Custom Car Chronicle
In the Works

Billy Powell 39 Mercury


David Martinez at Martinez Industries Co. creates another period perfect padded top, and much more for Billy Powell’s 40’s style 1939 Mercury Convertible.

I have been following¬†the process of Billy Powell’s 1939 Merucry convertible at David martinez’s Martinez Industires Co. Facebook for the last three weeks. When the car arrived at David’s shop he shared some photo of this very nice patina 1939 Mercury with a wonderful 1940’s stance and period perfect flipper disc hubcaps on white wall tires. So David got my attention there right away. He mentioned that he would be spending the next three weeks chopping the windshield and doing a few other period custom restyling on Billy’s Mercury. And to top it all of he would be creating a padded top.

The look of an early Mercury convertible with a good looking padded top, like they used to be made by the Carson Top Shop, Bill Gaylords, Hall and a afew more shops, is not something you see too often these days. But back in the early to late 1940’s and even in the beginning of the 1950’s these padded topped speed boat stance-ed Mercury’s were much more plentiful. So I’m very happy to see Billy taking his car and going for this period perfect look. Taking the car to David Martinez for the padded top was a logical next step. David has been creating a series of wonderful shaped period perfect looking padded tops in the past few years. But David can handle a lot more than just the top or upholstery.


CCC-billy-powell-martinez-39-merc-01This is how the car arrived at David’s North Palm Springs shop. Here the stock height soft top bows are being removed. The stance, white wall tires and single bar hubcaps were already there.
Martinez Industries chopped the windshield on Billy’s mercury, they reshaped the front fenders to accepts 1937 Ford headlights, added 1941 Studebaker taillights, a set in license plate in the shaved trunk, and did some more clean up work on the body. The plan right now was not to create a show quality custom. The car was black when it came to the shop, and only the sections that were modified were repainted to match the rest of the body. After enjoying the car for a while Billy plans for a complete redo in the next year or so. After the windshield was chopped David created the padded top. Owner and builder had decided to go on the more sweeping lines of a Gaylord top, instead of the more boxy look of a Carson top.


CCC-billy-powell-martinez-39-merc-02The top of the windshield frame was cut off and several inches removed from the height of the Pillars.
CCC-billy-powell-martinez-39-merc-04The top and bottom needed some minor adjustments to line up again. Not some of the surface rust on the hood that was also fixed at Martinez.
CCC-billy-powell-martinez-39-merc-08The lower height of the top fits the speed boat stance very well.


Swoopy Padded Top

The Carson Top shop had developed a special jig to build their padded tops on.¬†The most common type cars all had their own jig on which the padded tops could be built.¬†Benefits¬†for the shop was the easy access for the upholsterer, much easier than to crawl around inside the cars. This jig resulted in a special shaped top that was nearly identical for the cars done using this jig. And the shape that was created was a well shaped, but kind of a boxy look which was developed in the early 1940’s¬†and suited the cars from the early and mid 1940’s very good.¬†Later in the 1940’s, towards the 1950’s the cars were restyled with a bit more flowing lines, the cars were lowered a bit more than before.¬†The Barris Kustom shop had been working a lot with the Carson Top Shop for their interiors and padded tops. But for some of the cars the Barris Shop needed a more swoopy looking padded top. The shop teamed up with Bill Gaylord and together they created a padded top with much lower rear bows for a more streamlined look, suiting the style of Custom Cars coming from the Barris Kustom shop then a lot better.


CCC-carson-top-jigOne of the special jigs created at the Carson Top Shop for the padded top construction. The photo shows that the upholsterer can stand inside the top doing his work. This way they could produce the padded tops much faster. The jigs were created to fit the most popular cars of the day.
David started creating the more swoopy Gaylord style padded top with bending a long piece of metal strip to mark the side window openings. Nice swoopy teardrop shaped side window openings. Next was using the same metal strip to mark the center line of the top. The strip was secured at the chopped windshield frame, and then bended in shape toward the catwalk. From there David started to bent the bows following the contour of the strip. Very important is to have the side radius of these bows perfect as well. And all the time he has to keep in mind that the padding and top layer will ad quite a bit to the shapes he is creating. The shape of these bows is what can make or break the end result.
On Billy’s Mercury David absolutely outdid himself. The shape of the top is really breathtaking.


CCC-billy-powell-martinez-39-merc-06After the the chopped A-Pillars had been smoothed it was time to start the top. This metal strips were used to shape the side window opening.
CCC-billy-powell-martinez-39-merc-09Original wood header, and the shape of the top was decided on using a shaped thin metal strip. This was used as guide for creating the bows for the top.
CCC-billy-powell-martinez-39-merc-16This nice overview photo shows the car with the new bows in place. It also shows that some modifications had to be made to the catwalk to make the new padded top work the best.
CCC-billy-powell-martinez-39-merc-22The padded top during construction and the finished headliner on the top on the far right was show with the top upside down on Davids upholstery table. 
And the even more increadible thing is that Martinez Industries did all this in just three weeks, the car is now back to Billy home in Texas where he will finish putting it back together. The plan is to enjoy the car like this for a while, and then in a year or so take the car apart completely and do a proper restoration and get all the other details like a full custom interior done.¬†Looking forward to see some outdoor photos of Billy’s period perfect 1939 Mercury convertible.

CCC-billy-powell-martinez-39-merc-07The front fenders were reshaped to accept 1937 Ford headlights that have a nice peak at the top, and mild point at the bottom, creating a little more “sharpness”¬†to the front of the car.


CCC-billy-powell-martinez-39-merc-10The trunk was shaved and a vintage shaped (large radius corners) set-in license plate was created.
CCC-billy-powell-martinez-39-merc-11Primer time.
CCC-billy-powell-martinez-39-merc-13Some parts of the body, like the doors and quarter panels, were still in good enough shape for this version of the car, so they were taped off.

CCC-billy-powell-martinez-39-merc-15Guide coat followed by sanding and then ready for paint.
CCC-billy-powell-martinez-39-merc-12Fresh black glossy paint and time for putting the car back together.

Time to go back home to Texas

When the car was ready David only had time to take some quick snapshots of the “finished” car inside his shop. The car was going to be picked up in the evening after the sun had set, so there was no time to take some nice photos outside. Hopefully we can add some nicer photos of the car with some better lighting in the near future.

CCC-billy-powell-martinez-39-merc-171941 Studebaker taillights and the set-in license plate with the light switched on look really great.
CCC-billy-powell-martinez-39-merc-19New slightly green tinted glass was cut to fit the chopped windshield and installed shortly before the car was picked up. The front bumper needed work on the brackets and will be added back again, when the car comes back to David’s shop in 2015.
I have saved the best photo for the last. This photo to me shows the breathtaking shape of the top really well. The shape of the side window openings which tapers slightly down towards the rear, and then has a wonderful large radius when it moves down towards the belt line. The side window opening shape dictates the overall shape of the top which has the highest point a little ahead of the door line. The flow of the top works really well with the flow of the rear fenders and trunk.








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)

6 thoughts on “Billy Powell 39 Mercury

  • My God Billy’s car looks incredible. David has done some amazing work to bring this custom to life, I’m drooling as I write this.
    Looking at the paint in progress pictures, am I right in thinking that the Stude lights have been frenched?
    Billy, please (with sugar on top) can we have some more photos?

  • That’s a really great looking top! Is it just me, or has the catwalk been lengthened between the top of the trunk and the rear edge of the top- just a little bit? Can’t wait to see more on this Merc

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