not know if this “The Mad Russian” worked on the car or not.

The Mad Russian” or “The Russian” did the body work in Strathmore, California. Apparently he was quite the craftsman and was known to hammer weld the seams. As a side note, William John Vukovich Sr was a Serbian American automobile racing driver who lived in nearby in Fresno. He was also referred to as “The Mad Russian” although he was actually Serbian. Unfortunately, he passed away racing at Indy in 1955. Perhaps a relative of his had a body shop… So if anyone knows the name of this person or shop he worked at would be much appreciated.

For now, Barry does not remember much more. Unfortunately, it looks like Audie passed away in 1998. I have tried to reach out to Linda/Lynda Galloway (either his daughter or wife), but no luck yet…

I believe that the Owner between Audie Galloway and the person I purchased from (Merle Fourez) is Louis Anthony LaVorin Sr. from Spring Valley, CA (San Diego area). Unfortunately, he passed away in 2013 at the age of 95 (and his wife as well). I have reached out to his relatives, but no returned phone calls… My guess he purchased in early 1960s then sold in 1977

So the question is does anyone know of Audi Galloway or a Russian Body Man based in the Porterville area in the 1950-60s? It would seem like Barry and the Russian (if he did the body work) would have gotten some attention at car shows back in the day…

Derby found this photo in the 1957 Porterville High School Yearbook which states that Marty’s Upholstery (Marty Martin) did the interior work. It appears that Marty’s is in business today being run as a side business by a son of one of Marty’s employees from the 1950s. Still waiting to hear back, in case he has any additional new information about the car.

The owner I purchased the car from found the inside front door panels. Pretty cool, even has the letter “A” sewn in and electric window switches still in tact. Also matches the photo from the yearbook.

“My Plans For the Car – Now that I have this car (along with other projects), I need to find the time, space, and money (like all of us car guys) to move forward. My initial thought is to get it running as-is (keeping the dust/dirt on the car as long as possible). Then eventually do a full restoration back to how it was done originally (I am hoping, eventually, I figure that out).
Thanks Again Everyone!”

Map of California highlighting Porterville where the car was photographed in 1958 and San Diego where the car was found in the early 1970’s.

Derby Ahlstone is no stranger when it comes to restoring historic Custom Cars, Derby owns and restored the Coachcraft created Paul Plannette 1939-40 Mercury Roadster.

(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)

7 thoughts on “Porterville 1950 Mercury

  • WOW!!
    Every custom car lovers dreams. Finding an old “Real” custom in what looks to be pretty good shape.
    Glad to see that it is in good hands and hope that more info comes to light.
    Keep us all informed of any progress please.

  • A suggestion, Derby. If you could locate a contact in Porterville, and find a connection to the Class of 1958. They surely will be preparing now for a class reunion this coming summer. You can offer up the school yearbook photo and the names, Ron and Gary. Surely it will ring a bell with someone in the Class of ’58. You may even get a lead on the original custom owner.

    I wonder, too, if that fellow…or an owner after…might have joined the Navy and went to San Diego for boot camp. Seeing the possible Tijuana upholstery suggests a connection in that direction.

    Good luck! What a custom time capsule.

  • Very cool Merc…neat to see the interior shots after that first picture in the barn was floating around. The story comes full circle now. Will it get a proper restoration?

  • This is great news for that old mercury. I spent some time around that car in the barn/ garage that it was stored. That was back in 2008 after spending a long morning talking mercurys ,stock and custom. I was there getting parts and just as I was leaving ( this was a 2.5 hour drive) he asked if I wanted to see an old custom mercury. It’s like he decided at the last minute that I passed the test to see this old sled. ? A day I will never forget, you can tell and feel this was an old custom from back in the day. Very thankful he decided to show me this old merc.
    Really glad to see this in good hands and not just sitting. Long Live Customs.

  • Roger Brewton

    The last name of the Upholsterer is Martin as in Marty Martin. He had a bright green mild custom 50-52 Chevy shop truck. I grew up in Porterville, we would go by on the way home to see what new cool car would be in the shop.

  • Glenn Walton

    I live in Porterville and a very good friend talks about the “mad Russian” every once in awhile. In fact we were just talking about him this morning and the work he did on turning a 1941 Buick into a pickup. I saw the pickup recently and the work is amazing. It looks like the factory did it. I see my friend every Sunday so I’ll bookmark the page and show the Mercury to him and see if he remembers it.
    I actually ran across this page trying to research the mad Russian!

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