Nick Matranga Mercury

 

NICK MATRANGA MERCURY

 

One of the most Iconic Custom Cars of all time the Barris Kustoms Restyled 1940 Mercury Coupe for Nick Matranga was short lived, but made a huge and lasting impact.



In the past we have shared the in-depth article on the life of Nick Matranga by Michelle M. Yiatras here on the Custom Car Chronicle. It now is time to focus on just the car. The Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury.

The Barris Customs created 1940 Mercury Coupe for Nick Matranga in 1950, is together with the 1951 Mercury created for Bob Hirohata in 1952, perhaps the most iconic traditional Custom Car ever created. If a dictionary would have a visual for the description Custom Car, then a picture if Nick’s and Bob’s Mercury’s would sum it all up. Nick’s 1940 Mercury coupe only excised for a little over a year, before it was destroyed in a car wreck. Because of when it was created, late 1950’s and the lack of all Custom Car publications, the trend setting and inspiring Custom was never part of a full magazine feature in the magazines. Yet the Matranga Mercury has inspired countless of Custom Car enthusiasts all over the world to build cars similar or inspired by this famous Custom Car icon. In 1951 Dan Post published a new edition of his Blue Book of Custom Restyling and included were several photos of the Nick Matranga mercury taken by Marcia Campbell. There was no written info on the car, not even a mentioning of the owner, only that it was created by Barris. These photos must have had a huge impact on the Custom Car community in 1951 and the following years.


Dan Post used no less than 5 photo’s of the Matranga Mercury in his 1951 edition of the Blue Book of Custom Restyling. Iconic photos of an Iconic Custom Car taken by Marcia Campbell. The Post book did mention the car was a Barris Custom, but nothing on Nick as the owner. Later these photos were used again in the Barris Kustom Technique books published in the 1990’s.
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I think it is save to say that no other Custom Car has been copied in clones, or near clones than the Matranga Mercury. The Custom Restyling the Barris Brothers brothers performed, at their Barris Custom Shop, on Nick’s Mercury is pure genius!

When Nick Matranga was still in High School, the John C. Fremont High School in Los Angeles he started dreaming about the Custom Car he wanted to have. He loved the beautiful styling of the ’39 and ’40 Ford’s and Mercury’s with the wide and stylish grille and soft flowing lines of the fenders and body. Nick preferred the coupe body style and after comparing the Fords and the Mercury’s he decided that the longer roof of the Mercury, plus rear bench in the Mercury, compared to the jump seats in the back of¬† the Ford Coupes made the mercury more attractive to him. Also the fact that the longer wheelbase, and the softer body contours of the Mercury were much nicer than the same year Fords in his eyes. The overall shapes of the Mercury were very appealing to Nick, but that high hat top on the coupe looked so out of place on the very stylish lower portion of the Car.


No matter what angle you look at the Nick Matranga Mercury, everything always blends together and flows beautifully toward the back of the car. The use of the heavier ’46 Ford bumpers add a lot to the visual appeal of the car.
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Nick had seen several chopped 1940 Mercury Coupes on the streets of Los Angeles that had caught his eye. That looked much better than stock, still not as elegant as Nick envisioned for his own Custom, but he knew the ’40 Merc would be just right for him. From the Mercury Customs he knew some had been restyled at the Barris Shop on Compton Ave. including two nearly identical for Al Andril and Johnny Zara. And then there were a few others. But there were a few elements on all those Custom Coupes he saw that figured could be improved on. Around same time GM introduced the all new pillarless hard top models for Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac, and the beautiful window lines stunned Nick. He needed to do something with that on his dream custom.

Nick happened to be driving by a used car lot when he spotted a cherry low miles grey-green coupe. He drove his newly acquired Mercury straight to the Barris shop to start discussing the changes he had in mind. Before the bodywork on the Mercury was started the suspension was modified, with a dropped axle in the front and lowering blocks in the back, the rear of the frame was modified to accept the lowered rear axle, and the floor had to be modified with a raised drive shaft tunnel. Lowering the car at this stage made the work on the top easier. Now the top was better to reach, and more importantly the overall proportions when chopping the top could be seen much better than when the car had been left stock height. Very important since Nick’s Mercury would be all about flow, balance and proportions.

Fortunately there are at least two very clear side view images of the Matranga Mercury. Thanks to Marcia Campbell we can still enjoy the breathtaking side profile of the car. This one taken in late 1950 was first published in the Dan Post Blue Book of Custom Restyling in 1951. It must have inspired countless car enthusiasts. (Colorized black and white photo)
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The Chop

The chopped top on the Matranga Merc is what really sets this car apart from everything else restyled during the same period, or even decades later. According to some publications Sam worked over a year on the top, to get it just right. I think it just took a little over a year to get the whole car done. And we have to keep in mind that when these cars were created in the late 1940’s early 1950’s the cars were mostly the only form of transportation these guys had. And so was the case with Nick’s Mercury. So most of time during this year of construction, the car was most likely in partly primer on the road.

I have created an visual using the side view photo of the Matranga Mercury and a stock ’40 Mercury to illustrate what was done to get the top looking this good. After having chopped a few ’39-40 Mercury Coupes before, using mostly the original top metal, Sam used pre-shaped metal created by the California Metal Shaping company to create the unique looking top that makes this car such a big hit. Another key factor for the success of the chop on the Matranga Merc compared to other, is how Sam raised the top of the windshield around 1.5 inches up into the top. This allowed him to get the side profile low enough to be in balance with the rest of the car, and still have enough windshield space to make the car drive-able. If you compare this with the earlier Mercury’s from the Barris Shop, like the Andril and Zaro Merc, those had very small windshields, which were out of proportion with the side windows, and making it hard to drive the car in traffic.



After having discussed the style and looks Nick was after for his Mercury with both George and Sam Barris it was time to get started on the chop. Just as Sam had done previously on the Al Andril and Johnny Zaro Merc’s, he started the process with completely removing the B-pillars on the Merc. Then cut the rear of the top at the lower edge, and the A-pillars at the most straight section. Nick mentioned that the car was chopped 6 inches in the front (some publications mention 5 inches), the top of the windshield was raised into the top, perhaps a bit more than an inch, to make the windshield opening a little larger, and more in proportion with the side windows. This was something Sam had learned from chopping the Al Andril and Johnny Zaro 1940 Mercury’s. At the back they just let is sink in between the body until the side profile of the windows as well as the top look perfect to them. The graphic of the Mercury side views, further down this article, showing how the top was chopped, visualize how much more the rear of the top came down, compared to the front. During this time Sam removed the drip rails, for a more smooth look.

When the rear of the top came down so much, automatically the rear corner of the rear quarter window moved forward. Making the side window opening much shorter than on the stock Mercury. With no B-pillar in place this looked really stunning. While maneuvering the top of the car till the flow of the top was perfect, and enhanced the main body shape as well as rear fenders, Sam tacked it in place. Nick absolutely loved the new pillarless look and told Sam and George they had to come up with a solution to make this work somehow, since the B-pillars were not going back into the car.

This illustration shows how much impact the chop on the Matranga Mercury has on the looks of the ’40 Mercury. Image A) shows how the car, with all the other modifications would have looked if the top had not been chopped. Image B) shows the difference between the stock ’40 Mercury roof and the chopped Matranga top with ghost images and outlines. Image C) shows how the stock top was dropped, and rotated to create a lower in the rear roof line for more pleasing effects. It also shows that dropping the top resulted in the now much shorter quarter windows. (blue vertical lines) The image also shows how much the rear section of the top was reshaped for the best results, and how the stock location of the rear of the roof is now related to the flowing transition from top of the trunk to the actual roof. Image D) shows the finished Matranga Merc profile.
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At that Point George started to bend some steel bars to get a feel of what the best shape would be to replace the vertical B-Pillars on the Mercury. Eventually they came up with a beautiful radius on the B-pillar window channel that flew just right with the shape of the top, mimicked the front section of the door window channel and gave the car that spectacular continues flow front front to rear look and feel. The side window frames was created from 3/8 channel, welded, smoothed and eventually send out to be chrome plated. Its especially this new side window shape that really sets the car apart from everything else created around that time. It made the car look fresh, modern like the newest GM Hard-top models, but even more streamlining than those. It looked even better than Nick had ever hoped it would look. With the side window shape determent, Sam Barris set out to reshape the rear of the roof to fit the new window shape, as well as flow with the rest of the body.

After several tires they finally knew what to do to get it right, and pre-shaped panels were created at the California Metal Shaping company and welded in place. What is so unique about the shape of the rear of the top on Nick’s Mercury is the slight bulge at the back, just above the top of the rear window. Designed almost like if the people in the back needed to have sufficient head room as well. It is that bulge, which we also can see on the Jesse Lopez Ford, as well as a few other Barris Customs, that makes the overall flow of the Matranga Mercury work so well.

On Jesse Lopez Ford this shape was created because Jesse loved the shape of the Carson Topped ’41 Ford so much. So perhaps this idea for the roof shape was also the main inspiration on Nick’s Mercury. In any event, adding the slight bulge shape at the rear of the top helps keeping the roof look like a coupe and adding the needed “kick” for the eye when following the side window shape. Jesse had asked Sam to reduce the height of the rear window on his ’41 Ford, to be better in balance with the side windows. Sam really liked this and he did the same thing on Nick’s ’40 Mercury. He took a few inches out of the height of the rear window before he placed it back into the new lowered roof. This way the rear window fits much better in line with the side windows than the stock unit would have been.

Close up of the window channel the Barris Brothers created. for Nick’s Mercury. The new shape was totally unique, and enhanced the shape of the top, as well as the fenders and main body. After the Matranga mercury was destroyed in an accident in early or mid 1952, the Barris Brothers used the same shape of windows of the 1951 Mercury they created for Bob Hirothata.
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The roof of the stock ’40 Mercury is separated with a small strip of stainless steel, making the top look like a separate unit. On previous Custom Mercury’s like the Al Andril and Johnny Zaro Merc Sam already had¬† figured out hos much smoother the top looked if that strip was eliminated and the roof section was blended smooth with the turret panel. So that was also so done on Nick’s Mercury, and the blending was done with an even softer radius than the cars Sam had worked on before. The factory rounded top trunk corners helped the flow of the turret panel into the roof even more.

The rest of the body work on Nick’s Mercury was rather straight forward, and something the shop had performed multiple times on other customs cars. Like the nosing, decking and the molding of all four fender. But it perhaps never had looked so good as on Nick’s mercury, where it was balanced out with that super flowing top. Sam had to modify the hood latching mechanism in order to remove the hood ornament. Nick insisted of keeping the stock grille, and even the stock eyebrows mounted at the bottom of the hood front, just above the grille. He also wanted to keep the original heavy hooded chrome headlight bezels. He loved the design on those, and he was so right about that. Nothing would have looked more in place than these original elements. Sam did however shorten the side trim on the hood, which now starts at the center of the front wheel opening. This optically puts a bit more weight on the rear of the car.

To enhance the flowing lines of the top, Nick wanted to removed the taillights from the fender and mount them, just like Jesse Lopez had done before him, in the bumper guards. They chose to use a set of 1946 Ford bumpers for the car. These bumpers are a bit heavier in appearance than the stock Mercury units, giving the car a bit more weight, and the round shape with the small lip at the top really helps with the flow, front to rear. The stock ’46 Ford bumper guards have a beautiful art-deco shape and are absolutely perfect for creating bumper guard taillights. Jesse Lopez showed Nick how to create the taillights. The bumper guards were mounted in such a way that they flow with the lines of the trunk when looked from behind. The rear of the Stock 1939-40 Mercury kind of stops abrupt into this gap that is left between the body and bumpers. It makes the car look short. So to not loose the momentum of the flow from the top to the trunk Sam decided to use a gravel shield to fill the gap. He welded the gravel shield of an ’46 Ford, and molded it nicely into the body with a similar smooth radius as that was used on the rear fenders, making it look like it came from the factory that way. And integrated the rear bumper a d made it part of the overall design of the car


Two 1940 Mercury’s, the top one is the Johnny Zaro Mercury, and the bottom one the Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury. The Zaro Merc has a much more conservative chopped top. Very much styled along the lines of the original car, jts a few inches lower and slightly more streamlined with the rear portion of the top molded to the body to make it a one piece affair. The chopped top done like this gave the car a completely new more aggressive look and with a low stance the proportions looked a lot better than stock. To be able to get the side windows the right proportional size, the top needs to be chopped quite a bit, leaving the windshield very small. On the Matranga Merc this was fixed by raising the windshield up into the top. The rear portion of the Matranga mercury roof was shaped completely different from the Zaro Mercury, making it look much more modern.



To further enhance the flow of the car, Sam reworked a set of teardrop fender skirts to fit the mercury fender, that Nick had bought at one of the after market companies, to fit the mercury fenders. The door handles were removed to help clean up the sides of the car and again help with the flow, front to rear. To open the door Nick installed push buttons, that activated the solenoids to unlatch the doors, in the running boards, to open the doors from the outside. Inside he installed the buttons on the dash. The dash itself is a piece of art as well. Not really that much has been done to it, just cleaned up a little, and smoothed over completely before it was chrome plated. All the factory ribbed plastic components on the dash were copied in clear red Lucite another trick that Jesse Lopez helped Nick with. The red Lucite looked amazing mounted on the chrome plated dash.




Interior

The interior on Nick’s Mercury was upholstered by Bill Gaylord in dark maroon and ivory using DuPont Fabrilite. The maroon sections was outlined with ivory piping, and the all ivory headliner was a mix of rows of tuck and roll running length wise, outlined with maroon piping and plain ivory sections. The lengthwise design helping create more optical length inside. The carpet was done in dark maroon, and Bill made diamond shape floor-mats to protect the carpets. The section below the chrome plated dash was also fully upholstered in Bill Gaylord’s trademark diamond pattern upholstery. Nick bought a brand new 1950 Mercury Monteray steering wheels that Sam modified to fit the ’40 Steering column. Like most of the Customs created in this era Nick also had to have a set of S-552 Appleton Spotlights, were mounted at the Barris Shop. These Spotlights give the car the needed kick, or focus point at the front of the roof, all to help with the optical flow.¬† set of wide white wall tires were of course needed to help with the elegant lines of the car, and the most perfect hubcaps in the world, the Cadillac Sombrero’s were installed on the front wheels. Nick drove the car like this, in primer for a bit, before the next big decision needed to be made… color.

Carson MatrangaThis photo of the interior in Nick’s Mercury must have been taken early in 1950. If you look close then you can see that the dash is missing a few dash knobs as well as the radio, which are visible in the other photos of the interior. The simple horseshoe shape of upholstery on the bench seat looks very attractive with the ivory piping. There is no rear view mirror in the car when this photo was taken.
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This photo shows how the dashboard was now finished with the radio and the missing dash knobs in place. The red lucide panels must have looked spectacular on the chrome plated dash.
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Here we can see the specially made window frames, the chrome plated garnish molding, the beautiful Gaylord upholstery, including the diamond pattern on the panel below the dash, and that Nick had installed a rear view mirror by then. The ’50 Mercury Monteray steering wheel looks right at home in the decade older Merc.
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Taken at the 1951 National Roadster Show in Oakland shows how the B-Pillar section had a (rubber) trim section making sure the gap between the door frame and the rear quarter frame was covered in case of rain, or any other bad weather.
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Nick was not only looking for the very best in optical styling, he also wanted to have a powerful engine, that went as well as it sounded. Nick had an 1946 Mercury block modified by Phil Weiand. Who installed Weiand heads, intake and cam. Nick knew Phil very well and he gave Nick a good deal on the motor. Phil treated the engine with all the goodies and made it look really good and made sure it was reliable but also sounded really well.



1950 photos

Even though the Matranga Mercury was only around for a little over a year, there are still plenty of photos of the car. Showing how popular Nick’s car must have been at the time. To help identify the different photos and when they have been made we have split up this section of the article in 1950 photos, 1951 Photos and 1951-52 photos after Nick sold the car.

There are very few photos taken of the rear of the Mercury so these two photos from the Kurt McCormick Collection are very important. These two where taken with some time in between them. The one on the left shows the car without the rear view mirror. And the one on the right shows the car with the mirror installed and with the Kustoms Los Angeles plaque mounted below the rear bumper. These two photos are also giving use the best look at the chopped rear window, with its pleasing teardrop shapes. This last photo also show how nice the bumper guards follow the line of the trunk. Everything on Nick’s mercury was so well designed.
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Close up of the rear bumper in 1950 shows the bumper guard integrated taillights than Nick created with the help of Jesse Lopez. Notice the hole cut into the guard included the ribbed outer section of the stepped Art-Deco shape, and how that was reshaped into the Lucite.
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Nick had seen many of George Barris his beautiful organic paint jobs, using transparent toners, mixed with Venus Martin gold and bronze powders. So he knew George would do a find job on the car. Nick picked a 1941 Buick Titian Maroon as base color. The Titian  maroon base color was a bleeder, it showed somewhat what was underneath. In a similar way as later candy paints worked. George and Nick spend many hours mixing colors, based on the Buick color, adding black, adding gold powders and spraying it over different base colors. The end result of the paint job was a spectacular deep dark maroon with highlights enhanced with added gold powder and sections lower on the body that had more black showing thru the paint. All this was done in a away to enhance the shape of the body of the car. And according to those who have seen the car in person, the paint was spectacular.

After George had finished the paint the still fresh paint job was carefully color sanded with wet sand paper. The it was left alone for about a month. This way the paint had completely set, and all the paint thinners had evaporated and the paint completely shrunk.Then Nick and friends color sanded the paint once more and did a final rub-out for the most perfect paint finish.

Nick estimated he had about $1800.- invested in the car. And the Barris Bill alone could have been much higher if he had not helped out with the built all the time. Usually Nick would go to the Barris Shop after his regular day job, and there he would work on the car, either alone, prepping the car for the next day’s body work, or assisting Sam who was working on the car after shop hours as well. Nick credits Sam Barris for doing most of the work on his Mercury. And how it was a pleasure working with Sam who was a fantastic craftsman and knew exactly how to realize the ideas Nick had in his mind for the Mercury.

1950 snapshots taken at Nick’s girlfriends house.
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Nick Matranga’s trend setting 1940 Mercury Coupe Custom was Restyled mostly at the Barris Bell Shop and later finished Atlantic Blvd Shop in Lynwood. Perhaps the very early work on the car was performed at the Compton Ave. shop, since the car was constructed over a one year period. Sadly so far no in progress photos of the Mercury have surfaced.

Possibly a local parking lot or perhaps high school outdoor car show shows Nick’s Mercury with 1950 license plates. Parked behind the Merc is George Barris’s personal 1942 Cadillac Convertible Custom.
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California Avenue South Gate photo shoot

Marcia Campbell took some of the most important Historic Custom Car photos that we know. Perhaps Dan Post hired her to do a series of photos of a few of the latest Barris Customs at the Hall of Justice located at California Avenue in South Gate. One of the cars included in this photo shoot was Nick Matranga’s ’40 Mercury. Perhaps the most famous series of photos taken from the Matranga Mercury were taken by Marcia Campbell during this photo-shoot. It are the photos taken at this photo-shoot that give us the impression that the paint on the car was not rubbed out completely, giving the paint on the car a sort of semi gloss feel. Perhaps its just an optical illusion, or it could be that George Barris understand the importance of Nick’s Car and insisted that it would be part of the photo-shoot for the Dan Post Blue book, despite the paint not having the desired high gloss. There was no antenna on the drivers front fender on the car when these photos were taken.

3/4 front view with the hall of Justice building in the background.
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Near perfect side view scanned from the original photo proof sheet taken from the original negatives by Marcia Campbell.
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Colorized black and white photo give somewhat an impression how the rear Matranga Merc might have looked in color.
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Nick posing proudly with his 1940 Mercury. Most likely this and the other pictures taken at this location by Marcia Campbell were taken not all that long after Nick’s Mercury was finished.
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Enlarged section of the front 3/4 photo shows the Mercury in all its beauty. Notice that there is no rear view mirror mounted yet, so these photos were taken shortly after the Mercury was done.
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1951 photos

If it hadn’t be for the Korean war, then Nick most likely would have never sold the car, at least not just one year after completion. Nick even had told David Zivot how he had plans to install an all new Cadillac OHV engine in the car. But instead Nick enlisted in the army, and left the car in his mothers Garage. George Barris was able to pick up the car in case he needed it for Custom Car shows, which he did for the 1951 Oakand Roadster Show (Feb, 1951), the Montebello Tent Show (and at the Hot Rod show in the LA Armory most likely in Jan ’51). At one point George Barris informed Nick’s mother that he had a buyer for the mercury, and after initial not wanting to let go of the car, Nick eventually agreed and the car was sold for $2500.- in September / October 1951.

1951 photo taken at the Barris Atlantic Blvd Lynwood shop. This high 3/4 front view shows how right Nick was in to keep the front of the car mostly stock, with only the hood cleaned up to enhance the beautiful Mercury shapes.
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Fremont High School photo shoot

Nick graduated from John C. Fremont High School And not long after that he started the work on his ’40 Mercury. In 1951 He went back to his old High School with his Custom Mercury for an set of historically important photos. We are not 100% sure about the photographer who took these photos at the High School, but most likely it was Marcia Campbell who took them. By then Nick had installed a radio antenna on the drivers side front fender.

The perfect dead on side view photo that has helped many enthusiast create their version of the famous Matranga Mercury. This is the one photo that really shows the beautful shaped roof line on Nick’s Mercury. Marcia Campbell was most likely the photographer.
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The front 3/4 view in front of the school shows that the car now has 1951 plates. From this angle it looks like the roof is flowing so smooth into the trunk area.
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Sadly I was unable to locate a copy of the complete photo taken from the rear 3/4, so we have to do with this zoomed in version.
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Perfection on wheels. Everything about the Matranga Mercury is just right, as this photo shows. The slight speed boat stance, the flow of all the body lines enhanced by the curved hard-top window trim.
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According an interview with Nick, the skirts used were 1941 Buick Skirts which were modified to fit the Mercury fenders. But more likely they used aftermarket skirts commonly used on 1939-40 Fords. The shape of the skirts flow perfectly with the Mercury body, enhancing all the restyled body lines on the car. This photo also shows the the door popper button activating the solenoid to open the the door located in the running board.
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The Shows

George Barris took Nick’s Mercury to the 1951 Oakland Roadster Show. Nick was in the army by then and could not make it to the show. Small funny detail is that the show card in the windshield of the Mercury, which was made by a sign painter at the show, had the name Matranga misspelled. (inset on the left)
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Nick’s Mercury also appeared at the Montebello California Tent Show held in 1951 at the Armory. Nick was already in the military by then, so somebody else had taken the car to the show for him. Parked next to Nick’s Merc is Snooky Janich ’41 Ford (in primer behind the merc) and the Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford. Peaking just behind the Hop Up sign is the nose of the Jack Stewart 1941 Ford.
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The Mystery new owner
It has been written that a nineteen-year-old guy, named Stanley Hannenberg of Artesia, CA, purchased Nick’s Mercury. This is based on an Jun 8, 1952 news paper clipping (included in this article) in which is it listed that the car he drove (a 1939 Coupe) was wrecked on a rainy day January 7th, 1952 against a telephone pole.¬† The story very much sounds right with the info others have mentioned on how the Matranga Merc came to its end. But the dates on this article do not match the fact that the Matranga Mercury was photographed at an Pasadena event on March 30th, 1952, which was featured in the June 1952 Hot Rod Magazine, three month after it was possibly totaled. At this point we do not know for sure who was the new owner after Nick, and when exactly the car was wrecked and declared “totaled”, and scrapped with only the Appleton Spotlights remaining of the car. But it must have been after March 30th, 1952.



1951-1952 after Nick sold the car

The Falcons and the Gripers Hot Rod Clubs from Pasadena, California organized an Car Show and reliability run in one event on March 30th, 1952. An two page article about this event appeared in the June 1952 issue of Hot Rod magazine. This possibly is the latest event that the Matranga Merc ever entered, and the last time it was photographed. Besides having the one interior photo used in the Hot Rod magazine article, I also believe that a series of photos from the Danny Lares Collection showing the Matranga Mercury were taken at this event.

The flyer for the first Annual Pasadena Auto Show and Reliability Run held on March 30, 1952. This was most likely the last time the Matranga Mercury was entered in an event.
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Danny Lares had bought the Jesse Lopez 1941 Ford around 1951, and more than likely Danny knew the new owner of the Matranga Mercury. Danny was a active member of the¬†Road Kings-Wilmington car club and possibly the new owner of the Matranga Merc was also a member of the Road Kings or perhaps a member of one of the other attending Long Beach car clubs. The snapshots from Danny’s photo album clearly show that the two cars and the two owners stayed close during this event. While there is no photo of Danny’s ’41 Ford in the Hot Rod magazine article, one of the photos shows that Danny was there at the event. Looking at all the details in the Hot Rod magazine article and compare them with Danny’s photos I think that most, if not all these photos were taken at the same event. The last event the Matranga Merc most likely was entered.

The two page Hot Rod magazine article from June 1952 showing the interior of the Mercury. In the photo on the far left (page 20) we can see Danny Lares on the far right collecting a trophy for his ’41 Ford. Who knows… perhaps the new owner of the Matranga Merc is also in this picture?
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One page of the Danny Lares photo album shows Danny’s ’41 Ford and the Matranga Mercury. The one photo with the number 30 painted on the door must have been taken at the reliability run.
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Cleaned up version of the photo taken at the Pasadena reliability run on March 30th, 1952. That must be the new owner behind the wheel of the Mercury.
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Sitting side by side the Matranga 1940 Mercury and the lopez ’41 Ford with 1952 tag’s on the 1951 License plates. Both cars are now owned by new owners. The Lopez ford is missing the fender skirt, possibly removed for the reliability run?
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What a line up, Glen Johnson ’37 Ford (which was the feature car for the event flyer, Danny Lares with his Jesse Lope ’41 Ford (that is Danny with the white cap) and the Matranga Mercury next to it. To bad the fence is blocking so much of the cars. But since this might be the last event the Matranga Mercury was entered I wanted to include it here anyway.
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The Merc parked next to the Danny Lares ’41 Ford.
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Enlarged section of the photo shows the ’52 tag on the ’51 California license plate. It also gives a good look at the ribbed GM or aftermarket rear view mirror that Nick added to the car.
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This photo was taken at the first annual Pasadena Auto Show and Reliability Run on March 30th, 1952, and was featured in the June 1952 Hot Rod Magazine. It might have been one of the last photos taken of the famed Matranga Merc.
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Changes to the Matranga Merc.
The Matranga Merc only excited for a little over a year, so it never underwent many changes, like some other famous Custom Cars had. The only things I have been able to notice that changed are the addition of a GM ribbed rear view mirror towards some where in 1950. And the addition of a driver side front fender mounted radio antenna in 1951. The photos that we have been able to find of the Mercury show that the car had two license plated in its life as Full Custom. The 62B 1 997 plate from 1950 and the 5N75907 plate from 1951, and the addition of the ’52 tag in late 1951, or early 1952. In some of the photos of Nick’s mercury it appears as if the paint was a semi gloss. Possibly these photos were taken shortly after the car had been finished, and the paint had not been rubbed out yet. But it could also be an optical illusion, nobody has been able to confirm the reason why the paint looks semi gloss in some photos.

Nick Matranga News Paper Article BarrisThis is the Jan 8, 1952 new paper article mentioning the accident which matches some details of the stories about the accident of the Matranga Mercury. But the year of the car is wrong, ’39, not 40, (which can happen in a none car related news paper). But the January 7, 1952¬† date of the accident does not match with the fact that the Matranga Merc was photographed at the Pasadena even on March 30th 1952. The mystery of Who was the owner of the ’40 Mercury after Nick Matranga continues…
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In the short life span of the Matranga Merc the car was photographed with two different license plates. These help us identify when the photos were taken. 62B1997 plate from 1950 and the 5N75907 plate from 1951, and on the right it shows the addition of the ’52 tag in late 1951, after Nick had sold the Mercury.
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Time frame Matranga Merc

  • 1949 late 1949 work started at the Barris Bell Shop, Los Angeles.
  • 1950 late 1950 the car was finished at the Barris Atlantic Blvd Shop in Lynwood.
  • 1950 November 16th thru 19th Nick Matranga enters his freshly finished Mercury at the Motorama, held in the convention hall at the L.A. Shrine auditorium.
  • 1951 January Nick Matranga enters the Matranga Merc at the Los Angeles Hot Rod show at the LA Armory.
  • 1951 The Dan Post Blue Book publishes 5 photo of Nick Matranga Mercury.
  • 1951 February (early) Nick deployed for boot camp and leaves the car at his mothers house.
  • 1951 February 20-25 George Barris enters the Matranga Merc at the Oakland Roadster Show.
  • 1951 Date unknown George Barris enters the Matranga Merc at the Montebello Armory Tent Show.
  • 1951 September – October George Barris sells the Mercury on behalf of Nick for $2800.- to¬†an new owner.
  • 1952 March 30th New owner enters the Matranga Merc in the Pasadena first annual Reliability run.
  • 1952 Date unknown the new owner wrecked the car hitting a telephone pole in the rain.
  • 1952 June Interior photo appears in the Pasadena Car Show coverage in Hot Rod Magazine.

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Barris Crest
I often was asked why the Matranga Mercury never had a Barris Crest. If the Matranga Mercury was such a famous Barris Custom, why do none of the known photos of the car show the Barris Crest on the cowl, or elsewhere? Was Nick Matranga perhaps not happy with the the work the Barris Shop did? That he did not want to promote the Barris Shop with a crest?
The answer to that question is very simple. During the very short live span of the Matranga Mercury late 1950 – June 1952, the Barris Crest had not yet been created. The Barris Crest was first used around late summer 1952. and by then the Matranga Mercury had already been wrecked and scrapped.

Just a few samples of many 1939-40 Mercury Coupe Customs that have been inspired by the Matranga Mercury, or were built as clone, or semi clone. The Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury is the most copied Custom Car design ever.
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Nick Matranga was born Nicholas Joseph Matranga, on April 21, 1930 in Los Angeles, CA, He passed away on March 27, 2010, in Torrance, CA.




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Bob Larson 1940 Mercury

BOB LARSON 1940 Merc

Inspired by the Nick Matranga Barris Restyled 1940 Mercury Bob Larson from Vancouver BC set out to create his own ultimate Dream Custom 1940 Mercury Coupe.


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Bob Larson from Vancouver, B.C. Canada has been into cars for as long as he can remember. As a kid he was spending time in his fathers garage who was building cars with his uncle Bill. Absorbing all these neat techniques and little tricks from his father and uncle helped him when he started working on his first car when he was 15 years old. It was an 1950 Meteor Tudor Sedan, which he customized over a period of time. Since then he had built several other cars, both Custom and Hot Rod.

The historic Nick Matranga Mercury created by the Barris Kustom Shop and photographed by Marcia Campbell was the inspiration for Bob Larson to great his personal version of this classic Custom Car Icon.
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In 2004 Bob bought a 1940 Mercury Coupe project from a¬† family friend. He always wanted an late 40’s early 50’s custom inspired by his favorite custom car of them all. The Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury restyled at the Barris Kustom Shop. The project was to be an inspired by project, not planning to clone since Bob had several other ideas he would like to incorporate into his dream custom. The car also needed to be practical as a driver, since all the car Bob builds are drivers, and he loves to drive them.

Monique Wilson Sache took some great photos of Bob’s Mercury recently. This front 3/4 view shows Bob’s Mercury in all its beauty. The perfect nose up, tail down speed-boat stance, and all body lines flowing towards the rear. A designers dream.
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Custom Car photographer Marcia Campbell always included a full side view photo in the series of Barris Custom Cars she photographed. And this photo shows why. Its the best way to view a car, to see how the proportions are balanced, the flow of the body work… Its all just prefect on Bob’s Mercury.
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The factory design of the front end of the ’40 Mercury was extremely nice already. In this case it only needed a mild clean up, removing the hood release handle and the addition of the ribbed 1949 Plymouth bumper.
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The project Bob bought was far from complete, and far from in good condition. It was basically an empty shell, no glass, no drive-train. Over a period of several years Bob was able to get the car on the road so it would be a rolling project before the custom progress would get started. Next up was some careful planning on all the things Bob wanted to do to the car. Studying the Matranga Mercury, and figuring out how to incorporate his own ideas, and then the long search to find all the needed parts could begin. Around 2007 all the needed parts had been collected, and the funds to get the restyling done had been saved.

Bob took to the car to Brian Bobbett who would perform the Matranga Merc style chopped top. He took 4 inches out of the top in the front of the roof and 7 inches out of the back. Just as Sam Barris did with Nick Matranga‚Äôs Mercury back in 1950, Bob had Brian chop the actual windshield one inch less than the top itself, moving the top of the windshield up into the top. If the ‚Äė39-40 Merc coupes get chopped the windshield usually gets to short, and it will be hard to look outside, plus the balance with the side window is way off. The extra inch in windshield height solved this problem. Bob always liked the oval shaped rear window of the 41-48 Ford mercury’s better than the 40 Merc’s smaller split rear window, so he had hunted down a suitable donor car for the rear window. Brian and Bob then decided the whole rear section of the top of the donor ’46 Ford short door coupe could be used to get the just perfect flow of the rear of the Mercury top.

The trunk was shaved, and a third ’46 Lincoln push button was added. The fenders were welded to the body and the seam nicely finished, but not molded in like on the Matranga Mercury. A set of ’49 Lincoln taillights are mounted low into the rear fenders and the stock gas filler neck was modified with a slightly more modern gas door in the fender. The ’49 Plymouth bumper was dressed up with an ’49 Chevy license plate surround… classic.
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Amazing low angle photo taken by Monique Wilson Sache.  Pure beauty!
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Just like on the Matranga Merc the B-Pillars were completely removed and some beautifully shaped curved side window frames were created. Later the window frames were chrome plated and the vent windows were modified to work with the new window frames. All exterior handles were shaved of the car, and the door and trunk received 1947 Lincoln push-buttons for a cleaner look. The push buttons are only for looks though, they are not working. To open the doors on Bob’s mercury he came up with something interesting. On the passenger side vent window Bob installed a small key lock that would allow him to lock the car, and open the doors by reaching inside, thru the vent window, and open the door with the interior door crank.

The side trim on the hood was shortened, just like what they did in the 1940’s. The rear fenders were welded to the body, but Bob wanted to have a sharp line from body to fender, so they were not molded in. The stock taillights were removed and a set of 1949 Lincoln taillights was nicely frenched, low, into the rear fenders. Bob found a pair of his favorite Custom Car bumper, the 1949 Plymouth ribbed bumpers, and made them fit his Mercury.

The interior was done in white and green leatherette nicely done in rolls and pleats. The rear bench seat was modified to hinge at the back allowing some extra storage space for Bob’s many road trips. The interior work was done by Casey.
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A rear view look showing the beautifully done upholstery and the ’46 Ford oval rear window.
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The hood was cleaned up by removing the hood latch and modified it so that it can be opened from inside the car. The rest of the Mercury front details were, just like on Nick Matranga’ Mercury, left unchanged. After a long search Bob had found a pair of un-stampeded Appleton S-112 Spotlights for the Mercury, an other holy grail for any classic Custom. The shells on the Spotlight are all restored, but the rest is still in boxes, waiting for time to get worked on. Bob choose a set of 1941 Ford fender skirts to cover the rear wheel openings.

Apart from the chopped top, all the other custom work was done by Kustom Kolors body shop. The stock Mercury frame was boxed and notched in the rear allowing the car to sit as low as needed. Bob used a Mustang 2 style cross member with factory Ford Mustang 2 suspension and Granada roters. Since the car came without an engine Bob decided to use a 1956 354 Hemi engine for motivation. The engine was completely rebuilt and a rebuilt 700r4 tranny with PAW adapter was added.

With all the drive train and body work done Bob took the car to Sammy Johal‚Äôs Body Shop for final prep and paint. Bob had chosen an dark blue-green paint, based on an 1960 Ford color named Emerald Green. But to make the color more personal, the color mix was modified a little. The finished paint looks really fantastic on the car giving it a nice vintage period look. Something that could have come from the Barris Shop back in the early 1950’s.

The headliner was done in white, which makes the interior very light and roomy. The interior handles come from a ’49 Mercury, and the armrest, done in white, chrome strip and green come from a ’53 Chevy. The carpets are done in medium olive green.
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The ’53 Ford steering wheel center and the extra gauges added to the center section of the cleaned up dashboard.
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The Lincoln door buttons are non functional. To get access to the car Bob installed this unique lock system in the passenger side vent window. There is  small key lock which allows you to open the vent window, so you can reach in and open the door from the inside.
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Bob wanted the interior to be all period looking as well. The Dashboard was restored and cleaned up but remained mostly stock with the exception of a row of gauges added to the center section. The stock steering wheel had to make place for an ‚Äė54 Ford steering wheel. Bob wanted some nice details inside, so he got a set of ‚Äô49 Mercury interior door handles and ‚Äė53 Chevrolet arm rest. The interior work was done by Casey in white and green in classic styled rolls and pleats. The rear bench was modified so that it could be hinged and work as extra storage space.

The trunk has an electric release with a backup manual pull release. Those ’49 Lincoln taillights fit the car so nicely.
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The 1956 354 Hemi engine is completely detailed and painted gold for a nice contrast with the green body.
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Engine details.
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British Columbia Indian Summer colors work well with Bob’s Mercury.
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Full 8 page feature in Chines Car magazine CNAP in 2014.
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4 page feature in Rod & Kulture magazine, summer 2015.
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Featured in the HAMB Callender.
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The Mercury has been on the road since 2007 and since Bob build the car to be used on the road it has seen quite some road since then. Bob and his family have enjoyed the car driving to local, and not so local car events and just cruising around. The car is not only a well known Custom in the Vancouver era. Bob’s Mercury got the interest of several well known car magazine and was featured in then, national as well as International. So now Bob’s Green Merc is well recognized all over the world.




Technical Details

  • 1940 Mercury Coupe
  • Complete body off ground up rebuild
  • Sand blasted inside and out
  • Chopped 4 inches in front and 7 in the rear
  • Windshield top raised about 1 inch
  • Rear roof is from a 46 short door coupe
  • ’49 plymouth bumpers
  • ’47 lincoln door buttons just for show
  • ’49 lincoln tailights
  • ’51 pontiac hubcaps
  • ’53 ford steering wheel
  • Unstamped appleton spotlights buckets rechromed. (The rest of the parts are all there, but need to be finished)
  • ’49 Merc inside door and widow handles
  • ’54 Chevy armrests
  • 5’7 Ford steering column with 41 Ford column drop
  • Stock frame boxed and notched inn the rear
  • Mustang 2 style cross member with factory ford mustang 2 suspention and granada roters
  • 1956 354 Hemi completely rebuilt at time of build
  • Rebuilt 700r4 tranny with PAW adaptor
  • New drive shaft
  • Rebuilt 9inch ford with 3.55 gears
  • Chassis engineering rear leaf spring kit
  • Stock gas tank re-sealed
  • Duel master cylinder with duel Diafram booster
  • G 78 Remington Dunlop bias plys
  • New wiring kit
  • New exhaust 2.5 inches with glass packs
  • New glass new interior new rad
  • Needs spotlights finished and wipers hooked up. (I use rain away)








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Ida 1940 Merc Finished

 

IDA 40 MERC FINISHED

 

Rob Ida and his team of excellent craftsman in Morganville NJ have finished the outstanding Art-Deco styled 1940 Mercury to debut at the 2015 SEMA Show.

the guys at Rob Ida Concepts in Morganville have been working on this 1940 three window coupe custom for several years and they just finished this uniquely styled phantom three window coupe. We have been folowing Ron and his team creating this outstanding, creative and very innovative Custom on the CCC-Forum Post. Each time Rob posted a new progress photo on his facebook they amazed the viewers over and over again. This car not only has an really well executed overall design, it also is very innovative, with its turning front skirts, opening headlights to reach the front skirts, and overall extreme attention to detail.
 

CCC-jack-kiely-40-merc-rob-ida-00The photos above are from 2009-10 when the was starting to take shape, but it started to really evolve in the autumn of 2014.
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The car will debut to the main public at the 2015 SEMA show in Las Vegas and will after that show go to California where it will hit a couple of shows till Feb 2016. But earlier this week the Ida Concept shop already had an open house party to celebrate the completion of this Mercury Spaceship Custom. We hope to be able to bring you a full CCC-Feature on the car in the near future. For now, you can enjoy how the car was built on the Forum Post, and if you plan to go to the SEMA show, have a lot of fun checking out the car.
 

CCC-ida-40-merc-finished-01Extremely beautiful body shaped come from the hand made rear fenders and completely reshaped three window top. The front fender skirts with the full length rocker trim add wonderful styling to the car.
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CCC-ida-40-merc-finished-03The trunk is wonderfully detailed with special designed and custom made suitcases. (photo by Dan Gillespie)
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CCC-ida-40-merc-finished-05Photos taken at the open house showing of the 1940 Mercury at the Rob Ida Concept shop.
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Barter Collection 40 Merc

 

BARTER COLLECTION 40 MERC

 

Jamie Barter recently added these four old photos of an 1940 Mercury Convertible Custom to his Collection.

 
Jamie Barter loves early style Hot Rod and Custom Car, and has been collecting old photos for many years. Fortunately for us, he loves to share these photos. He is not, like some collectors, keeping them in private files, but he scans the originals and shares them with as many people as possible. Just sharing the things he loves, knowing other people will enjoy them as much as he does, and sometimes to see if somebody else knows more about the subject of the photo. We have recently added a CCC-SECTION for Jamie’s Photo Collection and we will be sharing some more of his collection in the near future.
 
 
Lets take a closer look at the four photos Jamie recently added to his collection.
At first glance these photos have a very much late 1940’s feel, but when I took a closer look I noticed that the License plate on the Mercury was the 1952-55 Style. I could not make out the actual date from the scans so I asked Jamie if he could see it on the original photo. 1953! was his reply. Not really what we both expected, we both had the feeling it was more like 1948. So it appears that this Custom Mercury was already kind of outdated when these snapshots were taken.

So far we also have not been able to identify the car, it is a pretty “generic” Custom with no real details that set it apart from others making it rather hard to identify. The only two items I can see that might help are the 1940 Chevy taillights and the license plate protection bar. The padded top looks to be in a style that the Carson Top Shop was best known for, a little more boxy than what Gaylord or others would do. Most likely made on the special jig the Carson Shop was using for these tops. All the work looks to be done several prior to when these photos where taken, most likely in the mid 1940’s judging the style of the restyling.

CCC-jpb-1940-merc-convert-03This rear 3/4 view is my personal favorite since we cannot see that the hood is actual missing in this photo.
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CCC-jpb-1940-merc-convert-01The taillights used on the Mercury appear to originate from a 1940 Chevy, not a taillight that was used a lot. But they do look good. The license plate guard is another unit that is not seen a lot, and is one more thing that makes me believe this is an older custom. The 1937 DeSoto ribbed bumper is a classic touch, that suits any 1940 Mercury really well.
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CCC-jpb-1940-merc-convert-02The interior photo is sadly a bit blurry, but we still can make out the Ford accessory steering wheel, the Appleton Spotlight handles and a pretty plain upholstery, another indication that this is an older Custom. 
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CCC-jpb-1940-merc-convert-04The last photo, the front 3/4 shot shows that the car was driving around with no hood and no grille. We can only speculate why this was done. Perhaps the owner was a racer, perhaps the “old” engine was overheated a lot. We can see a two carb intake, and some chrome goodies on the engine. The left on door handles and the well used character are¬†more signs of the age of this Custom.
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Thank you Jamie for sharing these great photos with us, and hopefully somebody on the CCC will recognize the car, and can shed some more light on the history of it. We all would love to know more about it, who owned it originally, who restyled it, and where were the photos taken? If you know anything, please leave a comment, or email Rik.
 
 
 
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Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury part I

 

THE DICK PAGE STORIES

 

One of my all time favorite custom cars is the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury convertible. A car Jimmy built for himself as a daily drive in 1946. Jimmy drove his Mercury all over the place. Together with his good friend Doane Spencer, who drove his well known 1932 Ford Roadster, with modified DuVall windshield, Jimmy had done the body work on. These two cars must have turn many heads while driving together.



Jimmy Summers was a very talented body man. Besides that he had a great eye for flowing lines, and details as well; a rare combination. Jimmy did most of his custom work in the 1940’s, before the major magazines where around. Because of that, most of his cars were never “properly” published in the magazines back then. Dan Post did use photos of some of his cars, including this 1940 Mercury in his Californian Custom Cars, and his Blue book of Custom Restyling books. But we can clearly state that Jimmy never got the recognition he deserved back then.


CCC_Jimmy_Summers_Merc_Red_01This photo from the Summers family albums was taken in 1946, with Jimmy and his first wife standing in front of the Mercury. This great color photo shows the deep maroon color, and tan Carson Padded Top. It also shows that Jimmy used only white wall tires on the front. They were still rare, shortly after WWII. Hubcaps on this first version of the car are baby moons with trim rings.
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Fortunately for us, Summer’s amazing simple, and stylish 1940 Mercury is still among us. The car was believed to have disappear in South America, and only very few knew it still existed. The Rodder’s Journal did a one page article on the “discovery” of the car in an unknown US location with photos and text by Donn Lowe. Don was, at the time, working on the Harry Bradley designed 1940 Mercury “Afterglow”, that was inspired by Jimmy’s Mercury. Don had done a lot of research on Jimmy’s Merc, got in contact with his family, which ultimately led him to find out the car was still around. And best of all, not even too far from his Oregon home. Now we all know the car is in the safe hands of Dick Page.

Another great thing is that there are quite a few photos of the car, when it was first built – painted maroon, then later in metallic green. Some have been shown before in some publications, others have rarely been published, but will be shown here – and in the next two articles based around Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.


This series of articles is created together with the car owner Dick Page.
Dick Page was good fiends with the second owner of the car Tex Roberts. And Dick is sharing some of his amazing stories Tex shared with him about the car.



The Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury tales.

as told by Dick Page

USAF Col. J, F. “Tex” Roberts bought the 40 mercury from Jimmy Summers in 1950. Many years later Tex retired to Lakewood Washington bringing the famous Mercury with him, and that’s where I first met him.
The year was 1964, he walked into my custom body & paint shop and proceeded to tell me what I was doing wrong…! I liked him right away. Some will say he was a loud mouth bragger… and that’s true. He would denied it of course saying: “It ain’t bragg’n if it’s fact”. There were a lot of facts in his tool box.


CCC_Jimmy_Summers_Merc_Tex_01Tex Roberts with the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury somewhere in South America. This photo shows the Lyon aftermarket hubcaps on wide white wall tires all around. By now the car has been repainted 1947 Buick Green.
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Ever heard of a panhard rod to control side sway? They used to be called Roberts bars, after Tex developed them for early sprint cars. Tex was the smartest man I ever met, and the biggest character by far… He built the fastest drag race and stockcar motors in the area, and made sure everybody with ears knew it. He knew everybody, He called Stu Hilborne at home, and had him dig out the wood patterns from under a bench, and cast me a set of streetable injectors for my Ardun…see what I mean?
The first time I went to Tex’s home shop at the Lakewood country club, sitting next to a white primerd XK 120 Jag roadster (which I could care less about) I was shocked to find the Jimmy Summers, immediately recognizable, 1940 Mercury convertible, parked outside. Covered by a canvas tarp that was past its prime. Tex was just as shocked to find, that a twenty-two year old from Tacoma knew of the car, and some of its history.


CCC_Jimmy_Summers_Merc_Tex_02Another photo taken at the same location shows the wonderful shaped rear of the Mercury. All four fenders were raised when the body was dropped over the frame. Especially the way Jimmy remounted the rear fenders to follow the belt-line and trunk shows what a gifted craftsman and designer Jimmy was.
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The car had been changed some over the years. The headlights were frenched, the door handles removed, and all four fenders where molded to the body. Tex re-upholstered the car in black & white (himself) but that handmade grill was a dead giveaway. It was (’41 GM) ruby maroon for the second time. I was unaware that it had been (’47 Buick) Sherwood green when Tex bought it from Jimmy.
After buying the car, the USAF shipped it around the world, which led to rumors that the car was lost in So. America.
Tex told me that while in south America, he encountered a washed out section of dirt ‘road’.
He was able to obtain help from local men, who cut down small trees, made polls, and carried the car over the breach….wow!


CCC_Jimmy_Summers_Merc_Tex_03Another rear angle view shows the perfect fit and finish of this Mercury. Also interesting, is to see the car with the custom made side windows/frames in the up position.
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I think the later modifications on the car were done by Jimmy and Tex in late ’53, after he returned to California. Tex’s wife, who was a wonderful and supportive lady, told me of spending many hours at Jimmy’s shop, while Tex and Jimmy worked on the car, sometimes she would sit outside and knit baby clothes.

It always bothered me that this wonderful and historic car was sitting under a tarp, so when I was having a shop building put up at my home, and when it began to snow I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I called my friend Sonny Barrett, and asked him to meet me at Tex’s with his race car trailer, and we we told Tex the Merc was coming in from the cold! We placed the car in the center of the slab, and the shop was built around it.
I did some repairs on it where the tarp pitted the trunk lid. Tex installed a Columbia two speed rear end, and we did some other minor work. When Tex wanted me to trim away the lower edge of the body to install chrome side pipes from a van, I refused to alter the car and Tex took it home. We remained good friends. Tex was having some health problems, and I was going to his shop and doing some rough-out for his finish work on port & polish heads.
Tex stripped the car to bare metal avoiding the few leaded areas. He added the hooded mount on the trunk for his SCTA club plaque (the road runners I think). He also added the quad exhaust pipes in the rear pan.

CCC_Jimmy_Summers_Merc_Tex_05This photo was probably taken from the garage roof top and gives a nice view on the plain interior. It also shows the custom made dash inserts. The dash panels were made from light oak wood to go with the color of the rest of the interior.
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Then …Tex died…. Not wanting to act like a vulture, I waited awhile before asking to buy the Merc. When I went to visit his family the car was gone! sold!!
I was crushed. It took me years to find it. The owner was Jerry Jacobs in nearby Puyallup Wa. probably the nicest man on the planet. I traded a ’32 ford tub project (I had 31k in) straight across car for car. Jerry wanted me to work on the ’32, but I had major back problems off and on for ten years. (I had back surgery in 2010)
Jerry moved to Arizona, and I lost track of him for a few years. He came to see me in 2010, and wanted to undo the trade and take the Merc back with him to Arizona.
He wanted to have a Chevy motor./auto trans. installed, and a bright red paint job to make a nice cruzer for him and his wife to enjoy… I wanted to help him get a car to enjoy. I knew my good friend Larry Andren was taking his ’40 Ford to hot august nights the next day to sell.
I suggested Jerry should check out the ’40, and if he liked it, I would buy it for him and take back the ’32 tub project.
Thats what we did… Later Larry bought the ’32 from me.
Jerry Jacobs later sent me wonderful old 1947 to ’53 vintage 8×10 photos of the car, including one with my friend Tex. Those all came with the Mercury when he bought it after Tex had passed away. Some of these can be seen in this article, other will follow in part two which will go more about the car and how it was built.

Go to part two of the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.
Go to part three of the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.

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Gil Ayala at the 1951 Roadster Show

 

GIL AYALA AT THE 1951 ROADSTER SHOW

 

Lynn Ayala recently share some really great historic Custom Car¬†memorabilia¬†from her dad. Gil Ayala entered the¬†Ayala built¬†1940 Mercury at the 1951 National Roadster show in Oakland. Lynn’s mother went there with Gil and kept some souvenirs from that trip.



Gil Ayala’s Gil Auto Body Works at Olympic Blvd. in East Los Angeles has turned out a huge number of fantastic Custom Cars in the 1940’s and 1950’s and even long after that. Together with Harry Westergard, Jimmy Summers, Barris Kustoms and a few more they set the style in the early days of Customizing. Gil was never really much into promoting his work. His shop was relatively small, and he always had plenty of work. His advertising was the great work he did, and new customers would come in after seeing other clients Custom Cars. This is one of the reasons that there has not much been published about the Ayala Shop… at least not as much as for instance on the Barris Kustom Shop. It is also a reason why there are relatively few photos or other material left from the Ayala shop, or their cars.


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So each time we do find out more about the history of Gil and Al Ayala the Custom Car enthusiasts from all over the world get excited. The Ayala family has been sharing some great material with us and others over the past decade or so, and now Lynn Ayala is sharing more material. Lynn is actually working on something very special about the her father and the custom car world… It is not ready yet, but when the time comes it will be ready we sure will inform you about it here on the Custom Car Chronicle.


CCC-gil-ayala-40-merc-mt-portretGil’s 1940 Mercury from the cover of the November 1950 Motor Trend magazine. The car was painted jet-black at this point. Inset photo is Gil Ayala.
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CCC-gil-ayala-40-merc-oakland-09I found this old postcard of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay bridge online.
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CCC-gil-ayala-40-merc-coversGil’s 1940 Mercury appeared twice on the Motor Trend magazine cover. First time as finished in yet-black on the November 1950 cover, and still unfinished and in primer on the October 1951 cover.
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The memorabilia Lynn shared this time are some scrapbook samples of the trip Gil Ayala and his wife  took to the National Roadster Show in 1951. Gil showed the 1940 Mercury that he had originally built for himself, but later sold to Richard J. Stickley from Hollywood, California. They showed the car at the Oakland Exposition Building show for the new owner. And they did very well, winning the Customs class with the car. After Gil had sold his 1940 Mercury he repainted the car in Devil Maroon for the Richard J. Stickley.


Note from Lynn

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Not only did my mom keep EVERYTHING from being alongside my dad & all his automotive adventures…..
she wrote down details as well.

Sometimes actually on the souvenirs lol.

These are from the Oakland Roadster Show in 1951 (now the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona) where he took 1st place!

I love how she writes that they were at Bob’s Big Boy from 1am-2am after landing at Burbank Airport. She’s still so proud of him & so am I.

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CCC-gil-ayala-40-merc-oakland-01Gil Ayala’s Parking pass.¬†
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CCC-gil-ayala-40-merc-oakland-02Gil Ayala’s¬†door pass for the National Roadster show.
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CCC-gil-ayala-40-merc-oakland-03This is the backside of the Door Pass where Gil’s wife wrote: Oakland Roadster show – Oakland Exposition Bldg. Gil won 1st place with his 1940 Mercury (Devil Maroon) No. 406 2/24/26/ ’51 door Pass.
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CCC-gil-ayala-40-merc-oakland-05 CCC-gil-ayala-40-merc-oakland-04The¬†Bob’s Big Boy match book where Gil and his wife had lunch after landing at the Burbank airport, on their way home. ¬†1-am,¬†February¬†26, 1951 after landing at Burbank Airport.
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CCC-oakland-exposition-building-01Photo from the Exposition Building where the National Roadster show was held. This photo is not from 1951 though.
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CCC-gil-ayala-40-merc-oakland-07From Ron Brook’s Collection comes this scan of the 1951 National Roadster show program showing Gil’s 1940 Mercury.
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CCC-gil-ayala-40-merc-oakland-06The short description on the 1940 Mercury on the show program mentions that the dash was painted purple with cream, but not that the car was now painted “Devil Maroon” as we can read it in the note on the door pass.
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CCC-national-roadster-show-1951-articleHot Rod Mechanics article on the 1951 Oakland Roadster show, a small photo of Gil’s 1940 Mercury appeared in the article.
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CCC-gil-ayala-40-merc-oakland-11The photo used in the Hot Rod Mechanics article¬†is the only “good” photo we have been able to¬†find of Gil’s 1940 Mercury at the 1951 Nations Roadster show.
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CCC-gil-ayala-40-merc-oakland-08In one other overview photo we can also spot the No. 406, 1940 Mercury at the show. Sadly the photo is a bit blurry and pretty dark.
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CCC-gil-ayala-40-merc-oakland-12One more photo of the 1951 National Roadster show that shows Gil’s 1940 Mercury is this one focusing on the Sam Barris 1949 Mercury. Parked behind Sam’s Mercury is Gil’s car.
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Sadly Gil’s, or actually Richard J. Stickley’s 1940 Mercury¬†vanished after the 1951 National Roadster show. We have not been able to find any information about the car after it appeared in the 1951 show. If you know anything more about Gil’s old 1940 Mercury, what happened to it after 1951, or if it is still around today hiding away in a barn, or garage. Please let us know, Email Rik. We would love to find out what happened to the car.


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Sam Barris 1940 Mercury

 

SAM’S ’40 MERCURY

 

Sam Barris’ first full custom was this wonderfully restyled 1940 Mercury Convertible with Padded Top and Speed Boat stance.

 

CCC-Sam-Barris-1940-Merc-01We are not 100% sure this is actually Sam’s 1940 Mercury, but more than likely it is Sam’s car under construction in front of the Barris Compton Ave. shop. The windshield has been chopped, and the side trim shortened as well as the hood smoothed.The car had black wall tires, and used Calnevar white dress-up wheel covers (to simulate white wall tires). The padded top is still missing at this point.
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¬†CCC-Sam-Barris-Photo-Album-WThe photo on the left shows Sam’s Mercury completely finished, with black wall tires. Note that the car still had the antenna on the factory stock location, centered on top of the windshield divider. The car also uses a license plate on the front, mounted on top of the DeSoto Bumper. The photo on the right shows the car with white wall tires, the antenna was now gone, and the license plate looks to be mounted in front of the bumper now.
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After Sam Barris had left the Navy, he moved from Sacramento to Los Angeles, Southern California. There he joined his brother George Barris, together they started the Barris’s Custom Shop. (Later known as the Barris Kustoms).
One of the first full customs Sam would build for himself was based on a 1940 Mercury Convertible. Sam build the car around 1948, although there are some reports mentioning that the car was build in Sacrament, before Sam joined the Navy in 1942. Perhaps he already owned the car back in Sacramento, and had started to customize it then. But we believe the car was finished around 1948, at least in the version we show it here in this article.

This 1940 Mercury was Sam’s only car to get around with. So most likely it was customized over a longer period, doing the work in his spare time after shop hours and in the weekends.¬†Its not the first 1940 chopped Mercury convertible with a padded top. And most likely the Barris brothers had even done one or more similar to Sam’s for customers. But despite that or possibly because of that Sam’s 1940 Mercury came out absolutely perfect. The proportions on the car are absolutely perfect. The speed boat stance and the perfectly shaped padded top make this car look like its speeding while standing still.

CCC-Sam-Barris-1940-Merc-05This very poorly copied photo comes from the Johnny Zaro Collection. But since there are only very few photos of Sam’s 1940 Mercury left, ¬†we show it here anyway. This photo also shows the car with the license plate mounted on the front bumper. The antenna has now been installed on the drivers side front fender towards the back, on a slight rearward angle.
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Sam chopped the windshield just the right amount on the Merc. The windshield height combined with the height of the side windows, and padded top is dead on perfect. Sam shaved the door handles as well as the trunk handles. He also smoothed the hood and created a unique mechanism to open the hood with only the lower portion of the hood trim. The side trim on the hood was shortened several feet. To give more weight toward the rear of the car. The rear fenders were molded to the body. Extra metal shapes made sure the fenders are now smoothly blending into the main body. The taillights were removed, and the holes filled. The front fenders were also molded to the body.

The car was lowered more in the rear than in the front, creating a wonderful speed boat stance. The 1940 Ford/Mercury teardrop fender skirts increase this effect as well. Sam choose 1937 DeSoto ribbed bumpers to go on his Mercury. At that time it already was a classic custom trick. The ribbed bumpers worked perfectly with the ribbed single bar flippers which Sam installed. In some of the photos in this article we can see that Sam used black wall tires at first. But later he switched to white wall tires, which give the car even more class.

Sam installed one single motor cycle taillight on the drivers side of the rear bumper, just outside the bumper guard. There is at least one photo of Sam’s Mercury showing the rear bumper without the guards, and with two motor cycle taillights installed. Sadly we have no info which version was first, but most likely the singe taillight was done first, and perhaps to many Police stops might have decided Sam to install the second one.
Sam had the padded top made by the Carson Top Shop. The Carson Top shop is known for creating the top on standard jigs. Apparently the shop built different jigs for the most popular cars to come in for Carson Tops. We also know that the Carson Top’s are known to be more boxy that other padded tops. Most likely Sam insisted on a little more flow on his top, and perhaps it was build using one of the jigs. The top of Sam’s Mercury flows really nice, especially if you compare it to some other Carson Tops on 1939-40 Mercury’s.¬†¬†Perhaps the top was created by somebody else, and not by Carson as was mentioned in some other publications?

When all the work was done, Sam painted the car in a medium blue. Some documents, including some of the Barris books speaking about green paint on Sam’s mercury. But several old timers, who knew Sam from back in the late 1940’s, have confirmed Sam’s Mercury was indeed a wonderful medium blue.

CCC-Sam-Barris-1940-Merc-10Colorized by by Rik Hoving shows how the car could have looked like back in 1948. The photo was taken in front of the Barris Compton Avenue shop. The front license plate has now been removed. We can also see the wonderful flow of the padded top really good in this photo.
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CCC-Sam-Barris-1940-Merc-02The photo above shows that the car had unidentified bumper guards installed, and only one motorcycle taillight mounted on the drivers side next to the guard. Notice that the rear window had been taken out in this photo.
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CCC-Sam-Barris-1940-Merc-11This low-angle photo of Sam’s Mercury parked along side of the Compton Ave. Barris shop shows the perfect speed-boat stance of the car really well. The Barris brothers were experts in getting the right stance for their cars.
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CCC-Sam-Barris-1940-Merc-03This photo shows the car with two motorcycle taillights. The bumper guards are now removed, and the license plate is mounted behind the bumper.
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According the stories Sam did not have his finished Mercury all that long. The finished car drew quite a bit of attention, and when somebody offered him the right amount of money for it he decided to let it go, in order to be able to pay the bill’s.¬†Sam did not keep track what ever happened with the car after he sold it. It might still be around today. There are some rumors the car is found, and currently being restored. So far the remains of this car, which is an early custom 1940 Mercury, have not been identified for the full 100%. Sam’s car was very nicely done, but there were a lot more cars with very similar body modifications, so it will be very hard to positively identify.¬†Lets keep our fingers crossed and we see a restored Sam barris 1940 Mercury convertible on the roads once again.



Reference and more info

  • Hop Up magazine,¬†May 1953
  • Barris Kustom Techniques of the 50’s¬†Volume 3

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The Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury part III

 

SUMMERS MERC CURRENT CONDITION

 

This is the third and last part of the series on the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury. In this last article we will show you how the car looked when Dick Page acquired it, and how it looks today, October, 2013.
With special thanks to Dick Page for all his help on these three articles.


By Dick Page


CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-12This photo of the black primered Mercury, sitting on jack stands, was taken in Jerry’s warehouse on the day Dick Page bought it, and took it home. This photo shows the fiberglass 1940 fender skirts that were put on the car by Jerry. The original Buick units were missing. If you look carefully, you can see the double exhausts exiting from the bottom of the roll pan.
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In part one of this series, we told you about a 22 year old Dick Page seeing the Jimmy Summers Mercury for the first time in his live, at Tex Roberts house in 1964. Dick Page was shocked. Such an important car, sitting outside under a tarp, instead of safely sitting in a warm garage, not affected by the elements. Right there Dick decided to transport the Mercury to his brand new garage, thus making sure the car would be saved for the future.

When Dick Page first saw that Mercury it appeared to have the same look as he knew from several publications. But upon close inspection he noticed all the extra work that was done by Jimmy Summers in 1953 and in later years by Tex Roberts. The changes from the version we are familiar with, included molded fenders, molded in headlights. Molded in and smoothed hood peak, trunk mounted club plaque surround which was molded in, shaved door handles, and a few other changes. All this work was done with excellent craftsmanship in metal and lead, and can be considered as just mild updates from the original 1946 version. But for the restoration Dick decided that the car should go back to this 1946 version. So these extra elements will have to go.

Dick Page took the Jimmy Summers Mercury home in 1970. At the time he was building his new home shop, and the car was parked in it to ensure it was save, dry, and well protected. During the mid 1970’s, Tex Roberts came and picked up the Mercury several times. He would work on the car in his own race car shop. Each time he was done with the car, he brought it back to Dick Page. Until the car left the car for the very last time.¬†Tex wanted to add the Columbia two speed rear, and add all new brake lines. But Tex passed away while the car was in his shop. ¬†And once again the Mercury was left in his shop. It was still in black primer guide coat when it was bought by Jerry Jacobs. As far as Dick can tell Jerry never worked on the car, or had work done on it by somebody else.


CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-13Over the years, several custom car fans have searched for the Jimmy Summers Mercury, hoping they would find a lead that will end up in finding this custom car icon. This half page article, trying to generate leads that would lead to find the car, was ran in an early 1980’s rod magazine. Dick Page saw the ad, but never told the people looking for it, the car was sitting in his basement in relatively perfect condition.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-RC-PosterIn August 1990 Rod & Custom magazine listed their Top 20 all-time Rods & Customs in a large centerfold poster. The list was conducted by Pat Ganahl, and the number one custom car on the list was…. the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury. On the poster Jimmy’s Mercury was positioned below the Doane Spencer 1932 Ford… Close together like the real cars were a lot in the 1940’s.
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The whereabouts of the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury, have always been a kind of ‘Worlds Best Held Secret’, for many decades. Few insiders knew the car was still around, and in relatively good condition. Even less people knew who owned the car, or in which state it was. But the insiders were asked not to talk about it, until the time was right.

The time was right in 2005, when the Rodder’s Journal did a one page article on the Jimmy Summers Mercury in issue #28. The article included photos that Donn Lowe had taken at Dick Pages basement, while researching the Summers Mercury for a project he was working on. Pat Ganahl was responsible for the story. This was the first time the public could read about the car, and how it had survived. It however did not tell the current owners name.

CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-TRJThe one page article in the Rodder’s Journals #28.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-11Another photo taken in Jerry’s warehouse the day Dick picked it up.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-01 The Mercury was temporary stored at Dick’s friend¬†Denny Halls place when this photo was taken. The Carson top structure is all there, but the original padding is long gone. This photo shows the reshaped rear wheel openings.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-N-04This photo shows the molded in front and rear fenders, as well as the shaved door handles.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-N-02The two photos above give us a better look at the original top bows and wire mesh created by the Carson Top Shop.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-N-05The photo above shows the raised floor, the reshaped inner fender panels that made sure there was enough travel room for the rear wheels and the inboard gas filler. The photo also gives us a nice look at the front of the top.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-07The molded in club plaque surround, and two holes drilled into the trunk for mounting the plaque.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-10Here we can see the amount the body was dropped over the frame.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-03The black primer was removed from the front fenders/headlight section to take a closer look at how the headlights were molded in back in 1953.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-04Inside the headlight Dick found some old paint. The dark blue paint is actual black primer, on top of that several coats of the second time the car was painted ruby maroon.  When Dick saw the car the first time the car was in white primer which can also be seen here.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-05Dick had some help removing the molded in headlights.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-06The back side reveals a round shaped tube and hand shaped sheet metal to fill the large hole on the original fender opening.
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CCC-J-Summers-40Merc-P3-N-03Work in progress. Removing the lead from the molded headlights, as well as the molded in and smoothed hood peak to get all this to 1946 specs. Notice how nice the hand made grille opening is finished. And if you look good you can see the high position of the frame rails on the right of the grille opening. This photo also shows that the bumper mounts on the frame needed to be lowered to make them line up with the holes in the fenders.
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Different paint colors on the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury

  • 1946 Jimmy Summers build the car and paints it 1941 GM Ruby Maroon
  • 1947 Jimmy repainted the car in Sherwood Green a 1947 Buick color
  • 1953 Jimmy updated the car for Tex Roberts. Most likely he repainted it in Ruby Maroon again that time
  • We know the car was maroon for a secant time, but the exact year it was repainted is unsure.
  • Tex Roberts stripped the car back to bare metal and added white primer to protect the body metal from the elements. Not sure when this was done, but by 1964, when Dick saw it for the first time the car was in primer.
  • Early 1970’s Dick paints the car in black primer, which is still on the car today.

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Go to part one of the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.
Go to part two of the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.


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Sources and more info:

  • Dan Post Blue book of Custom Restyling
  • Popular Mechanics, May 1947
  • Rod & Custom magazine, August 1990
  • The Rodder’s Journal, Issue #28

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The Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury part II

 

THE SUMMERS MERC IN DETAIL

 

This is the second part of the three part series on the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury. In this article we will focus on the car a little more. Dick Page has owned the Summers Mercury for many years now, he knows the car probably better than anybody else. In this series of articles he is sharing as much material as he could find or remember.


By Dick Page


CCC-Summers-Merc-Color-KW-01-WThis unique color slide of the first version of the Jimmy Summers Mercury is part of the Kevin Wright Collection. This photo was taken in 1946, and shows the first moon disk hubcaps on painted steel wheels.
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The Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury Convertible is one of the most beautiful custom cars ever designed, and constructed. The car is so simple in its appearance, yet there is a lot of little body work done to enable this car to look so good. The proportions of the chopped windshield, the sectioned hood, and raised fenders are all in perfect balanced. All these elements give the car that much desired Long and Low look, the car designers of the 1930’s and 40’s where after. The removal of the running boards and the addition of the stainless rock shield on the rear fenders, give this car the look and feel of the coach built, or European sports cars from the late 1930’s and mid 1940’s.

The body was channeled six inches over the frame, and the rear inner wheel tubs were widened to prevent tire rub on rough roads. All four fenders were raised on the body. The top of the rear fenders were raised up to the lower edge of the trunk lid, resulting into a nice flow into the belt line. The front fenders were raised 2 3/4 inches, so the bottom of the fenders are now at the same level as the bottom of the rest of the body. The front fender wheel openings were enlarged 1 1/2 inches for tire clearance on sharp turns. All four wheel openings were edged inside with 3/4 inch tubing. In the front this tubing extended to the other side fender, crossing under the grill. This stiffens and adds support to the front fenders which were leaded to the re-shaped cowl.

The fender skirts are ’41 Buick not “tear drop”. The Buick skirt followed the shape of the Mercury fenders perfectly. Under the skirts the rear wheel openings were slightly enlarged to ease tire changes.

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The hood was trimmed (but not sectioned) taking 3 inches off the bottom edge. The lower edge was then folded over with hammer ‘n dolly, for a finished edge. All the work here was metal finished, no lead was used here.

Jimmy decided to remove the stainless side trim, since it would not fit in its stock location over the rear fenders, after those were raised. He would have to shorten the side trim to make them work on the reshaped body, and that would not have improved the long and low look at all. However Jimmy kept the art deco styled Mercury handles, and locks on the doors. These give the car just the right amount of chrome to keep the sites interesting for the eye.


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Brackets with offset holes allowed the ’41 Lincoln bumper to mount in the stock holes in the front fenders. The rear bumper is also a 1941 Lincoln unit, but with a custom made center that contains the license plate, flanked by ’41 Ford tail lights.
The grill is roughly shaped after a 1940 Buick grille, all done by hand, and made of 1 inch wide, 1/4 inch thick steel strap. Once the grille was all welded, the welds were ground filed, and sanded smooth before the whole units was chrome plated.
The windshield is chopped 2 1/2 inches and the Carson Top Shop created the Padded Top which they covered it tan, That specific colour harmonized much better with the maroon paint job.


CCC-Summers-Merc-BW-DP-07-WSadly, we only have this one, rather poor, photo showing the interior of Jimmy’s 1940 Mercury. It does show the door upholstery pattern, as well as the very heavy stuffed front section of the seat bottom.
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The interior of this beautiful car was as special as the rest of the car. The top covered in tan Hartz fine grain canvas, had a dark brown broadcloth headliner to match the dark brown carpet trimmed in light brown edging. The late Doane Spencer told Dick Page about the leather interior. It was done by a Russian craftsman they called “laddie” (short for Vladimir, Dick thinks) Doane said they would go to his place, were the sinks would be filled with skins soaking for a project.

Laddie was located in Hollywood,and according to Doane Spencer, he did the finest leather work on the best cars in the ’40’s . Laddie upholstered cars for movie stars, coach-, custom- and hot rod builders of those day. The pleats on the hand-made plywood seat bases, were liberally stuffed for comfort, an extra-large roll under the knees, and at the neck, insured pleasure for all. Even for the six foot Jimmy Summers. The setback of the seats provided good leg room for driver, and front seat passenger. The thin front seat backs, also made from plywood, gave extra leg and knee room for the rear seat passengers.

As you would expect, the door panels were very different from stock also. The top portion was flat leather, normal for those days, but the center panel was stitched in un-padded pleats in a curving design, that started above the window crank handle, and dropped away to about 6 inches above the lower carpeted kick panel that fits to, and makes a seal against the carpeted panel, that covers the frame sides, and reduces road noise and drafts.

The dash had light oak wood panels on the glove box door, center and far left dash end. All door and window garnish-mouldings were chrome plated.

CCC-Summers-Merc-BW-DP-03-WCCC-Summers-Merc-BW-DP-04-WJimmy showing the rear bumper center, which he hand made to fit the 1941 Lincoln bumper ends. The shaped round bar follows the shape of the license plate, and next to the plate we can see the 1941 Ford taillights. Also very interesting in this photo, is that apparently Jimmy Summers had a name tag that he added to this, and possibly other cars he built. If you look carefully on the bottom of the trunk on the right side, behind the right bumper guard, you can read the letters “MMERS” in a fancy Art Deco font. This name tag can be seen in a few other photos as well, but none of the others show it this well.
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When Jimmy Summers built this car he had an every day driver in mind. Powered by a strong running Mercury V8, it was no sled, and certainly not a lead sled, as very little lead was used in its construction. Absolutely nothing was done to reduce ride, handling or drivability. Ground clearance of the car is rather good, as the running gear is still at factory height from the road.
Doane Spencer and Jimmy used to take long distance trips in this car, frequently joined by Spencer’s 1932 Ford Roadster. They would stop at Ford dealerships when money got low, Jimmy would do body work and Doane mechanical work for a week to raise some money, and then the went on the road again.

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Over the years, the car has undergone many small changes, which helps identify when various photos were taken. The first hubcaps were the true “baby moons”, they were more pointed than today’s. The second set of hubcaps were a set of much flatter 1940 Ford hubcaps with the Ford letters removed, and flipper bars added. The third set of hubcaps where Lyon’s aftermarket caps. These Lyon’s were put on the car after Jimmy painted it green

The radio antenna also made its appearance in ’47, when the car was painted ’47 Buick Sherwood Green.
The car under went more changes in ’53 – including frenched headlights, set in license plate at the rear and molded hood center piece – All work done by Jimmy Summers. The car was then painted Ruby Maroon for the second time.


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Dick Page tells: “in the late 50’s, Tex Roberts had Jimmy remove the interior door handles, and install those Hugh 6 volt GM starter solenoids. Tex had also installed a new black and white interior, and did not retain inside door handles. One fine day Tex, and his wife Herta on their way to dinner, dressed in their Sunday best in the parking lot of the officers club when… you guessed it, the relays or something went on strike… Well, Tex could never fit through the chopped side windows, Herta could …but not in a dress. So the rear zip-out back window flap of the Carson top was pressed into service. First Tex squeezed out, then caught Herta as she slid down the trunk lid. She made sure he installed emergency pull- cables for door latches starting the very next day.”


Sadly the Tex Roberts scrap book which hold a tremendous treasure of photos, and information on the car is lost.

CCC-Summers-Merc-BW-DP-09-WThis nice photo from 1947 shows Jimmy’s Mercury sitting next to a stock 1940 Mercury Convertible. What a huge difference.
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Go to part one of the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.
Go to part three of the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.

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The Mark Murray Collection: Buddy Ohanesian Mercury

WESTERGARD BERTOLUCCI MERCURY ON THE SALT

We have been sharing some fine examples of the Mark Murray Collection before. This time you can see four snapshots taken most likely at an early 1950’s Bonneville event. The exact year is unknown, since no dates were printed on the photos, but our guess is 1951.

Mark’s amazing collection of photos used to belong to his grandfather, who took photos of the cars he saw on the street and at some car shows and car lots and races, while he lived in Long Beach Ca in the 1940‚Ä≤s and 1950‚Ä≤s. The car in all four photos is the Buddy Ohanesian 1940 Mercury, built by Harry Westergard and Dick Bertolucci. This custom car is seen by many as one of the best, if not THE best custom car ever built. The snapshot taken by Mark’s grandfather, shows the car parked in the spectator area behind the cord.

It really is amazing to see the car sits so low, knowing that they had to drive at least a day to get from Sacramento where Harold “Buddy” Ohanesian lived, to the Salt Flats. The photos show the car in the early Bertolucci version with the motor cycle taillights and the painted but still separated headlights. So we know these are taken prior the 1952 Bertolucci updates which included 1947 Ford taillights into custom made tops and molded in headlights among other things. We will save all the gorgeous details on the Ohanesian Mercury for an planned in depth article.

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