Cliff Rackohn 1948 Mercury

 

RACKOHN 1948 Mercury

 

One of the more elegnat Customs to roll from the Barris Kustom Shop in during its hay days was the 1948 Mercury Restyled for Cliff Rackohn.



Before we start about this beautiful Barris Restyled Mercury I want to mention a few things about the name and the year of the car. In the Barris Kustom Techniques of the 1950’s Volume 2, the name of the owner of this Mercury is spelled Cliff Rockohn and the year of the Mercury is marked at 1947. In the April 1951 issue of Motor Trend Magazine, as well as the Trend book Custom Cars #101, there is a different spelling of the name Cliff Rackohn, in both the small article as well as in the For Sale ad, and the car is labeled as an 1948 model. I will keep the 1951 Motor Trend spelling of the name, as well as the year for the car to be the most accurate.

’48 Mercury Coupe restyled by the Barris brothers for owner Cliff Rackohn from South Los Angeles. This Mercury is one of the late 40’s, perhaps early 1950’s restyled cars at the Barris Shop that had its fair share of publicity, and one that survived on the Custom Car scene longer then most others created during the same period. Yet, the Mercury is not often mentioned in the more recent Custom Car publications.





So far I have not been able to find a date on when Cliff’s Mercury was first created. The first time it was published was in the Motor Trend issue from April in 1951. Meaning that the car had to be finished around two month prior, February ’51. Around this period the Barris Shop was extremely prolific and a lot of cars were created at the shop. Some were very well documents, others, like Cliff’s ’48, was not. A few elements, like all the molded body panels, the bumper guard taillight and most of all the not rounded top corners of the trunk and rear fenders indicate that the car might have been mostly built around 1948-49. After that it was more common to round off sharp corners.

Cliff was a member of the Kustom’s Los Angeles. This frontal photo shows the beautiful peak on the hood extending all the way down to the grille and how extremely well and elegant the ’48 Cadillac grille looked on this Mercury.
[divider]


The overall lines, the perfect speed-boat stance and wonderful long hood make this ’48 Mercury one very elegant Customs.
[divider]



The Barris shop created many ’41-48 Ford based Customs, but relatively few same year Mercury based Customs. And that while, as Cliff’s car clearly illustrates, the three inch longer front end of the Mercury’s lend themselves to the perfect tail-dragging Custom. the long nose does not only give the impression of having a more powerful motor, but the proportions, especially with a heavy chop, really benefit from the longer front end. How much the top was chopped is hard to tell, like usual the early publications were often far from accurate with their tech info. And numbers were often exaggerated to make the cars looks even more special.

According the Barris Technique book Cliff’s Mercury was chopped 4 inches in the front and 8 inches in the rear. MotorSport magazine and Trend Books Custom Cars #101¬† mention 6″ and 8″ and Car Craft magazine a full 8 inches. The chop is pretty heavy on the car, but 6 inch removed from the front might seem to be a little to much. But the difference from to more in the back does sound more accurate than the 4 inches difference from the Barris Book.

The chop on Cliff’s is beautifully proportioned, and reminds me a lot about he chop Sam Barris would later perform on Jerry Quesnel’s ’49 Mercury. With its distinctive forward rake on the B- Pillars and super smooth C-Pillars. Clearly an experiment by the Barris brothers who usually kept the B-pillars straight on their chops. The shape of the door frame and roof shape on Cliff’s Mercury remind me of some of the super smooth and flowing padded tops coming out of the Bill Gaylord shop. But just as on the Quesnell Merc, the rear quarter window front corners seem to have some trouble finding the right direction when looked at from certain angles. But I have to say that the forward pillars sure help with the speed-boat look, and make it look going fast, standing still.

Notice the mud-flap below the front fender.
[divider]


In 1951 Cliff entered his ’48 Mercury at the Montebello tent show. Together with Jack Stewart’s ’41 Ford, Jesse Lopez. 41 Ford, Nick Matranga 1940 Mercury, Snooky Janish 1941 Ford, Gil Ayala 1942 Ford and a fee more not in this photo the car formed the Custom Section at this unique show.
[divider]



Typical for the late 1940\s early 1950’s the Barris Brothers removed the running boards, and the door skin was extended down. The rear quarter panels was treated the same way. All four fenders were welded to the body, and the seam smoothed with lead for that desirable one piece look. The very busy stock Mercury grille was removed and the body panels reshaped for a much cleaner front. A more elegant and more expensive looking ’48 Cadillac grille was chosen to fit the new smoother front ,and it turned out to be the perfect look for the Mercury. The lower section of the front, which is separate on the 46-48 Mercury’s was molded to the new front end along with the splash pan. The front of the hood was extended down into the new section above the Cadillac grille and the Mercury peak on top of the hood was reshaped at the front to end in a point just above the Cadillac grille, making it look like the peak flows into the center vertical grille bar. This all leads to one of the best custom front-end designs created by the Barris Shop.

There was a small feature on the Mercury in the April 1951 issue of Motor Trend Magazine, showing two photos, including one with Cliff posing with the car.
[divider]


A closer look at the Motor Trend 1951 photos. A well dressed Cliff posing with his fantastic looking ’48 Mercury.
[divider]


And taken at the same location this nice higher point of view 3/4 look at the Mercury. Very nice angle photo showing the car in all its beauty.
[divider]



The headlight rings were molded into the front fenders for a smooth look and the headlights very slightly recessed. The door handles and all emblems were shaved and the side trim shortened on the hood, which was a typical Barris Trademark. At the back the splash-pan was molded to the body, just as on the front, and the taillights plus fender trim was shaved and all holes filled. The bumpers remained the stock units front and rear. But at the rear the Barris crew modified the bumper guards to accept some hand made laminated Lucite taillights. The finishing touch was a set of long 1941 FoMoCo fender skirts, a set of Appleton Spotlights, Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps on wide wall tires (6.00:16 ).

The information from the interior comes from the Motorsports magazine. The front seat was pirated from an 1942 Chevy, allowing to be seated 3 inches lower than stock, which was very welcome with the much lower top. The interior was upholstered in tan cowhide pleated and rolled. The headliner was done in grey imported English wool, and the floormat was made of deeply-piled green rug, which matched the lacquer dash trim. Which makes me wonder if the original color of the Mercury was perhaps green when Cliff Rackohn original owned it?

The car was offered for sale in the same April 1951 issue of Motor Trend magazine. The $6000 invested in the car to built is was a lot of money back then. Notice the spelling of the name Cliff Rackohn. Perhaps Cliff had signed up to go to the War in korea… like so many other guys in the Kustoms Los Angeles Club. Hopefully one day we will know.
[divider]




New owner in 1952

In the January 1952 issue of Motorsport magazine There was a two page + feature on the Mercury. According the article the car was then owned by Dave Clickman of Southern California. According the article the the car was chopped 6″ in the front and 8″ in the rear with new sheet metal added from the top of the trunk to the bottom of the rear window, creating a smooth transition. The frame was z-ed in the back and the front was dropped with a 2.5 inch dropped front end. The article also mentioned that the hood was chopped 5 inches, which would technically be a section job, but that is clearly not the car on this Mercury. And that all body panels are molded together and leaded to form one smooth body. It also mentioned that the skirts used once belonged to a ’48 Buick, another false “fact” since the skirts are ’41 Ford Mercury units.

The article mentioned that the car was painted 25 coats of Arctic Blue lacquer by Gram Brothers of West Los Angeles. The engine was rebuild by Ray Brown, a famous Hot Rodder. The Cylinders were bored to 3 5-16″ and a 1950 Mercury crankshaft of 4″ stroke was employed. The 275 Cubic Inch engine utilizes Jahns 3=ring racing pistons with high domes.¬† It had Edelbrock heads two carb intake with two 48 Stromberg carburetors.

January 1952 issue of Motorsport magazine. Scans provided by Jamie Barter.
[divider]


Beautiful rear 3/4 view from a higher point of view shows how gorgeous this Mercury was. From this angle the top works the best. The sharp top corners of the trunk might indicate that the majority of the work was already done on the car around 1948-49.
[divider]


The interior was done by Bill Gaylord in a tan colored leather, green carpets.
[divider]


This photo shows that by the time Dave Glickman owned the car the rear has been raised a few inches.
[divider]


This photo shows the bumper guard mounted taillights a bit better.
[divider]


When Dave Cickman owned the car the car ran 3T 609 1951 California plates.
[divider]


Dave drove the Ray Brown rebuilt flathead engine to a best time of 87.70. Not bad for a heavy leadsled.
[divider]


Third owner

In the August 1955 issue of Car Craft Magazine the Mercury was featured again. This time the car was even more on a forward rake, and the fender skirts have been removed. The owner by then was listed as John Logg of Hollywood, and the Mercury described as a 1947 year model. By now the car was dark maroon, and there is some color movie footage of the car at the 1957 Coachman Car Club high-Shool car show. After this we have not been able to find info on the car. Where it went, or what ever happened to it. If you know more, please let us know.

The Mercury was owned by John Logg when it was featured in the August 1955 issue of Car Craft Magazine. By then the rear had been raised, and the fender skirts removed for a completely new look.
[divider]


John Logg was a member of the “Streaking Deacons” and used their club tag on the front bumper.
[divider]

Screen shot of a color 8mm movie made at the Coachman Car Club Motorcade Car show in 1957. The footage was filmed by Bob Stephenson who was Coachman Club member, and it is so far the only color images we have of the car. By then it was painted a dark maroon.
[divider]


This was a slowly moving from left to right shot so thee screen shot was rather blurry. But still very interesting to see that the car was shown with its hood up, showing off the Ray Brown Flathead engine.
[divider]


So far this has been the last photo I have been able to find on the Rackohn Mercury. The car looks still very much like the original version, only it has a different stance, and by now the Sombrero hubcaps have been replaced by some more modern hubcaps 9possibly Olds Fiesta hubcapa. This photo was used in the Trend Book #143 Restyle your car published in 1957.
[divider]


(This article is made possible by)

ccc-sponsor-ad-customs-by-flash-w


[divider]


CCC-sponsor-ad-vintage-kustoms-01


[divider]




.

0

Bertolucci 1948 Mercury

 

BERTOLUCCI 1948 MERCURY

 

Jim Roten’s photos of his friend’s Ron Zimmerman’s 1948 Mercury identified as the Dick Bertolucci built Johnny Lehman 1948 Mercury.



In 2008 I came across the amazing Jim Roten Photo Collection. A collection of mostly mid to late 1950’s custom Car photos. Amongst all these photos there where a couple of photos that looked to be older. Three of them showed¬†an¬†1946-48 Mercury convertible with padded top in a typical late 1940’s or early 1950’s style. At the time I tried to get in touch with Jim, to ask him about his amazing photo collection, but in particular the photos of this 1946 Mercury.¬†Other than Jim giving me permission to ad his collection to the Custom Car Photo Archive Jim did not really mention much about his collection.

It is now 2014, and I have been in conatact with Jim, with the help of his son Mike. And Jim is sharing a lot of information about the photos he took in the 1950’s,¬†as well as other great stories from way back when. So I asked Jim about the story behind the 1946-48 Mercury in his collection. It turned out that the Mercury convertible belonge to a close¬†friend of Jim’s, Ron Zimmerman. Ron¬†bought the car in 1954.¬†And¬†perhaps even more important was the fact that Jim mentioned that Ron had never been able to find out much more on the cars history, other than that it was build by Dick Bertolicci in the late 1940’s.

CCC-johnny-Lehman-48-merc-bertolucci-01A young Dick Bertolucci in 1949 in front of his shop with the in progress 1948 Mercury owned by Johnny Lehman. (Photo courtesy of Garage Magazine)
[divider]




Johnny Lehman

I already had created a list of cars and builders that could help me identify this Mercury several years earlyer, and one of the cars on this list was Johnny Lehman’s 1948 Mercury build by Dick Bertolucci. Not having enough info or photos to make a positive identification back the, the new information provided by Jim, directly from the 1954 owner Ron Zimmerman gave me enough input to be able to finally do a positive ID on the three photos in the Jim Roten Collection.

The Mercury was build in 1949 by Dick Bertolucci for owner Johnny Lehman and was shows in the early 1950’s Sacramento area as well as being used on the roads as Johnny regular ride. This story on the CCC is not complete, since we have been unable to find much info on the car before and after Ron owned it. But we hope this article will help find some more info on this cars early years, as well as what happened to it after Ron Zimmerman sold it. If any of the readers knows anything more about this car,¬†please let us know, we would love to add your story to the article.

CCC-johnny-Lehman-48-merc-bertolucci-03Johnny’s Mercury at an early 1950’s Sacramento Car Dealer show. 1949 Mercury bumpers and taillights were used to update the 1948 Mercury. They work really well on the car.¬†(Photo courtesy of the¬†Don Montgomery books)
[divider]


CCC-johnny-Lehman-48-merc-bertolucci-02The Bertolucci 1948 Mercury¬†the same early 1950’s Sacramento show as above.¬†(Photo courtesy of the¬†Don Montgomery books)
[divider]


CCC-johnny-Lehman-48-merc-bertolucci-04Most likely the padded top was produced by Hall in Oakland. A lot of Nor Cal Custom used Hall for their padded tops. (Photo courtesy of Garage Magazine)
[divider]




The Ron Zimmerman years

Ron¬†Zimmerman now lives in¬†Shingletown, in the northeast of Weed, California. He was 18 years old when he purchased the Bertolucci 1948 Mercury in finished condition in 1954. Ron and Jim Roten were¬†seniors at Chico High School.¬†Ron bought the car for a¬†man by the name of Smiley, from Sacramento, Ca.¬†At this time we are not sure if Smiley and Johnny Lehman are the same person, perhaps they are, perhaps Smiley was already a new owner after Johnny. Smiley did mention when Ron bought the car that the car was originally¬†built by Bertolucci in Sacramento in the late 1940’s.

CCC-ron-zimmerman-bertolucci-roten-01Jim took the three photos of Ron’s Mercury in front of Ron’s¬†house in Chico, California in 1955. Sadly the photos have been faded and cracked badly, but we still can see the super straight body work and perfect reflections.
[divider]


CCC-ron-zimmerman-bertolucci-roten-02The headlights were frenched, the¬†fenders molded to the body and the windshield was chopped mildly. The lowered stance was absolutely perfect and the wide white wall tires, Cadillac Sombrero’s and Appleton Spotlights are all so perfect for the time the car was originally build.¬†
[divider]



According to Jim and Ron, the workmanship on that car was spectacular. Bertolucci had chopped the windshield, molded in the fenders front and rear nosed the hood and decked the trunk, lowered the car all around. The fender trim pieces were removed and all holes filled and at the front the parking lights were removed for a much cleaner look. Dick also molded the headlights rings to the fenders, installed 1949 Mercury taillights and modified a set of 1949 Mercury bumpers to fit the 1948 Mercury. The 1949 Mercury bumpers wrap around the fenders more than the original bumpers giving the cr a much more modern look.

The bodywork was arrow straight.¬†it was¬†finished in flawless black lacquer.¬†The interior was done in red and white naugahyde with dark red carpets. The dash was chromed as were the garnish rails.¬†The car¬†had a perfect stance…. and the just “right look”.¬†It had a 3/4 race Mercury 59AB flat head engine with three carburetors, a hot cam, aluminum heads, and headers.¬†According to Jim Ron’s¬†1948 Mercury was an absolutely stunning car. One of¬†Jim’s¬†all-time favorites. Ron drove it as regular transportation for a year or two before¬†trading it for a 1954 Ford Sunliner in late 1955.


CCC-ron-zimmerman-bertolucci-roten-03Sadly this photo is really badly weathered, but we can see the great stance of the car. The 1949 Mercury bumpers are a perfect touch for the car. 
[divider]

Ron has no idea what ever happened to his 1948 Mercury, and if it has survived all these years, or is long gone. Jim Roten mentioned that Ron’s ’48 Mercury went through several owners after Ron traded it. These new owners seriously abused the car. The last time Jim saw the Mercury was in 1958. By then, the car was in a very sad state of disrepair. If you have any more info on this car, please let us know.

Ross has been digging thru numerous old year books and is sharing all the car pictures he can find. Some photos, and memories in those books are really amazing. He found this photo of the old Bertolucci Mercury in the 1956 Chico High yearbook. The photo caption in the year book mentioned that the new owners of the Mercury had abused the Bertolucci car and you can see that in the yearbook shot it has a primed repair spot. It surely shows the beginning of the deterioration. Sad… Hopefully it surveilled. (Thanks for digging these up and sharing them Ross.)
[divider]




(This article is made possible by)




CCC-sponsor-ad-kustoms-illustrated-2016-01


[divider]




.

0