Custom Car Chronicle
Icons of the 80s and 90s

Curley Tremayne 50 Merc Restoration




Loren Curly Tremayne of Monterey California had this 1950 Mercury Custom built in 1977. Rod Powell and Butch Hurley are responsible for most of the work. The car made a huge impact, and inspired many Mercury owners to chop the top on their Mercurys. In 2017 Frank Morawski the new owner is having the car complete restored.

When I first saw pictures of Tremayne’s Mercury in the 1983 Custom Cars publication the car stood out from the rest of the cars featured in that magazine. It had a huge and lasting impact on me, and I know from other people the car did the same for them. It was the refreshing mix of styles, the very traditional style for the body work, as if it could have rolled out of the Ayala or Barris Shops in the early 1950’s, the lack of skirts, the ’54 Oldsmobile hubcap, the unique ’63 Buick grille bar and that outstanding brilliant paint job. Later I found out that the building of the car was very well documented by Andy Southard, and used in several How-To articles on how to chop the top on a 49-50 Mercury. Including one in the Hot Rod Magazine Custom Cars publication from 1982.

I remember how I used that article to chop the top on my 1/25 scale AMT model car kits. Many Mercury owners have studied how Butch Hurley tackled the job on chopping the Mercury just the way they did back in the early 1950’s. The Tremayne Mercury has played a big part in brining back this popular style, the chopped Mercury, in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Even though the car was already finished in 1977, we still like it to be part of our Icons of the ’80’s series, especially since the 80’s magazine publications of this car have played a big part in the history of the chopped 49-51 Mercury.

The first time I saw photos of Loren “Curley” Tremayne’s 1950 Mercury was in the Hot Rod magazine Custom Cars publication from 1983.

The August 1977 issue of 1001 Rod & Custom Ideas had a full feature on the Mercury, including two pages showing how Butch Hurley chopped the top on the car. 

Color photo from the ’77 1001 Rod & Custom ideas feature, and a color page article from the Custom Rodder Feb 1980 issue.

Hot Rod Magazine’s Custom Cars from 1982 spend no less than 5 full pages on chopping the top on the Mercury. Explaining in detail how Butch Hurley did all the hard work to make this car look so good. 

Loren “Curley” Tremayne from New Monterey, California was a helper at Rod Powell Powell’s Custom Painting shop on Griffin St. in Salinas California and his dream car was a chopped 1950 Mercury. He found a suitable Mercury, factory blue at the time, and with the help of Rod Powell and Henry “Butch” Hurley he was able to make his dream come true. Butch and Curley dropped the car 4 inches all around and mounted a set of 6.70-15 Bedford white wall tires for the perfect stance Curley was after. Butch chopped the top 3.5 inches in the front and 5.5 inches in the back to get that beautiful pleasing flow and the perfect highest point in the middle of the door window. Butch shaved the drip rails, and rounded the top door corners for that typical SoCal early 1950’s Custom look.

James Handy photographed the Tremayne Mercury at the 1978 Grand National Roadster Show, Oakland Colliseum, California.

’53 Buick taillights frenched into smoothed rear fenders, rounded corners on the shaved trunk and molded in splash pan.

The stock headlights were replaced with a set of molded in 1953 Buick headlights. And at the back the stock taillights had to make place for a set of frenched 1953 Buick taillights. All exterior handles were shaved and so where the side and belt line trim and all emblems. The grill surround was molded into the fenders, all four hood corners rounded and the splash pans front and rear molded to the body. All trunk corners were also rounded to match those on the hood. A new grille was created from wire mesh and a ’63 Buick Wildcat grille bar was used as floating bar. Butch added a double tunneled antenna’s on the passenger front fender and everything was smoothed before Rod Powell would do his magic and paint the car a wonderful candy orange – red acrylic lacquer paint job.

Rocky and Ron’s  Upholstery did the interior in tuck & roll pearl white naugahyde. And Rod Powell was also responsible for the beautiful flower power theme graphics on the white pearl dash with matching pearl white steering wheel. Motivation comes from a updated ’55 Ford Y-block

According to Rod Powell the Tremayne Mercury was used a lot, Curley used is as his every day transport, and it was parked outside most of the time, which would cost the Rod Powell paint job its shine over time.

Going to the Cruisin Nationals in 1982, Ron Brooks photo.

Going East

After Curley Tremayne passed away in 1998 the car has seen a few new caretaker, Gary Minor owned it for some time, and in the early 2000th the car came ot the East Coast of the US when Frank Morawski from Bel Air, Maryland bought the car. The Mercury had always been used by Curley as well as the later owners. Used one a regular base, as daily driver and it was often parked outside. All this left its toll on the paint, which had dulled and weathered considerably. At first the new caretaker Frank decided to keep the car as it was. The showing age added something interesting to the car. It showed how these Customs were used, and not only shown and towed on a trailer. In 2017 it was decided that the car would need a full restoration.

Lyle Willits took this photo of the car sitting in the back corner of the building at the 2005 Jalopyrama in Glen Burnie, Maryland. It was the cars first showing since many years.

The Mercury at the Rodder’s Journal show in 2013.

The interior looks still very good after all these years. All it needs is a good clean up.

Spectacular Dash

Before the car was shown again by Frank I had no idea that the Dash-board had this wonderful 70’s flower power theme painting done by Rod Powell. Non of the older photos ever showed the dash, so it was a great surprise to see that, and to hear from Rod that the dash was still the way he had done it back in 1977.


This is what Rod Powell had to say about the Dash on Curly Tremayne’s Mercury.
” I did paint the dash for Curley. The style came from the motorcycles I had done years before. In those days Curley was a helper in my small shop on Griffin St. He liked this style of paint so much at that time he had me add it to the sail panels and door jambs of his ’65 Riviera. Years later, when we were finishing his Merc I added the same designs to the dash. The pinstriping on the glove box door is not my work. It is not part of the original look of the car.
I hope this helps.


The flower power theme on the dash is really refreshing and brightens up the inside of the Mercury. The striping on the glove box is from an unknown artist and had been done after Curley had passed away by a new owner.

Fortunately the dash is in excellent condition, so it will stay just the way Rod Powell did it in 1977.

Restoration started

On May 14, 2017 Frank Morawski droppes of the Tremayne Mercury at Absolute Rod & Custom Paint in Annapolis, Maryland. Here the team of Richard and Brandon Glymph, Frank Morawski, and Rick Lowman will be doing the body and paint work on the car. Cody Walls will later take care of all the stainless. Plan is to bring the car back to how it looked back in 1977. We will be following the whole progress on the Custom Car Chronicle and will be adding any new info on the FORUM POST as soon as we get it.

The Mercury arriving at Absolute Rod & Custom Paint in Annapolis, Maryland.

Stripping the Rod Powell Acrylic lacquer and brining the car to bare metal.

More photos of the restoration process can be seen on the Custom Car Chronicle Forum.



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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