Bob Lund 50 Mercury

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BOB LUND 50 MERCURY

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The Bob Lund 1950 Mercury convertible easily fits on the list of some of the best restyled Barris Customs ever created. It sadly never received this recognition in the magazines back in the day.

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Original article from September 10, 2016, updates October 17, 2019

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Bob Lund took his 1950 Mercury convertible to the Barris Kustoms Shop in Lynwood, California. This was in early 1953, at the time when the Barris Kustom Shop was perhaps the most prolific. The team at Barris created a stunning, very elegant and well balanced Custom for Bob. A car very typical for the time it was created, with a lot of never before used parts mixed with some elements that had proven to work well on previous restyled cars. Bob Lund’s Mercury never received much magazine publicity, until George Barris used several in progress and finished photos of the car in his Barris Kustom Techniques of the 50’s book number 3. These photos showed that the Barris restyled Mercury was one the same level with some of the best known Barris Customs, that did make it in the magazines back then. For unknown reasons Bob Lund’s Mercury was never featured, even though the Custom Car magazines were really blooming around the time the car was finished.

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Factory stock 1950 Mercury convertible, similar to what Bob Lund took to the Barris Kustoms Shop in early 1953.

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Judging the early stage photos were Frank Sonzogni is working on the grille, it looks like Bob’s Mercury might have been done as a milder version first, or perhaps it was just a primer stage. I have not been able to find a photo or info to shed more light on this. The stock headlights were replaced with 1952 Ford/Mercury units that were fenched into the smoothed front fenders.

The windshield of Bob’s Mercury was chopped, but only mildly, 2, perhaps 3 inches. All emblems were shaved of the car, and the door handles were removed and electrical solenoids with door poppers installed. The hood had its front corners rounded, and the top grille bar was welded to the fenders. At a later stage a second top grille surround was cut down, and installed on the splash-pan flipped upside down, to create a nice oval shaped grille opening. A new custom grille was created from 1951 Frazer horizontal bars with integrated parking lights, and three 1951 DeSoto grille teeth were installed behind the new lower grille surround. The bottom section of the DeSoto teeth was hidden from sight by the lower grille surround. The grille created for the Mercury was nearly identical to the one the Barris shop created earlier for Dan Landon’s 1949 Chevy Coupe. Barris also rounded the bottom corner of the back side of the hood, a very subtle touch hat helped with the flow of the car.

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Barris Shop employee Frank Sonzogni is mocking up one of the 1951 Frazer grille bars for the grille on Bob Lund’s 1950 Mercury. This early stage photo shows that the headlights have been frenched, the hood shaved and corners rounded and the splash pan molded to the fenders. The stock side trim was removed. Its unsure of the windshield already has been chopped in this photo.

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At the back of the car the stock round rear fenders of the 1950 Mercury were removed and replaced with 1951 Mercury units. The 1951 Mercury fenders added a few more inches to the rear of the car, which helped create a nice long low profile for the car. Sam Barris worked on the rear fenders and he installed a pair of 1953 Pontiac wagon taillights. The top corners of the trunk were rounded to match the rounded hood corners. With all the body work done a set The Barris crew decided to install a set of 1951 Lincoln bumpers, front and rear. Those Lincoln bumpers were heavier and more exclusive than the Mercury units. They really add class to the car. At the back two exhaust ports were installed in the lower bumper ends. The combination of the 1951 Mercury rear fenders and the use of 1951 Lincoln bumpers gave the car the impression it was an 1951 Mercury model.

A 1953 Pontiac side trim was modified, flipped upside down and fitted to the Mercury side so that the trim matches the dip in the doors. A set of 1949-50 Mercury fender skirts was modified, extended down to sit level with the rocker panels. These fender skirts apparently were used only very shortly on the car, only one photo has been found that shows them. The vent windows and side glass trim were all cut to fit the new windshield height. With all the work done on the car Barris painted the car. I have heard somewhere that the car was painted a dark gold color, but so far I have not been able to get this color confirmed. As most of the Barris restyled cars had in those days, Bob’s mercury was also dressed up with a set of Appleton Spotlight.

The car was taken to the Carson Top Shop who create a very nicely shaped padded top for the car. Possibly they also did the interior for Bob’s Mercury, but for that we have no photo or other proof.

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Sam Barris working on the taillights for Bob’s Mercury. The 1950 short rear fenders have been replaced by the longer 1951 Mercury rear fenders. Sam can be seen here trying to see how how he can make a set of 1953 Pontiac Wagon taillights fit to the Mercury fenders.

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Sam having marked the fender, were the extra material needs to be removed to make the Pontiac taillights fit and cutting away the not needed metal. Sam shaping a half inch metal rod to fit perfectly around the Pontiac taillight. 

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The shaped rod surround is positioned into the new opening in the rear fender and welded in place. Some small sheet metal filler pieces are added to make the new opening fit perfectly with the rear fender shape.

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On the inside of the new opening Sam welds some bolds so that the taillights can be mounted from behind. The outside is leaded and filed and sanded smooth.

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The finished Mercury

The Barris Kustoms Shop was a master in creating stunning Custom Cars in the later parts of the 1940’s and early 1950’s. When Bob’s mercury was created in 1953 the Custom Car scene was at its top of the Golden Years. The indoor and outdoor Custom Car shows were still growing, and huge crowds started to show up at these events. But the good thing was that the cars created were still restyled to make the car look better, not restyled to score more points at the shows for bigger and more trophies. Bob’s Mercury is a perfect showcase of the less is more restyling philosophy that the Barris brothers believed in at the time. Restyling to make each car unique, and most of all better looking that it ever did before.

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When Bob Lund’s Mercury was created the Barris Lynwood shop was producing a huge amount of classic top quality Custom Cars. This photo taken on an Saturday morning in early 1953 shows how the shop looked in those days. It must have been very inspiring and helped create high quality cars like Bob Lund’s Mercury.

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This is the only photo I have been able to find showing the finished Bob Lund 1950 Mercury using fender skirts. My guess is that this is how the car was originally finished. It appears that a set of 1949-50 Mercury skirts were extended down to fill the whole rear fenders. Also notice the conservative chopped windshield and padded top with beautifully finished side window trim. This photo could perhaps be taken at an outdoor car show, judging the mid-late 40’s chopped car parked next to it.

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Beautiful low angle rear view taken at the Barris Lynwood shop, shows the 1951 Lincoln rear bumper with custom exhaust openings on the corners. The beautifully frenshed 1953 Pontiac wagon taillights in the 1951 Mercury rear fenders and the 1953 license plate tag.

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The only photo of Bob’s Mercury confirmed to be at a car show.Bob’s Mercury with the drivers door open can be seen here in good company with several other Barris Kustom restyled high end Customs. From left to right. Dale Marshal’s unchopped 1950 Mercury, Bob Lund’s 1950 Mercury convertible, Jack Nethercutt’s 1952 Oldsmobile, Bob Hirohata 1951 mercury, Chuck DeWitt 1950 Ford convertible and Tommy Thornburgh’s 1947 Studebaker convertible. According the Barris book this show was held at Lynwood park organized by the South East Car Club Association. And the show even had a Barris class, and Bob’s Mercury was among the winners.

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Close up of Bob’s Mercury at the Lynwood Park show shows that there are no skirts on the car anymore, and that George added one of his cardboard Kustoms of Los Angeles cards on the front bumper.

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Beautiful photo of Bob’s Mercury taken by Loomis Dean, Life magazine photographer at the Barris Lynwood shop. Bob is just exciting the Barris shop driveway, onto Atlantic avenue.

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This photo from the Life magazine collection (a bit more close up than the previous photo) gives us a great look at the perfectly shaped Carson padded top, and details as the rounded trunk  and rear lower hood corners. The lack of skirts, and the usage of 1950 Mercury hubcaps give the car a sportive look, but the stance is all custom. 

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Frenched 1952 Ford/mercury headlights, rounded hood corners, molded in top grille bar, molded in bottom grille bar created from a flipped upside down top bar, custom grille and a great looking 1951 Lincoln front bumper. Bob was a member of the George Barris’s Kustoms Los Angles car club, hence the brass plaque on the bumper. Notice that the Appleton Spotlights are move up, apparently some work was done under the hood around the time Loomis Dean took this photo.

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A closer look the grille and beautifully created grille opening on Bob Lund’s mercury. Hard to see, but the Custom in the background is Jack Nethercutt’s just finished Oldsmobile Custom.

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Published

Bob Lund’s beautiful 1950 Mercury convertible custom was never featured in any of the car magazines in the early – mid 1950’s. There is a series of black and white photos taken by Loomis Dean for Life magazine, but so far I have been unable to find out if these photos have ever actually been used inside Life magazine from around 1953 when the photo were taken.  Rod & Custom published a few photos of Bob’s Mercury, one, showing Frank Sonzogni working on the grille in the cars early stage in a Barris Corner Article about spending a Saturday at the shop in the August 1953 issue. And in the December 1953 issue George Barris used a photo of the finished car in his Barris Korner article about the use of side trim. It is really sad that the car was never featured.

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Rod & Custom August 1953 issue shows Frank Sonzogni working on the custom grille. It shows that the car still has the stock Mercury bumper, but the headlights have been frenched, and the hood corners rounded.

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In the Barris Korner about custom side trim published in the December, 1953 issue of Rod & Custom Magazine George Barris used a photo of Bob Lund’s 1950 Mercury (without fender skirts).

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Our friend Ross Ruiz found this neat photo of Bob Lund’s 1950 Mercury in the Wilmington Daily Press, March 1954. In this news clipping Bob’s Merc was advertising the LA Harbor Hoods custom car show. Thanks for sharing Ross.

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1953 Pontiac side trim.

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Unusual things about the Lund Mercury

There a re a few a bit strange things about Bob Lund’s Mercury. The first one is the grille. Barris always loved to create very unique custom grilles for their restyled cars, but in the case of Bob’s Mercury they recreated a similar grille that they also created for Dan Landon’s 1949 Chevy. We are not sure if this was because Bob requested this specifically, or if the Barris team thought it was just the perfect look for the Mercury.

The second thing is the use of stock 1950 Mercury hubcaps. Another thing that was rarely done by the Barrises. The only few exceptions to that where a few Cadillac they did, they also kept the stock – custom straight from the factory – Cadillac hubcaps. The smooth 1950 Mercury hubcap would later become a very popular Hot Rod part.

And then there is also the fender skirts on the car. The one photo that we have found with the fender skirts mounted clearly show that the side trim was created in such a way that it would not interfere with the skirts. The dip in the Pontiac trim did not allow for the lower rear section of the trim to go all the way to the rear. But with out the skirts, it would have been possible for the trim to go all the way to the rear. Still the side trim was not modified, extended to the rear, after the skirts were removed.

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Bob Lund 50 Mercury
The grille on the Bob Lunds Mercury used the DeSoto grille teeth set back, and the lower section covered behind and below the lower grille opening.

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The Grille in Dan Landon’s Chevy was created a little earlier than Bob’s Mercury. The only difference in the two grilles is that the DeSoto teeth are showing more of the lower section and sticking out further on the Landon Chevy. Other than that they are near identical.

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Unusual usage of the stock 1950 Mercury hubcap on Bob Lund’s 1950 Mercury. They do look good though, especially with the version without the skirts. It gives the car a nice, bit sporty feel.

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Sadly only very few photos have been found from Bob’s Mercury. We also have not been able to find out anything about Bob Lund, who he was, or is, and what ever happened to his 1950 Mercury. One, perhaps two of the known photos of Bob’s mercury show the car at an (outdoor) car show. So far I have not been able to find any records that show that the car was entered in any of the famous Hot Rod & Custom Car shows in the 53-55 area. Perhaps Bob was not into showing his car at the shows all that much.

UPDATE
In October 2019, Gregg Bodiford sends us an email that in his searched on the Petersen Archives he came across a few photos taken by Eric Rickman in 1958 at Lee’s Speed Shop The photos were taken of an engine that was being build at the shop, but Gregg noticed that it was the Bob Lund 1950 Mercury that was sitting in the background on a few of the photos. Sadly not shown completely in any of the photos, but all the details are there to positively identify it at the Lund Mercury. The hood is removed from the car indicating the shop might be doing some engine work on the car.

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The Bob Lund 1950 Mercury photographed at Lee’s Speed Shop in 1958.

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This is really great news, showing that the car was still around, and most likely still being used in 1958. Now lets hope somebody knows more about Lee’s Speed Shop, and what the Mercury did at the shop. Thanks for sharing Gregg!

If anybody out there has any information about Bob Lund, what happened to his 1950 Mercury, or anything else about this car. Please email Rik here at the Custom Car chronicle. We would like to find out more, and add the information to this article.  Thank you.

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Porterville 1950 Mercury

PORTERVILLE 1950 MERC

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


UPDATED April – 11 – 2018



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

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

46to64 Intagram post.
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Derby was very excited about the new information that the photo showed that the car was at least from 1958, and more likely even older than that. And that he now had a location the 1958 owner was located. Derby decided to buy the car from his late fathers friend, and shared some more information with us to see if we can find out some more info on the car’s history. Derby plans to restore the car back to how it used to be, but would like to know a bit more about it. All he has right now is the one photo from 1958, and of course everything on the car itself. So far we have not been able to find out more about who owned the car, and who was the original builder From what we can see in the photos it appears to have been restyled in the early to mid 1950’s, and was perhaps updated a bit here and there over the years.

The photo as it appeared in the 1958 Porterville High-School Yearbook.
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Close up of the Merc shows a little more of the details, and also the primer spots on the doors. The other dark sections is shadow from the late or very early in the day photo.
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This is all we know about the car.
The car was purchased by the previous owner (friend of Derby’s father) in 1971 in San Diego. From what has been told then the car had sit outside from 1967 till the moment it was sold. The guy, who is a Mercury guru stored it inside a barn where the photos in this article are taken at as well. Derby remembered seeing the Mercury every time him and his father went to visit the friend. And each time Derby asked his father to see if he could buy the Merc, but the friend never wanted to sell the car, until 2017. The previous owner has never been able to find any history of the car from before the time he bought it, only that it had been stored outside from 1967. The car came without an engine and there is still no engine in the car as it is today. The former owner figured all the work on the car was done in the late 1950’s.

This is how the car sat in the summer of 2017 in the garage of the previous owner.
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Frenched stock headlights, molded grille surround and splash pan and rounded hood corners. Lavender and light metallic blue paint are the colors the car was painted last. But we do not know when. It appears the car might have been painted white when it left the factory. And most likely it was primer white in the 1958 photo.
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The car was very dusty after having sit in the garage since 1971. But it was all there the same as how it was put in there.
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Narrowed 1955 DeSoto grille.
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Spotlight mounting brackets on the chopped A-pillars.
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The top was chopped, with the drip rails removed, a technique often used in the early to mid 1950’s. The sharp body line below the rear window was retained after the chop, most of the times this line was smoothed in the early years. The B-pillars were angled forward during the chop and the door rear top and bottom corners are rounded. All handles were removed (in the ’58 photo we can see primer spots were the handles used to be), the hood was nosed and the trunk decked. The grille shell was molded to the fenders and the hood corners are rounded. The stock grille was replaced by an narrowed 1955 DeSoto grille. The headlights are frenched, most likely using the stock Mercury headlights. The taillights of the Mercury were removed, the holes filled and the stock lenses placed lower on the rear fenders and molded in using hand made molded in surrounds for a smooth frenched look.




The chop on the car looks to be expertly done with all the fit and finish work done very well, including the chopped working vent windows.
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A look at the back shows the lowered taillights, straight corners on the trunk, nice flowing roof after the chop, with the character line below the rear window still in place.
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Close up of the nicely molded in and lower mounted stock 1950 Mercury taillights.
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A better look at the flow of the chopped top, the nice shape of the rear quarter window, angled forward B-pillar and rounded door corners. The rear quarter panels are not molded to the body. Notice the location of the door push button.
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Close up of the rear quarter windows, which are still pivoting, and the shaved drip rails.
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Quarter window at the passenger side.
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An very unique feature on this Mercury is that the body was actually channeled over the frame. Something we often read in the old magazine, but was actually very seldom done on the car. But this Mercury really was channeled. Not an easy task on the Mercury. The interior was done in pink and white and has some characteristics that indicate it could have been done in Tijuana, Mexico. Especially the rear bench is shaped unique and upholstered in a very particular way. The steering wheel, or what is left of it, is most likely added later, and so are the extra gauges below the stock dash.  The car had Dual Spotlights with interior handles (not the Dummy kind). The side trim appears to be 1955 Buick, and on both sides of the car a bush button to open the doors was located between the top of the side trim and the door character-line, a rather unusual spot for this, since most of the time these buttons were hidden as much as possible. At this point it looks like the car might have been painted a lavender, as well as a light metallic blue.

Interior photo showing the amount the body was channeled over the frame.
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Pink/lavender painted dash with later added steering wheel and extra gauges. Notice the unique upholstery on the engine and drive shaft tunnel.
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Custom rear seat with unique upholstery… what is left of it.
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Pink upholstery.
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Rear quarter interior panel.
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Closer look at the pink upholstery.
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White or perhaps light gray carpet with pink piping.
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We, and especially Derby would love to know more about the history of this Mercury, where was this car restyled, and by whom? And who was the owner of the car, originally, or when the 1958 photo was taken, and what happened to the car after that. How did it end up in San Diego? If any of our readers has seen this car before, or knows more about it, please email Rik here at the Custom Car Chronicle. We would love to know and share the information with the Derby, the car owner, and add it to this article.



UPDATE April 2018

From Derby

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

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

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

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

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


Derby found this photo in the 1957 Porterville High School Yearbook which states that Marty’s Upholstery (Marty Martin) did the interior work. It appears that Marty’s is in business today being run as a side business by a son of one of Marty’s employees from the 1950s. Still waiting to hear back, in case he has any additional new information about the car.
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The owner I purchased the car from found the inside front door panels. Pretty cool, even has the letter “A” sewn in and electric window switches still in tact. Also matches the photo from the yearbook.
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“My Plans For the Car – Now that I have this car (along with other projects), I need to find the time, space, and money (like all of us car guys) to move forward. My initial thought is to get it running as-is (keeping the dust/dirt on the car as long as possible). Then eventually do a full restoration back to how it was done originally (I am hoping, eventually, I figure that out).
Thanks Again Everyone!”

Map of California highlighting Porterville where the car was photographed in 1958 and San Diego where the car was found in the early 1970’s.
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Derby Ahlstone is no stranger when it comes to restoring historic Custom Cars, Derby owns and restored the Coachcraft created Paul Plannette 1939-40 Mercury Roadster.
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Bill Verna 50 Mercury

 

BILL VERNA 50 MERCURY

 

Carl Johnson operated a small body shop where he created several nice Customs and Hot Rods, this 1950 Mercury is one of three he did.



David Wolk recently shared several photos with the Custom Car Chronicle. Photos of two chopped and padded topped Mercury’s created in the very early 1950’s. The photos show two mercury’s one 1949 an the other an 1950 model restyled by Carl Johnson. It turned out that one of these Mercury’s, the one Carl did for Bill Verna later ended up in the hands of a friend of Larry Watson, Larry Lorenzen, who had Dean Jeffried paint some flames on it. The car even made it on the cover of an book about custom cars in the late 1970’s.

But lets take a step back first, and tell you how David Wolk got these photos. We let David tell it in his own words.
“I was at the LA Roadster show about 5-6 years ago walking the swap meet. I saw an old guy with a table of old car photos for sale. He was standing there talking to another man explaining about one of the cars he built. I realized he was the builder of these cars. At the time I didn’t realize who he was and was kind of embarrassed to ask his name. I grabbed these few custom car photos asked the price, then asked if he would autograph them for me. My brother also bought one old hot rod photos, it was the famous Mooneyham an Sharp # 554 ’34 ford.
His name was Carl Johnson. At the time I hadn’t heard of him, but thought the photos were cool. Looking back I wish I would have taken the time to visit with him.”

CCC-carl-johnson-photo-back-infoOne of the photo’s of Bill Verna’s 1950 Mercury had these words written by Carl Johnson on the back. He wrote the information on the back of the photo in 1993.
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David mentioned that he later found out a bit more information on Carl when he read an article in the Rodder’s Journal issue 44 on and lake modified 1934 Ford coupe. The story provided a bit more information about Carl. He was a member of the Rod Riders club and a professional body man with  small shop. He helped chop the 34 ford 3 window in the article and also chopped the top on the Mooneyham and Sharp # 554 34 ford. David’s brother bought a photo of the Mooneyham and Sharp 34 Ford from Carl, which we used at the end of this article.

These photos from Carl are interesting for several reasons, first is of course since they show two very nice customized 1949-50 Mercury convertible’s. The second reason is because one of the photos shows a 1951 California plate, which means that the Bill Verna 1950 Mercury chopped by Carl, is among the first Mercury convertibles to be chopped. This short list also includes the Bill Gaylord 1949 Mercury, chopped by Barris, the Ralph Testa Mercury, also chopped by Barris and the 1949 Carl Johnson did for himself. And the third reason is because of the flipped side ways 1949 Buick taillights that have been used on Bill’s Mercury. A touch that was also added tot the Ralph Testa 1950 Mercury restyled by Barris in 1951. It makes us wonder who was the first to use these taillights this way. These Buick taillights also helped us identify the car to be later owned by Larry Larenzen some time later in the 1950’s, and Norman Woodruff in the later part of the 1950’s.

CCC-bill-verna-50-mercury-02The 1950 Mercury of Bill Verna restyled by Carl Johanson with a padded top by Eddie Martinez. The photo was taken while the car was still unfinished, with primer spots on the rear quarters, doors and A-pillars. A set of 1951 Mercury skirts was used. The photo is now in the collection of David Wolk.
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Carl chopped the windshield of Bill Verna’s 1950 Mercury and created hand made pods, or wind-splits to make the canted 1949 Buick taillights work with the Mercury quarter panels. The headlight bezels were molded to the fenders for a nice frenched look and the lenses were slightly recessed. The hood corners were left square at this point. A small lip was added to the front wheel opening. We do not know if Carl hand made the lip, or if it came from another car. A set of Spotlights was added and Eddie Martinez was hired to do the padded top with open quarter windows Eddie most likely was also responsible for the custom interior in the car. It always seamed to me that the padded top Martinez created had a rather heavy look to it, created by the think profile look.

The front section of the Mercury side trim was replaced with a shortened rear section and flipped from one side to the other to give the trim a nice pointy look in the front. The photos show that the rear quarter trim has been removed at this stage since it was interfering with the new Buick taillights. Later the rear section was shortened and re-installed. The car was most likely painted black after all the work had been completed, although we have not been able to find photos of the finished version from the time Bill owned the car.


CCC-bill-verna-50-mercury-04The front view shows that the grille and parking lights have been removed, possibly waiting for a custom grille to be created by Carl. This photo shows the 1951 License plate on the car. The photo is now in the collection of David Wolk.
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From the photos we have seen from the mid/late 1950’s we know that at one point the car was further customized with rounded hood corners on the front of the hood, and that the hood was shortened at the back, the filler piece added to the cowl and also those corners rounded. The grille shell was molded to the fenders and a new floating grille bar was created from a set of bumper guards, most likely accessory bumper guards for a 1951 Mercury.


CCC-bill-verna-50-mercury-03This photo shows how low the top was, and also shows the primer on the A-pillars and doors where the door handles were removed. We can also see the subtile lip on the front wheel opening. Possibly Carl wanted to create a similar lip on the front wheel openings as those on the 1951 Mercury skirt that was used on the back.The photo is now in the collection of David Wolk.
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CCC-custom-business-cards-01Eddie Martinez did the padded top and interior on the 1950 Mercury.
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Larry Lorenzen a new owner

At one point, we are unsure when exactly this was, the car was purchased by Larry Lorenzen. We also do not know if Larry bought the car from the first owner Bill Verna, or if the car had already changed hands. Most likely Larry owned the car till about late 1957, when it was offered for sale on a used car lot in Long Beach, Ca. It was bought by Norman Woodruff in early 1958 and Norman used the Mercury as daily transportation for a few years before he sold it again.

When Larry Lorenzen owned the car owned the car in the later parts of the 1950’s he had Dean Jeffries add some long licked crab-style flames in gold, yellow red on the car. The flames were designed in a way they would transform to and outline to cover the side trim of the car, and to follow the beltline. The flames where outline in a bolt white pinstripe by Dean. It was most likely Larry Lorenzen who added the lake pipes to the car. The photos we have been able to find of this version of the car, with flamed added by Dean Jeffries seam to all be taken in late 1957- and in 1958.

CCC-larry-lorenzo-50-mercury-01Larry was later good friend with Larry Watson, and this black and white photo of the Mercury when owned by Larry Lorenzen comes from the Larry Watson Collection. It shows the car with new Oldsmobile hubcaps ad lake pipes. The fender skirts and bumper guards have been removed at this stage.
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CCC-larry-lorenzo-50-mercury-02This it the other photo of the Mercury from the Larry Watson Personal Collection. We are unsure when this photo was taken, possibly around late 1957, perhaps early 1958. The car was obviously for sale, for a low price of just $695.-. The hubcaps were and spotlights are removed, but otherwise the car looks to be in good shape.
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CCC-larry-lorenzo-50-mercury-08Since this color photo of the Merc is the best quality one we have we took a section of the front and enlarged it, so we can have a better look. We can see that the location of the antenna has been changed from the 1951 photos, the parking lights are nicely molded in, possibly taken from another car. The rounded hood corners front and rear and how the custom lip on the front wheel openings are accented with paint and pinstriping.
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CCC-larry-lorenzo-50-mercury-06The Mercury appeared in color on the cover of the book Grease Machines published in 1978 and is the only photo we know of that shows the custom interior by Martinez. 
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CCC-larry-lorenzo-50-mercury-07Despite the large cover photo of the Merc, there was not a full feature on the car inside the Grease Machine book. But the introduction chapter did show this small color photo of the car. We have no idea if the guy standing behind the car is Larry Lorenzen, or somebody else. The rounded rear corners of the car can be seen very well in this photo.
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CCC-larry-lorenzo-50-mercury-03Bill Junge took this photo in 1958 on Route 66 somewhere in Texas after they had a flat tire on the way home from the drag races in Oklahoma City. Bill and his buddy Norman “Woody” Woodruff (who owned the Merc since early ’58) had driven the car from SoCal to OK City to attend a Drag Racing event. Notice the water bag on the front.
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CCC-larry-lorenzo-50-mercury-04Another photo Bill Junge took is the only one we know about that gives us a good look at the great shaped flames Dean Jeffries painted on the trunk of the car. It also shows how the exhaust tips exit thru the rear bumper. The car appears to have different hubcaps in this photo. 
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CCC-larry-lorenzo-50-mercury-05Photo taken by Bruce Olson in late August of 1958 at the 4th Annual NHRA National Championship Drag Races in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The design of the flames, how one lick turns into an “outline” around the shortened side trim and ends with another lick is a really great touch by Dean Jeffries. Photo is shared by Todd Olson. This low angle photo shows how thick the padded top is over the side window openings.
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Norman Woodruff used the still flathead powered Mercury as his daily driver for a number of years, and then sold it again. So far we have not been able to find any information on the car after this, we have no idea what happened to it, and if it is still around or not. If you know anything more about the Bill Verna / Larry Lorenzo 1950 Mercury, or more about Carl Johnson’s work as customizing, then please let us know, email Rik, we would love to add more information to this, or possible future CCC-Articles. Thank you.




The other Carl Johnson photos

David Wolk and his brother bought two more photos from Carl at the LA Roadster show. These and the article in the Rodder’s Journal issue 44 is about the only other material we have on Carl Johnson and his work as body man and custom builder. At this point we do not know when Carl started doing work as customizer, and how many cars he created. From the text on the back of one of the photos we know that he did 3 1949-50 Mercury’s and one of them is a 1949 he did for himself. David bought one of the photos showing Carl in his own Mercury. Sadly this photo does not show a date or anything else we can use to date the car. But to me it looks like this one pre-dates the one he did for Bill Verna. The car seams to have less body work done, the door handles are still in place and the stance is higher. But the photo shows that the car used 1951 Mercury skirts and also that the headlights are frenched with the lights recessed, something that we have not seen done on other cars created in 1949-50. The padded top on Carl’s personal Merc seems to be a little less bold when viewed from the side, giving the car a more elegant look.

CCC-bill-verna-50-mercury-01Carl Johnson in his personal 1949 Mercury convertible with padded top. The stance on the car is a bit higher than on Bill’s Mercury, indicating this one might be done earlier. It looks like Carl used a set of Calnevar Chrome Dress-Up trim rings with smooth hubcaps. What happened to this car?The photo is now in the collection of David Wolk.
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CCC-carl-johnson-mooneyham-sharp-coupeDavid’s brother bought this photo of the Mooneyham & Sharp 1934 Ford coupe that Carl Johsnon chopped.
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Special thanks to David Wolk, Bill Junge, Anthony White and Todd Olson for sharing the photos and info with the Custom Car Chronicle.



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Something About A Mercury

SOMETHING ABOUT A MERCURY

Frenchy’s Mercury was a rare Monterey, these were the deluxe models of the voluptuous 1949-51 Mercury’s rolling off the line. He bought it in 1956 and almost immediately he began to restyle his Mercury.

 
By Larry Pointer

Alan Jackson sang it. Mercury had that Something. The very essence of Sex. When those voluptuous 1949 models of the marque rolled off the line, America fell in love. But hardly had we caught our breath, than California craftsmen took a good song and made it better. And no Mercury, before or since, captured that Something better than the Bob Hirohata 1951 Merc, transformed by brothers Sam and George Barris into exquisitely excellent sculpture.

In 1955, James Dean cruised into our lives in a nosed and decked black ’49 Mercury. “Rebel Without a Cause” left us restless, and lusting after a long, low Mercury.

 

Yes! There is Something about a Mercury.

It only follows that this series of Conquistador Car Club reminiscences would turn to Frenchy Holbert’s 1950 Mercury. This Wyoming custom didn’t even start out as just any Mercury coupe off the backlot. Frenchy’s Merc was a rare Monterey. These were the deluxe models, dressed up to steal the show from the classy hardtops General Motors had released. The Monterey had a vinyl covered roof set off with chrome trim. Their interiors sported leather seats, color coordinated to match the special Monterey paint options. And then there were those highly coveted chrome window garnish moldings and special steering wheel.
 
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Frenchy picked up his low mileage Monterey in 1956. It was gorgeous to start with, Cortaro Red Metallic, with a black vinyl top covering. But almost immediately he began to transform his Merc, not far behind fellow Conquistador Jack Bushmaker in the remake of his ’47 Chevy coupe.

First on his list of alterations, was to drop the Merc “in da’ weeds”. A coil was cut from each front spring, and lowering blocks dropped the rear. At the risk of expressing sacrilege, I have to say the Mercury those days before power steering, took some power to steer them. And when the front springs were torched, they would bottom out against the rubber bumpers mounted on the lower A-frames. Even when you hack-sawed the tops off of the bumpers. A choppy ride resulted, and you could tell a lowered car in the Fifties from some distance, by the bounce in the ride. Bless the man who created the dropped spindle.

 

CCC-frenchy-holbert-mercury-01Black primer spots show where Frenchy had started with the restyling of his Merc.
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As can be seen in the photographs of Jack and Frenchy’s cars in 1957, sitting side-by-side in the low light of late afternoon, areas of black primer draw the eye to the early body alterations to the Merc. People always are looking for “firsts” to set their world in order, and in the customizing world it is no different. The “little pages” of Honk!, Car Craft, Hot Rod and Rod & Custom passed along new styling cues back in the day, and those pages are key to us today in tracing innovations. “First in our town,” Frenchy frenched 1953 Buick headlight rims onto this 1950 Mercury Monterey. Right after that, he trimmed down a ’50 Mercury grille shell and flipped it upside down to create a full oval grille opening. Looking at the car head-on, an integrated sculptural theme is realized. And strongly emphasized by the rounded contours of that incomparable Mercury hood.
 
CCC-frenchy-holbert-mercury-02Frenchy standing with his 1950 Mercury parked next to Jack Bushmaker’s 1947 chopped Chevy coupe.
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I have to confess here that I spent countless misspent Chemistry classes doodling drawings of Frenchy’s Merc with its horizontal oval grille flanked by vertical headlight ovals, and topped by curvaceous fender caps and hood.

Something about a Mercury!

Keeping to the oval theme, front to rear, 1952 Buick tail lights were molded into the rear fenders where the original Merc lenses had ridden. (Frenchy was working in the Buick dealership right out of high school.)
Frenchy next replaced the flat Mercury side trim with a 1952 Chevrolet spear, extending from over the front wheel opening, back across the door. At a lower level, just above the Merc fender skirts, he added the ’52 Chevy rear fender spear. As things progressed, Frenchy would add a guidecoat of black lacquer to cover the primered work until the entire car — including the roof that had been covered in vinyl — now stood out in black. Finally, a unique double-curve chrome trim piece lifted from a 1955 Oldsmobile was placed upside down and backwards on the bodyside below the forward Chevrolet spear. Then, with a custom mixed lavender, he painted the lower panel that had been partitioned off by the Olds trim.
 
CCC-frenchy-holbert-mercury-03Late afternoon photos with long casting shadows. Frenchy’s Merc was the first to use the oveal 1953 Buick headlights in our town. They looked so like they belonged there.
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CCC-frenchy-holbert-mercury-04Both cars had a Conquistador plaque hanging from the rear bumper.
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CCC-frenchy-holbert-Larry-05The taller fellow on the left is Jack Bushmaker. The shorter one on the right, with the “lowrider” jeans, is Leroy “Frenchy” Holbert (our “Fonzi”).
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While work developed in a piece-meal fashion, there was nothing hap-hazard in Frenchy Holbert’s approach. Every change integrated into a well-thought-out plan of design. Looking back, I fully believe that LeRoy “Frenchy” Holbert possessed true artistic genius.

I haven’t been able to locate photographs taken of Frenchy’s Mercury Monterey in later progressions of its transformation into a custom car of the mild class, but I did save my sketchbook from back in the daydream days. It’s a pretty accurate amateur rendering, save for the Larry Watson Grapevine ’53 Chevy grillebar with added teeth. That was, well, artistic license on my part.
 
CCC-frenchy-holbert-mercury-06One of Larry’s sketches of Frenchy’s Mercury Monterey pretty much how it looked in its final version. Larry changed the grille in his drawing to look more like Larry Watson’s Grapevine… a very popular custom from the time the drawing was created.
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Frenchy did add a grillework to fill the oval void. By this time, he had moved from the Buick bodyshop to the Cook Ford shop, where Jack Bushmaker’s ’47 Chevy had been transformed. There, he trimmed a 1958 Ford grille of expanded metal meshwork to fit.
When the old flathead gave up the ghost to leave Frenchy afoot, fellow Conquistadors came to the rescue. A 1953 Dodge donated its “baby Hemi” to the cause. Club President Bob Prill, learning the business at his father’s sheetmetal shop, fabricated an adapter plate to mate the Hemi to the Mercury 3-speed with overdrive. In the driveway of a local fireman (Harry Schwartz’s then-girlfriend’s dad), a tripod was set up with a chain hoist and the huge Hemi was nestled into its new home. Frenchy came away with two more “town firsts”, a Hemi in a Merc and with that heavy Hemi, a slight “California rake” at the same once.

All good things come to an end. Frenchy came to covet his father’s ’55 Thunderbird, and sold the Merc to fellow Conquistador Larry “Mo” Frazier. In turn, Mo sold it to Calvin Lawrence, older brother of our Conquistador Ed’rd. Calvin, the custom Mercury Monterey, and Frenchy’s old girlfriend all left town together.
Something about a Mercury.
 
 
 
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