Bob Armstrong 1940 Mercury

 

BOB ARMSTRONG 1940 MERC

 

Bob Armstrong from Alhambra California owned this nice looking 1940 Mercury Convertible in 1955.



Here is another bit of a mystery Custom Car that I would like to know some more about. I have a feeling that this car might have been build in the 1940’s by the way it looks. But so far all I have been able to find on the car are photos from around 1955. It started with one photo that was offered on ebay. I noticed the ’46 Chevy grille, smoothed hood and heavy bumper. My first though (only for a split second) was that it could be Buddy Ohanesian Westergard/bertolucci’s 1940 Mercury sedan convertible. But on closer inspection of the online photo I noticed that the car was actually a regular 2 door convertible and that there were no running boards.

The photo was offered without any information, and there was no date on the photo. The Mercury looked like it could have been done around 1946, when the ’46 Chevy grille and Olds Bumpers were brand new items. But on closer inspection of the photo I noticed that the cars in the picture were all waiting in line for their turn on the drag stip. And the car waiting behind the Mercury looked to be a ’53-54 Ford. So the photo must have been taken in 1953 at the earliest.

The first photo I came of this Mercury was on eBay. No info, no date, just a really nice looking Custom Mercury at an unknown drag-strip.
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Zoomed in I could see all the very nice details of the car. The front end of the car with the ’46 Chevy grille, modified hood, and Olds bumper looked particular nice. It looks like the car was pulled to the event judging the what looks like tow straps next to the bumper guards. The club plaque on the front bumper could not be read in this photo. I also noticed the emblem or something like that painted on the cowl.
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I checked my files for ’40 Mercury historic Customs and could not find it there… I saved the photo and did not think about that Merc for quite some time. Several years after the ebay auction the American Hot Rod Foundation AHRF shared a photo on their facebook page showing a side view of a Chopped padded topped Mercury convertible. I recognized the car from the eBay offering a few years earlier. The tall rear bumper, removed running boards and most of all the small thing painted on the cowl. I checked the eBay photo, and yes it sure was the same car. and the best thing of them all, the AHRF shared photo came with some good information.

From the AHRF facebook posting Bob Armstrong’s customized ’40 Mercury Convertible. He had come all the way from Alhambra, California to partake in a little racing at the First Annual NHRA Nationals in Great Bend Kansas (9/29-10/2/55).Under the hood was a potent ’48 Merc that enabled him to cop First in Class C Fuel Coupe and Sedan. His speed was 78.74 mph. Bob also established a National Record in the class with a speed of 90.54 mph. We guess the lead sled moniker doesn’t apply here.

The Josh Mishler AHRF shared photo showed the rear of the car with the padded top on. Very nice lines with the long wrap around Oldsmobile rear bumper, and round, post likely Pontiac taillights. The photo showed the same emblem painted on the cowl as the eBay photo. Notice how short the fender skirt is, necessary to not interfere with the Olds wrap around rear bumper. It looks like the car was jacked up and used different, larger? rear tires for the drag races.
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So now I knew that Bob Armstrong from Alhambra was the owner of the car, at least he was in 1955 when the AHRF shared photo was taken. The photo was shared to the AHRF by Josh Mishler, and belonged to his father. It looks like the first photo I had found of the Mercury was taken at a dragstrip in California, but I do not know where.

The third photo I came across that showed Bob Anderson came from the Hot Rod magazine (Rod & Custom) website. They shared a few photos from taken at the 1955 Petersen Motor Revue Show held at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles. (formerly known as the Petersen Motorama show) the photo did not come with much information: Here Are Some Examples Of Car Club Involvement. From The Hanging Banners It Looks Like The T Timer’s Had Five Chapters In California: Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, San Fernando, Santa Ana, And Culver City. The Road Rebels Displayed A Carson Topped Full Custom And A Nice Deuce Three Window.


The most recent photo I came across of Bob’s Mercury was taken at the 1955 Petersen Motor revue at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles. The car was part of the Road Rebels San Gabriel display at the event.
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At first I did not recognize the Mercury in the pictures, but more recently I was looking at this picture again and noticed the Olds bumper, and ’46 Chevy grille. This must be the Bob Armstrong Mercury. I checked the other photos on file, and it sure was. Great, another photo of this really great looking Mercury Custom, another piece of the puzzle. But yet again a photo of the car from 1955, and not from in the 1940’s, when the car might have been restyled. So now we have three photos of this car, we have a name of the owner, Bob Anderson from Alhambra, Southern California, but still no information on who was the builder, and when it was restyled. If anybody recognized Bob Anderson’s Mercury, knows more about it, or about Bob, please email the CCC. We would love to know more about this Mercury Custom.


Zoomed in we can see a bit more details. Smoothed hood, all trim removed and although hard to see I think that the car had white wall tires on the rear now as well, something white is peaking out under the fender skirts, just above the 32 Ford hood. It appears that the rear fenders were protected by some sort of rock shields, perhaps rubber units.
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About the Mercury

What we can see in the photos is that Bob’s Mercury had the windshield chopped, a nice flowing padded top was created for the car with a slightly angled forward B-pillar. Mosre likely to have been done by Bill Gaylord’s shop and not one created from the jigs at Carson, which always looked slightly more boxy. The front fenders and hood were modified to accept the ’46 Chevy grille, and the work looks to have been done very nice. A splash pan was added to the front to make the ’46 Oldsmobile bumper fit the Mercury. The running boards were removed and filler panels added below the body to hide the frame. Both front and rear fenders were molded to the body and the taillights look to have been replaced by 1948-52 Pontiac taillights. The rear bumper of the ’46 Oldsmobile was also used. And because this bumper has very tall wrap around sections the fender skirts used on the car had to be very short, possibly some ’46-48 Ford skirts were shortened to make them fit this car. All the trim and handles were shaved from the body, and everything was smoothed before being painted a dark color. It looks like the car had Fiesta three bar spinner hubcaps installed in the eBay photo.

Some of the Road Rebels San Gabriel Car club members. Perhaps one of them is Bob Armstrong?
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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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2016 CKOS Lead Sled Award

 

2016 CKOS LEAD SLED AWARD

 

Every year in the early summer the Customs Of Sweden (CKOS) organizes the Lead Parking show. At this event the best Swedish Custom is awarded with the prestigious Lead Sled of the year award.



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The 2016 LeadParking event was held on July 9 in Skultuna, Sweden. The weather was great soon the event location was filled with beautiful custom Cars from all over Scandinavia. The event is well known in Scandinavia and the main award given at the event, the CKOS (Custom Kemps of Sweden) Lead  Sled of the year award is one of the most desirable Custom Car awards of Scandinavia. The awards consist of  a beautiful casted and polished to a high luster sculptured 1940 Ford coupe tail-dragging custom.

CCC-ckos-2014-leadparking-15CKOS Lead Sled of the Year award.
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CCC-2016-ckos-leadsled-award-tornqvist-07Johan Törnqvist arriving at the CKOS LeadParking show in Skultuna, Sweden.
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The¬†2016 CKOS Lead Sled Award went to¬†Johan T√∂rnqvist¬†just finished beautiful Candy Red late 1940’s styled 1940 Mercury coupe. Inspired by the famous Barris built Nick Matranga, Johnny Zarro/Al Andril Mercury’s combined with the more recently created Kirkegaard 1939 Mercury by Sledge Kustoms.
Congratulations to John for winning the 2016 award.

Johan created his own version based on a decently restored 1940 Mercury coupe. that was chopped perfectly with a wonderful flow of the rear of the top into the turret panels with a sharp edge. Most of the ’39-40 Merc coupes have a molded in and smoothed top to turret shape, so the sharp edge on Johans’s Merc was nice and refreshing. The B-pillars were angled forward and the center section thinned down. The whole side window channels were reshaped and smoothed to fit the new side window opening perfectly. The windshield was chopped less than the rest of the top and the top of the windshield raised up into the top. The gave the car a perfectly balanced top after the chop, plus it creates a much better forward vision when you drive the car. And Johan sure plans to drive his Merc a lot.

CCC-2016-ckos-leadsled-award-tornqvist-00Johan Törnqvist receiving the Custom Keps of Sweden Lead Sled of the year award with his just finished candy apple red 1940 Mercury coupe.
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CCC-2016-ckos-leadsled-award-tornqvist-03When the top was chopped the windshield was raised up into the top, to prevent the windshield becoming to narrow. Notice the perfect fitting trim and Appleton Spotlights.
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The complete body was restored, bubble teardrop fender skirts created.¬†At the back a separate hand shaped splash pan was created for the 1946 Ford rear bumper. The rear bumper uses Lincoln Zephyr over riders. At the front a complete 1941¬†Lincoln Zephyr bumper was used. To give the car a more 1940’s custom look most of the trim and door handles were kept on the car, but the trunk lid was shaved of the handle with a cleaner look. The stock headlights and taillights were used on the car.


CCC-2016-ckos-leadsled-award-tornqvist-04Rear 3/4 view shows the beautiful flow of the chopped top with the sharp edge between the top and the turret panel. Stock Mercury taillights and Lincoln over-riders on 1946 Ford rear bumper. The non molded in splash pan was hand made.
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CCC-2016-ckos-leadsled-award-tornqvist-05Beautiful period perfect interior in white and black naugahyde. The rolls are done very nicely with am typical late 1940’s round shape The dash was beautifully restored and painted candy red with white plastic accents and a Lincoln Steering wheel.
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CCC-2016-ckos-leadsled-award-tornqvist-06The headliner was done in a matching white with black piping. Just as the seats. All window garnish moldings were smoothed and chrome pated. The B0Pillar was thinned down and slanted forward.
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CCC-2016-ckos-leadsled-award-tornqvist-081940 Lincoln bumper was used up front. Notice how nicely balanced the windshield size is compared to the side window opening.
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In Progress…

Johan built his 1940 Mercury over a period of several years. And everything was done till perfection. The whole body was brought back to bare metal and completely metal finished before the fine gold base could be added. Johan had decided to paint his Mercury a deep Candy Red color. Perhaps not totally period perfect with the style of the car, but the end result is absolutely stunning. And for sure if Candy Apple would have been available in the in the late 1940’s the famous Custom Shops sure would have used it.

CCC-2016-ckos-leadsled-metal-01-tornqvistThe Mercury all put together before final body prep and an amazing Candy Red over gold paint-job
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CCC-2016-ckos-leadsled-paint-01-tornqvistWith all the body work and fit and finished handled, the body was painted fine metallic gold.
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CCC-2016-ckos-leadsled-paint-02-tornqvistFollowed by many layers of dark Candy Red.
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CCC-2016-ckos-leadsled-engine-tornqvist-00Johan’s 1940 Merc is not only beautiful on the outside. The completely restored and rebuilt frame and Oldmobile ohv engine are just as beautiful.
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1940 Mercury Stardust

 

1940 MERCURY STARDUST

 

In 1986 John DAgostino hired Bill Reasoner to¬†create his dream radical 40’s style custom¬†based on an¬†1940 Mercury. The end¬†result, named Stardust made a huge impact.



In our series Custom Car Icons of the 80’s ad 90’s we feature Custom Cars that have left a mark on the scene in during the rebirth of the Custom Car in the 1980’s and early-mid 1990’s. One of the key figures in promoting the traditional custom style during these years was John D’Agostino. During the 1980’s he created several Custom Car Icon’s that inspired many people around the globe to like and build traditional styled Customs Car.¬†John’s 1951 Mercury “Midnight Sensation” had left a huge impact on the scene, and in 1986 John set out to to fulfill his dream of building a radical ’40’s style Custom.

John started to look for an suitable base for his dream and found a one owner¬†35K miles,¬†original light grey painted 1940 Mercury coupe in Sacramento Ca in October 1986. In December that year he delivered the car to Bill Reasoner’s Classic Auto Body shop in Walnut Creek, California with a list of modifications he wanted to be done on the car. The main inspiration for the car was of course Nick Matranga‘s Barris Kustoms restyled 1940 Merc from the early 1950’s. But John wanted his custom to be a bit more radical, yes still remain that wonderful art-deco feel. After John had acquired the Mercury he started to hunt for the needed parts to create his dream Customs and had delivered everything to Bill’s shop.

CCC-40-merc-stardust-primer-011987 wearing black primer the Merc is almost done… and John D’Agostino could not wait to take it out to cruise.
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The chassis was updated with a Mustang II front end which dropped the front around 8 inches lower than stock. The rear of the frame was modified in the rear to allow the original rear axle to be lowered 9 inches. The rear was modified with air shocks and an air compressor to allow the rear to be lowered and raised¬†for high way cruising.¬†John mentioned… NO air bags at that time !!!¬†The front wheels were replaced with ’47 Cadillac units, which made the use of Caddy Sombrero hubcaps really easy. A set of¬†BFGoodrich wide whites (7.10×15) 4 1/8″ white walls from Coker tires was used front and rear.

Next up was the engine. John had the engine replaced by an 1948 Ford 239 cubic inch flathead engine that was bumped up to 255 cubic inches. The engine was completely balanced and rebuilt, and dressed up with period perfect speed parts. A set of polished Offenhauser heads, and three carb intake was installed along with three chrome plated Stromberg carburators. The engine work was done by Bill and Tom Frazer.

CCC-40-merc-stardust-gnrs-1989Stardust at the GNRS where it won first place in the Kustom class.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-scramento-1989-01John making sure the Mercury looks spotless for the 1988 Sacramento Autorama show.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-scramento-1989-02The car was a huge hit where ever it went and at the Sacramento show it won the SAM BARRIS Memorial Award, Best use of Color and Most Popular car in show.
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To start with the body work Bill Reasoner cut the top 5 inches in the front and around 6 inches in the back. A 1941 Mercury oveal rear window was used and the whole rear portion of the top was remade in fresh sheet metal to get the perfect shape. In the process the top was thinned a little to prevent the top to become to heavy. The side window openings was reshaped to accept hand made side window moldings created from chrome plated 5/8 inch channel, similar styled as the Barris Shop had done in 1950 on the Matranga Merc.

All four fenders were molded to the body with a nice radius. The bottom hinges of the door was cut off and new hidden hinges installed for a smoother look. The stock running boards were removed and new smooth units created and welded and molded to the body and fenders. The lower door corners were rounded. A set of 1940 Buick teardrop shape fender skirts was frenched into the rear fenders using a molded in metal rod. Again for the ultimate smooth look. At the front the cowl vent was welded shut and the hood peak was extended onto the cowl all the way to the windshield. The original chrome plated eye brows on the bottom of the hood were removed and a new lip was added to give the grille a slight frenched look. All the molding and frenched elements had similar radius effects to give the car an uniform look.

CCC-40-merc-stardust-paso-robles-01John took the car to the 1988 Paso Robles West Coast Kustoms show, where it was a huge crowd pleaser.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-ron-brooksPaso Robles photo by Custom Car archivist Ron Brooks.
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At the back the lower corners of the trunk were rounded and a hand made splash pan was installed and molded to the body. A set of 1946 Ford bumpers was smoothed, the bold heads welded to the back and filled in. Then the whole unit was narrowed ad reshaped to fit the 1940 Mercury body perfectly. Sam Foose was asked to create the bumper guard mounted taillights at the rear, similar in style as was used on the Matranga Mercury. The complete body was shaved of all handles and trim except for the belt line trim. The trim on the hood was shortened in the front till the forward point ends front wheel opening center point, just as they did in the 1940’s and early 1950’s. With all the body work done the car was painted with black primer and put back together. All the body work had been done by Bill Reasoner and Bob Munroe.

Next up was the interior. John had something special for that in mind as well. The stock 1940 Mercury dash was smoothed, the ribbed inserts removed and the whole unit was send out to¬†Century Plating in San Leandro, CA to be chrome plated. Mark Marini from San Leandro CA. was asked to make new inserts for the chromed dash in clear red lucite. Just like the Barris Kustoms from the late 1940’s had. Mark also created the off white teardrop dash knobs. The steering wheel was replace with a pearl white painted 1949 Mercury unit. For the upholstery John send the car to¬†Jerry Sahagon’s Custom Interiors in San Leandro. Jerry modified the stock mercury front seat, and he custom made a rear wrap around unit. When it became time for the upholstery John choose an pearl white naugahyde and maroon mohair for the seats, panels and headliner, and a maroon nylon carpet to cover the floor. Jerry designed the unique upholstery pattern giving the interior both an modern and vintage luxurious feel.

CCC-40-merc-stardust-indoor-showStardust was showed in over 20 ISCA shows from 1988-1995 winning top honors and Most Popular in almost ALL shows entered.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-GNRS-show-02Stardust surrounded by rock-salt at an late 80’s Oakland Roadster Show.
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John drove the car like this for a short time and when the 1988 Oakland Roadster show was coming up he send the car back to Bill Reasoner so he could paint it in an amazing custom mixed House of Kolor candy black cherry over a pearl black base. The base color was Nacromer Pearl a left over from the early days. Bill Reasoner did an really amazing job on the paint and the car looked absolutely stunning. The car was finished just in time to debut at the 1988 Oakland Roadster Show where is was a huge crowd pleaser and it won 1st place in the Kustom Class. Highlight for John that show was when Nick Matranga flew in together with Junior Conway from Los Angeles espcially to check out Stardust. Nick absolutely loved the Merc and it brought back a lot of great memories for him. The deep and sparkling paint made John nick-name the car “Stardust”.


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CCC-40-merc-stardust-rc-magazine-feb-89-01Stardust was featured inside and on the cover of the February 1989 issue of Rod & Custom Magazine. This photo was taken atRoy’s drive-in in Salinas California.
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After the Oakland Roadster show John took the car to the Sacramento Autorama where it won the prestigious Sam Barris Memorial Award, best use of Color and the Most Popular Car in Show awards. In 1988 John also took the car to the other most important Custom Car event, the Paso Robles West Coast Kustoms show where Stardust won the prestigious Best Kustom award. And besides that the mercury was a HUGE crowd pleaser with people surrounding the car the whole weekend. The Mercury made a huge impact on many people who saw it at these late 1980’s shows. After that John showed the car at over 20¬†ISCA shows from 1988¬†to¬†1995 winning top honors and Most Popular awards in almost all the shows the car was entered.

Stardust was featured in many magazine over the years and inspired a lot of people to build similar styled customs. It showed the younger generation (including the author of this article) in the early 1990’s how traditional styled custom cars were looking back in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Remember that in those years not many magazines were out there, no books, and no internet to search for period customs. In fact I saw photos of Stardust even before I had seen any image of the Barris restyled Nick Matranga Mercury. This might be hard to imagine now, but back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s it was very hard to find traditional Custom Cars, especially if you lived outside the USA. So Stardust made a huge impact on me, and many other custom car enthusiast. The was¬†very special for me¬†back when it was new, and it still is¬†today.

CCC-40-merc-stardust-rc-magazine-feb-89-02The 1941 Mercury rear window fits the lines of the chopped coupe better than the original split window.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-rc-magazine-feb-89-03Pat Ganahl wrote the R&C Feb 1989 article on Stardust and also took the photos used in the article.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-with-modelJohn showed Stardust in many ISCA shows. This model photo-shoot was done for the annual ISCA show program.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-custom-car-magStardust was featured in many world wide magazines. The nicest feature might be the one in the rare Custom Car magazine from Nov-Dec 1989 with amazing photos shot with the 1941 Ford “Forty One for the centerfold, and a great scene on the cover.¬†
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-sunset-02

CCC-40-merc-stardust-cc-magazine-89-01The cowl vent was welded shut, and the peak on the hood extended on the cowl. The hood was peaked and an lip added at the lower edge where once the chrome eye brows were mounted. The 1946 Ford bumpers were narrowed, smoothed and reshaped for a better fit.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-cc-magazine-89-02The smooth teardrop shaped lined of the car all flow together and the perfect slight speed-boat stance makes it all look as perfect as it can be.
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In 1995 John decided it was time to let go of the car and¬†Woodroe Parker, a car collector from Seattle Washington bought the car. He displayed the car in his personal museum for a few years. In 1997 the Oakland Museum was putting an exhibition together; Hot rods and Customs, the Men and Machines of California’s Car Culture. Stardust was invited to be part of this exhibition to be displayed together with the original¬†Hirohata Mercury, The¬†Buddy Ohanesian¬†1940 Mercury, and Billy Gibbons¬†Cadzilla¬†to represent the Custom Car scene.

CCC-40-merc-stardust-oakland-museum-1996The Mercury at the Oakland Museum of California for the Hot Rods and Customs: The Men and Machines of California’s Car Culture exhibit.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-auction-01Images from the time Stardust was being auctioned around 2007.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-interior-01Jerry Sahagon from¬†San Leandro, California,¬†was responsible for the really unique interior done in pearl white and maroon mohair. This photo taken in the early 2000’s also shows the clear red lucite¬†dash inserts and the 1949 Mercury steering wheel.¬†
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-interior-02Pearl white naugahyde and maroon mohair was also used to upholster the fully detailed trunk.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-open-hood-free-01

CCC-40-merc-stardust-engineStardust is powered by an 1948 Ford 255 cubic inch Flathead V8 completely balanced and rebuilt. It featuring polished Offenhauser aluminum heads and 3-carb inlet manifold, beehive oil filter and brass radiator.
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Ted Steven the new owner

After the one year exhibition in the Oakland Museum of California the car was¬†send to the Monterey¬†RM Auction¬†to be sold. The car was bought by¬†Richard “Ted” Stevens¬†of Los Gatos, CA., who took the car to Roy Brizio for a complete redo. Ted had always been in love with the 1940 Mercury and he knew now he was able to buy his dream custom he wanted to drive the car at any moment as well. So the car needed to be updated mechanically, and while at it he decided the 80’s interior needed to go as well. The car was build 20 years ago and had been on the road and in shows most of the time. So it was time for a complete redo. The team at brizio completely redid the Mercury including the Flathead engine, transmission, rear¬†and¬†front end¬†to make it as reliable as a driver as possible. Brizio modified the dash by removing the red lucite inserts and replacing the Mercury steering wheel with a custom made transparent 1946-48 Lincoln steering wheel with Mercury center button.

CCC-40-merc-stardust-brizioStardust during the final stages of the redo at the Brizio shop.
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After Brizio had done all their work the car was send of to¬†Darryl Hollenbeck’s Vintage Color Studio¬†who prepped the body and added an wonderful¬†PPG Brandywine. Sid Chavers was asked to redo the interior in and off white and maroon leather in a more 50’s style. The overall looks of the car was left very much as how it was original designed by John D’Agostino in 1988, just updated to more modern standards and with the focus on creating a driver. The redone Stardust debuted at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama where the car was invited for the Special Mercury Gathering event. Later in¬†2009 the Mercury won the Custom of the year award at the¬†Goodguys All American Get-Together. In 2011 the Mercury was invited to represent the 1980’s Custom Car creations at the¬†Customs then & Now¬†event during the GNRS in Pomona.


CCC-40-merc-stardust-stevens-interior-01The red plexiglass panels were removed from the chrome plated dash and the 1949 Mercury steering wheel was replaced with a custom build translucent red ’46-48 Lincoln steering wheel with custom mercury center. The dummy spotlights were replaced with genuine Appleton Spotlights.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-interior-2009Part of the redo of Stardust was creating an all new interior. This time an off white and maroon leather was used to create an traditional style interior upholstered by Sid Chavers.
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CCC-Sacramento-Merc-Bird-04-WBirds eye view of Stardust at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama Mercury gathering.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-paintIt was extremely difficult to capture the color Darryl Holenbeck used on the latest version of Stardust. I took this photo at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama mercury Gathering and it gives a hint of the wonderful red sparkle of the pearl black paint. Without a direct light the paint looks a very deep organic black.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-gnrs-2011Ted Stevens was invited to bring Stardust to the prestigious Customs Then & Now exhibit during the 2011 Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona California. I took this photo at set-up day when the car had just arrived in building No. 9.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-rear-fenderLuke Horton captured the wonderful molded rear fenders and smooth running boards in this photo. It also shows how the teardrop skirts are frenched into the rear fenders with a molded in lip around the skirt. The super straight reflections say enough about the team at Brizo and painter Darryl Hollenbeck’s craftsmanship.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-tail-lightsJust like the original Matranga Mercury, Stardust also has the taillights set into the 1946 Ford rear bumper guards. The smoothed bumper, the hand made molded in splash pan and rounded corners on the trunk are unique for Stardust, and were not seen on the Matranga Merc. Sam Foose created the bumper guard taillights.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-wck-2009At the 2009 Goodguys Pleasanton car show.
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CCC-40-merc-stardust-illustration

John’s D’Agostino’a 1940 Mercury Stardust is one of the few Custom Cars created during the rebirth of the traditional Custom Car in the 1980’s, that has left a huge impact on many people. The well executed designs on the Mercury, performed by the team at Bill Reasoners shop, reminded people how beautiful the customs from the 1940’s and early 1950’s were. It influenced many people to create their own ’40’s influenced Custom Car, and till today the 1940 Mercury Stardust is one of John D’Agostino’s personal favorite Custom Cars.

Special thanks to John D’Agostino for helping with this article.

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Mystery Ayala 40 Mercury

 

MYSTERY AYALA 40 MERCURY

 

This 1940 Mercury chopped convertible was supposedly restyled by the Ayalas in the early 1950s. It was shown in the 80s, but what happened with it after that?



In January 2016 we did an article about Memo Ortega visiting a late 1980’s Paso Robles West Coast Kustoms meeting. Among the photos Memo shared was this very nicely done 1940 Mercury convertible, and Memo remembered talking to the owner of the car. The owner, Manuel Lopez mentioned to Memo that the car was an early 1950’s custom created by the Ayala’s.


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Gil Ayala¬†opened his¬†Gil’s Auto Body works¬†at 4074 East Olympic Boulevard, East L.A. in 1945. Together with his brother Al Ayala they created¬†Custom¬†Cars during the golden years of Customizing and far beyond. In those decades they have created a pretty large number of cars. Some full Customs that made the magazines, several others that never did, and a lot of milder customs that never made it into the magazines, or local and not so local car shows. They were ordered by the car owners just to stand out from the crowd and be used for everyday use and weekend cruising. Gil and Al, nor any other employee of the Ayala shop ever took many photos of the cars they created. Unlike for instance George Barris who took photos of most every project that was ever produced at the Barris Kustom Shop. While we know about the history of a lot of the Barris Kustoms restyled cars, we only know about a relative small amount of the original Ayala restyled Custom Cars.

There must have been a lot of “unknown” Ayala Customs out there in the 1940’s and 1950’s… and later. What happened with all these cars, where are they, and what happened to the owners. Most likely a lot of the cars are long gone, and perhaps others were further customized or hot rodded in later years.
So when a possible unknown Ayala created Custom shows up, it is pretty exciting.¬†When Memo Ortega talked to the original owner, Manuel Lopez of the car, and claimed it was build by the Ayala’s, Memo never doubted the owners words. Memo knew Gil Ayala very well from back in the 1950’s, and even ended up with Gil’s personal 1942 Ford coupe in the late 1950’s. Everything Manual Lopez told Memo about the Ayala shop seamed to be exactly as Memo remembered it from the 1950’s.

When Memo showed me the photo of the car with four bar flipper hubcaps and the fender skirts removed I knew I had seen it somewhere before. But at the time I could not remember where. Recenly I was working on another article and came across the photo I remembered. Richard Crawford “Thinmann”, had taken a photo of the Mercury in the 1980’s as well. Back then the was still had single bar flipper hubcaps and fender skirts which gave the car a completely different look.

The Mercury has the running boards removed, and a filler panel installed to hide the frame. The hood was nosed and the windshield mildly chopped. The side trim is shortened at the front, 1937 DeSoto bumpers installed and the fenders are not molded to the body. Memo could not remember if there was anything special done to the trunk, most likely shaved, but he was unsure about anything else.

CCC-memo-ortega-80s-car-shows-12Memo took only one photo of the car back in the late 1980’s By then the owner had installed a set of four bar flipper hubcaps and removed the fender skirts which gave the car a completely different look.
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This is what Memo Ortega remembered from talking to the Mercury owner

About this neat 1940 Mercury Convertible. I talked to the owner of the Merc, he told me this was the first time he had taken the car out in a long time. He was from East L.A. (that sure got my attention immediately) I think his name was Manuel Lopez, he told me he has had this car since back in the early 50’s. He asked me what town I came from, I told him I lived in Montclair on the other side of LA. He then asked me if I had ever heard of the Ayala’s, since they did the work on his Mercury back in the early 50’s. I think he mentioned it was still in the original paint from back then. I asked him how he kepth it looking so good all those years. He said he rarely takes it out, and its always coverd up. He does not let anyone touch it but himself. That car sure looked good after all the years he has had it. The man was older then me, how neat to hear that.

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CCC-ayala-40-merc-convertible-mystery-02Richard Crawford took this photo in the mid/late 1980’s. The car then had single bar flipper hubcaps and skirts installed, most likely more like how it was original restyled by the Ayala’s.
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As Memo mentioned,¬†Manuel Lopez did not take¬†the car out very often, and as far as I can remember I have never seen this Mercury¬†apart from these two photos from the 1980’s. So what happened to it after these photos were taken? Where is it now? I hope somebody will recognize the car, or perhaps knows the then owner Manuel Lopez from East L.A., and knows more about the car, the story, or anything else. If you do know anything more about this possible Ayala Custom, please email Rik Hoving here at the CCC so that we can solve another Custom Car Mystery.



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Gil Ayala 1940 Mercury

 

AYALA 1940 MERCURY

 

Gil Ayala’s 1940 Mercury Coupe Custom started out as Gil’s personal Custom Car. The car showcases all the things the Ayala’s were known for. He later sold it to Richard J. Stickley from Hollywood.



Gil and Al Ayala are known for their super smooth restyled Custom Cars. Wonderful blended body work with streamlined shaped front to rear. The car the two brothers created as Gil’s personal driver was a perfect sample for this. In fact they thought so them selves as well, since a side view photo of the car was used to advertise Gil’s Auto Body Work shop for several years, and was also used on the shop employees business cards. We have not been able to find out when Gil bought the car, and when he started to customize it. As far as we know the photo used on the cover of the October 1951 issue of Motor Trends magazine is the first photo taken of the car in progress. But we do not have a date when that photo was taken. According the “timeline” on Gil’s Mercury this must have been in 1949, since the car was finished in 1950, as it appeared in finished from on the November issue of Motor Trend on 1950. But the Wally Welch 1941 Ford can be seen finished in the top right corner having 1951 silence plate mounted. The 1950 Motor Trend magazine mentioned that car was finished on new years day in 1949.

Timeline mystery’s on the Ayala Mercury

Custom Car historian and enthusiast David Zivot made a few very good points about the timeline of Gil’s 1940 Mercury. Points that I had been wondering about as well, but figured it could have been possible, until I read David’s comments. Lets take a look at the things we know, and hopefully with the help of the readers we might solve this mystery. (This section will most likely be modified over time when more info and or insights will come available)

  • We know that the finished 1940 Mercury appeared on the cover of the October 1950 issue of Motor Trend magazine.
  • We have seen at least two snapshots from the Wally Welch Collection that show the Mercury in its second form at Gil’s shop. Cars in those photos have 1950 tags on them. The one thing that makes is really strange is that Wally most likely took these photos while his 1941 Ford was being worked on. Although there is no photo of Wally’s 1941 Ford in progress with the finished 1940 Merc in the background.
  • The finished 1940 Mercury appeared at the 1951 Oakland Roadster show held on Feb 20-25, 1951.
  • The photo taken by Felix Zelenka that was used on the cover of the October 1951 issue of Motor Trend shows a finished 1941 Ford for Wally Welch with 1951 silence plates, in the same photo we can also see the Hank Griffith 1942 Ford. The Ayala’s used a set of 1950 Cadillac rear fenders as well as sections of the 1950 front fenders to create full fade away fenders.
  • All this makes it very hard to believe that the Felix Zelenka photo on the 1951 Motor Trend cover was taken in 1949. As David Zivot pointed out, perhaps this is a second 1940 Mercury built with the same restyling as Gil did on his own personal Mercury? Or could it be that something happened to the Mercury and that a new top was added to the main body before Gil sold it to the new owner in 1951?


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Pat Ganahl showed a photo of an chopped 1940 Mercury, in his excellent two part Ayala story in the Rodder’s Journal magazine (issues 39 & 40) that has a fade-away fend line drawn on the photo. In the article it is assumed that the photo was Gil’s Mercury. Which would make sense, but at the same time does not make sense with the other photos we have of the car So it is a bit of a mystery where this photo is actually Gil’s Mercury, or most likely not. Gil’s Mercury was photographed for the Motor Trend issue with the full fade away fenders all finished on a primered body and the chopped top unfinished. In this photo the whole rear section of the top still needs to be done, while the snapshot Pat showed shows a completed chopped Mercury with no fade away fenders. So I assume Gil used a photo of another custom 1940 Mercury project he had done to draw the lines of his personal 1940 Mercury project on. Or was it his own Mercury and can we see a different similar styled 1940 Mercury on the cover of the October 1951 MT issue.

CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-19The photo Pat Ganahl showed in his two part Ayala story in the Rodder’s Journal from the Ayala Collection shows a chopped 1940 Mercury with a finished chop, but no fade away fenders. The worn snapshot shows a drawn line on the body where the fade away fender and the Cadillac fish tail rear fender would be on Gil’s personal Mercury. The windshield is also opened up with a drawn line.

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CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-01Al Ayala is sitting on the cowl of the Merc, while Gil is leaning against another Ayala Custom on the top left. Wally Welch and his girlfriend are posing next to Wally’s finished 1941 Ford on the top right, with 1951 license plates (photo by Felix Zelenka)
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CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-02Similar photo as above was used in colorized form on the Motor Trend cover. I show it here since it is a bit lighter and we can see more details in this version. Interesting about this photo is that while the fade away fender body work seams to be all finished, the top is still in need of some work. The whole rear sail panels and rear window are still missing making it almost look like the car has a wrap around rear window. Could it be possible that the 1940 Mercury in this photo is actually a different Mercury with the same restyling? Or could it be that for some reason Gil’s Mercury had a new top added. Perhaps Gil was not pleased with the chop and a few other elements and they redid it using a new coupe top?(photo by Felix Zelenka)
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Version One

Like most Custom Cars back then, Gil’s 1940 Mercury was an in-progress driving project. And as we can tell based on the photos, it looks like there where three versions of car. Version one as it was “finished” in primer, Version two was when the car was finished in jet-black paint. And the last known version was when the car was painted Devil Maroon for the new owner.

We have been told that most of the body work on Gil’s Mercury was done by Al Ayala, who was the body man of the team. The 1950 Motor Trend magazine mentioned that the top was chopped 6 inches in the front and 7 1/2 inch in the back. The windshield was chopped less and raised up into the top preventing the mail-slot look and also preventing the top to look to heave compared to the windshield opening. It is possible that the Ayala’s did this trick prior to the Barris shop who first performed this on Nick Matranga’s 1940 Mercury finished in 1950. For the rear of the top Al used shaped panels to make the top flow nicely into the the trunk. The most striking modification on this custom is the full fade away fenders, blending into 1949 Cadillac rear fenders.

The Cadillac rear fenders were modified to fit the Mercury body. The front section of the Cadillac fenders sits far more forward than the Mercury units did on the body. The fenders were welded to the body and the transit leaded and smoothed in the typical Ayala way. The next step was the create the panels for the fade-away front fenders, which is not easy to do on a 1939-40 Mercury/Ford. The fenders are very round, and it is hard to create the shape in such a way that it still looks good at the back where it meets the rear fenders. But Gil and Al did an absolutely great job on it. The fade away starts at the top of the fender, so most likely the whole rear portion of the fender was cut off and pre-shaped metal panels were welded in place to create the fade-away fender section. The rear of the hood lower corner most likely had to be adjusted to fit the new fender line, and the door lines had to be recreated completely. Once the new panels where shaped everything was welded to the Mercury body and smoothed as it belonged there from the factory.

At the back the stock Cadillac rear bumper was used below the stock 1949 Cadillac taillights. The new rear fenders with the tail fin and the fade-away front fenders had completely changed the looks of the car. Everything flowed wonderfully together. The body was shaved of all its trim and the handles were removed and replaced by push-buttons. The windows where changed to electirc operated units. The car was lowered 5 inches in the front and 6.5 inches in the back. For this version of the car the front fenders remained stock as well as the headlights and the front bumper was replaced with a 1941 Ford unit. We are not sure if version was actually planned as a finished version, or if the car was put in primer so that it could be used on the road and the dray lake races while waiting for Gil and Al to have more time to finish the car.

Gil Ayala was a menmber of the Rossetta Outsiders Car Club and raced the car at the Russetta meets at least during two events when the car was still in primer, and when the stock headlights were still on the car. Even though the body must have been very heavy with all the leaded in body work, Gil managed to get a top speeds of 127.11 mph with the 297 cubic inch engine. Earl Evans had built the engine for Gil using Evans heads and three carburetor intake manifold with an Smith & Jones cam.

CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-17We have never really find out why the Gil ran spoked wheels on the front of his 1940 Mercury at this Rossetta meet. Perhaps it was just something that he had handy. The car is completed in primer in its first version in this photo.
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CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-18This photo, most likely taken at the same event (note the same masking taped numbers on the door) shows that the front wheels were replaced with steel wheel units with white wall tires somewhere at this event. (photo from the Gene Jackson collection)
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ccc-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-22This kind of fuzzy, but interesting photo was shared by Rocherhead on the HAMB. The photo comes from the Creighton Hunter Collection. Creighton mentioned that this car amazed everyone that day when it turned a 129 mph speed at a Russetta Lakes Meet. We did not expect to see a custom car that was that fast. The picture quality is poor but I wanted to include here anyway. Note the number of hot rodder’s near the car which looks as if it is starting a run toward the traps.
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CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-09This photo from the David E. Zivot Collections shows Gil’s Mercury as another dry lake event, most likely also at an Russetta event. The car has the same number as the other photos, but are done differently now. The taped of windows are also different, better done, and the front bumper has been removed to save on weight.
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CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-10This photo shows Gil’s Mercury with a fresh coat(s) of primer in its first version with the stock headlights still in place. The car had a full set of white wall tires and Cadillac Sombrero’s mounted. It also appears that the hood had its handle hole now filled on the front. The handle hole was still visible on the dry lake photos.
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Version Two

Some time later Gil and Al changed the front end of the car. Unknown headlights and possibly donor car fender sections or hand made units where grafted onto the Mercury front fenders. The front fenders now looked much more like a modern car from the time it was built, 1949-50. The 1941 Ford front bumper was replaces with an 1950 Studebaker Commander front bumper. It was then time to paint the car. Gil knew that the body work Al had performed was absolutely perfect, so he decided that jet black would be the perfect color to show of the fabulous body work the Ayala shop was capable to do. At this point a set of Appleton S-522 Spotlights was mounted. The interior of the Mercury was done in yellow and cream leather, along with gaudy purple dash and garnish moldings. I would have loved to see a color photo of the mercury in this version.

CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-05This snapshot comes from the Wally Welch Collection and shows the finished and jet-black painted Mercury parked at Gil’s Auto Body Works in 1950. Notice the super straight reflections on the front and rear fenders, all due to the perfect body work of Al and painting skills of Gil Ayala.
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Great photo shows the very unique interior upholstery done in yellow and cream square-pleated leather. According to the CarTech / Pat Ganahl book Hot Rod Gallery II book the girl¬†in the car is Jeannie Chrisman¬†(Wally Welch his girlfriend at the time). To see this¬†image and more interesting info please get a copy of Pat Ganahl’s Hot Rod Gallery II book.
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CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-14Eric Rickman took the photos for the 1950 Motor Trend magazine cover and inside.
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CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-21Not the best quality photo, but since there are so few photos of Gil’s Mercury known, I wanted to include it here anyway. This photo is part of a collage created from photos from the¬†John Mackey Collection.
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CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-07The finished Mercury at one of the dray lake meetings. As the photo shows the car was very much liked by the crowd.
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CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-16Evans Belly tanker pushed of the line by Gil Ayala’s 1940 mercury custom.
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CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-12It appears that Gil Ayala is sitting inside the Mercury when this photo was taken at the Motor Trend photo shoot.
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CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-13This rear 3/4 view shows the really great flow of all the new body lines and how the use of the Cadillac rear fenders and fade away front fenders updated the car and make an ten year old car feel like a new car again.
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Version Three

The last known version of Gil’s 1940 Mercury is when the car was sold to the new owner Richard J. Stickley of Hollywood, California in 1951. Most likely by the owners request the car was repainted in Devil Maroon. This version of the car was entered at the Oakland Roadster Show in February 1951, where it took first place in the custom class. After that show we have not been able to find any information about the car. Non of the publications we know showed anymore new photos of it, nor have we found anybody who can remember seeing the car at local events or national shows. It looks like the car completely disappeared. We also have not been able to find out anything about the new owner of the car Richard J. Stickley.


CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-15Photo taken at the Urich Motors Shop in Whittier in California shows the car when it was most likely repainted in Devil Maroon. By now the front bumper has the Auto Butcher’s plaque added. We have only been able to find two photos showing this plaque with the car. This one, and the one taken at the 1951 Oakland Roadster shows shown below.
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CCC-gil-ayala-40-merc-oakland-11Photo taken at the 1951 Oakland Roadster show. The car was painted Devil Maroon when it appeared at this show. This or the photo above is the last known photo of the Mercury we have been able to find.
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CCC-gil-ayala-40-merc-oakland-06From the 1951 Oakland Roadster Show program.
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The early Publications

Gil’s Mercury was never really properly featured in the magazines. Major reason for that was that it was an early custom, and the real Custom Car and Hot Rod magazines had not come out before the car had disappeared from the scene. However Gil did manage to get the mercury on two magazine covers, not bad. Both on Motor Trend magazine and especially the second time the magazine cover in full color much have had quite some impact. The first time, November 1950 there where two more photos of the car inside, but the second time nothing of the Mercury was shown inside the magazine.

CCC-gil-ayala-40-merc-coversGil’s 1940 Mercury appeared twice on the Motor Trend magazine cover. First time as finished in jet-black on the November 1950 cover on the left, and in primer with unfinished, or perhaps with a redone chop on the October 1951 cover on the right.
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Motor Trend November 1950 double cover issue.

Ayala cover 3

This November 1950 Motor Trend cover with the Gil Ayala 1940 Mercury on the cover is a rather rare magazine. As can be seen on the cover, on the top right it reads ‚ÄúEdition C‚ÄĚ. As far as I have found out, the Mercury was used on the cover of the magazine distributed to California only. The Rest of the US/World had a cover with a Henry J on it, as can be seen in the inset. The cover and the description about the cover photo on page 5 is the only thing different on the inside of these magazines. So if you ever come across one with Gil‚Äôs Mercury on it you better get it.

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CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-11Despite being on the cover the inside only showed two photos of Gil’s Mercury an a short description. This was the biggest feature on the Mercury it would ever get.
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CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-ads-02The side view photo of the Mercury taken at Gil’s Auto Body Works location was used in several ads during the 1950-51 period. Most of them showed the Mercury set free from the background, but at least one shows the house of Chrome building in the background. Notice that all Custom Work was Guaranteed!
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CCC-gil-ayala-1940-mercury-business-cardThe same side view photo was also used for the Shops Business Cards.
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References and more info

  • Motor Trend, November 1950
  • Motor Trend, October 1951
  • Custom Cars Trend Book No. 101, 1951
  • Rodder’s Journal Number 39, 2007
  • Jack Stewart Ford book, 2012

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If any of the CCC-readers know anything more about Gil Ayala’s 1940 Mercury with fade-away fenders. More info on the early years of the car, or perhaps what happened to it after the 1951 Oakland Roadster show, or any other info, please let us know, we would love to add any new information to this article to have it as complete as possible. Email Rik Hoving.


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Butler Rugard Westergard Merc

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BUTLER RUGARD WESTERGARD MERCURY

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A very early Westergard customized 1940 Mercury survives several re-stylings over the years, gets restored to 1950’s specs and ends up in Europe.

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A little while ago we ran a short story on the Butler Rugard’s 1940 Mercury restyled by Harry Westergard. The story was about the car being for sale at a large auction in Greece. At the time the car did not find a new buyer. Recently the Greece owner contacted us to share some more photos of the car taken in Greece and to let us know the car is still For Sale. So we thought its time to do a full article on this unique early Westergard Custom, and perhaps find a new owner for the car who might even take it back to how it original looked when harry Westergard restyled it in the early 1950’s. The last restoration on the Butler Rugard Westergard Mercury, done by Jack Walker and team. The car was restored to a generic mid to late 1950’s version.

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This is how the Mercury looks now, photographed in sunny Greece in 2015.

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Lets go back in time first… to when Butler Rugard’s bought this 1940 Mercury Convertible brand new from the dealer.
Most likely being inspired by the GM design studies of the early 1940’s Butler started to have his brand new 1940 Mercury Customized right away. One of the people who he knew could handle the changes he had in mind was Harry Westergard. Butler took the Mercury to Harry to have him create full fade away fenders.

The story goes that the complete restyling was done over a period of time. Dick Bertolucci mentioned that some of the early work on this Mercury was done by Les Crane, who worked with Harry Westergard on a few projects. Each time Butler took the car back to Harry to have some more changes done to it. But as far as we know the fade-away fenders was the first restyling done by Harry.

There are different stories going around about the padded top on the car. One story is that Westergard chopped the windshield, and created a frame for a padded top, another story is that it was the padded top that was done by one of the famous shops very early on in the process. Westergard is credited for replacing the stock grille with the Buick unit. The hood has also been modified to fit the flatter Buick grille, but the typical Mercury side bulges on the hood are still on the hood sides in this version.

In the later version the bulge was removed and the body crease on the hood sides extended and wrapped around to the front of the hood. The car has 1937 DeSoto bumpers, and the stock 1940 Mercury headlights are still in place. This version used black wall tires and single bar flipper hubcaps. Jack Walker provided the Custom Car Chronicle with a very rare photo of this early version of Butler’s 1940 Mercury. De photo did not come with a dat, but this must have been in the very early 1940’s.

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Jack Walker provided this amazing photo. It shows the car in an early version when the hood sides and headlights were still stock. The car was then also fitted with 1937 DeSoto bumpers.

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He reshape the front of the front fenders and added Packard headlights to them. The team wanted to use a 1942 Buick grille, but since that unit is a lot thinner than the v-shaped Mercury grille the hood needed to be reworked considerably to make this all work. Harry reshaped the front of the hood, he tucked the lower section inward, to meet the new 1942 Buick grille. this all resulting in a dolphin like hood shape, a similar shape we can also see in some coach-built roadsters from those days. Although we are not sure if Harry might have been influenced by those, or if this is just a coincidence.

At the rear Harry installed 1940 Chevrolet taillights, vertical on slightly extended moldings and a set of tear drop fender skirts. The car was lowered with long shackles and a de-arched spring at the back. The car was dressed up with Lyons hubcaps on wide whites, 1941 Packard bumpers and a set of spotlights. The original flathead Mercury V-8 was kept in the car, but was dressed up with some early Hop Up speed parts as a triple-carb Offenhauser intake manifold with matching Offenhauser finned heads. We are unsure when Harry completed the car in this what we cal final version. But we do know that the car was shown like this at a Sacramento Car dealer show in 1950.

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Butler Rugard’s 1940 Mercury at the Sacramento Car dealer show in 1950.

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August issue of Custom Cars magazine showed the car in the letter section. Dark paint, no skirts and long lake pipes.

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It appears that Butler hung on to the mercury long enough to hand it over to his daughter Marie somewhere in the 1950’s. In the August 1960 issue of Custom Cars magazine, there is a small write up on the car in the “Mail Call” section. According this article the car was painted black then, had leopard fur upholstery on the inside of the padded top, a chrome plated dash, and leather upholstery. The photo showed full length lake pipes and no skirts on the rear fenders. It also appears that at least the rear bumper was replaced with a more wrap around unit.

Steve Bateman bought this 1940 Merc Conv. in 1973 in Isleton, Calif. from the Fernandez family (Butler’s daughter), he kept it for two years and then sold it to Ron Marquardt

The next update we were able to find, comes from the early 1980’s. The car is a dark color, but has now an new horizontal grille opening added. The padded top is re-upholstered in dark material. The lake pipes are gone and so is the front bumper. Black wall tires replace the classic white wall units from the previous versions.

According a small write up, the car had been in storage and had been restored when the photo was taken in 1982. Ron kept the car for the next 25 years and they cruised every summer. Most likely during this period the car was in an accident damaging the front and rear end of the car. The car was repaired with tunneled headlights and set-in, turned upside down, 1939 Ford taillights in the back.

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Dark paint, dark top, black wall tires and a new grille opening.

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The the car was painted white, the padded top was covered with white material, and a 1949 plymouth rear bumper was added on the back. The horizontal grille opening was filled with 1951-53 DeSoto grille teeth, and no bumper was used on the front. The original Spotlight have now been replaced with Dummy units. Chip Chipman photographed the car like this in August 2000.

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This photo and those below , (of the white version) were taken by Chip Chipman in 2000. The car was now painted white with a white covered top and a set of DeSoto grille teeth in the new grille opening.

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In the 1990’s, Ron advertised the car for sale in the Hemmings Motor News. Jack Walker, custom car enthusiast and collector of Belton, Missouri, spots the ad. Before he decides to buy it he is doing some research to find out if it is the real deal as the advertisement claims. Jack even asks George Barris, who recalls the car from the time he was learning the trade at Harry Westergards shop. So he advised Jack to buy the car sight unseen. Jack decides to buy the car and asks his friend Ed Guffey to team up with him on the restoration.

Dave Dolman in Verdon, Nebraska, was hired to do the bodywork restored. The body was n rather bad shape and needed a lot of work getting straight again.Once the body work was done Jack and Ed decided to paint the car Candy Apple Red. Not really the right color for this 1940’s custom. But the team decided to see it as a mid 1950’s redone version of the car. The modern engine was replaced with a flathead engine and the interior that came with the car was good enough to be restored. Bob Sipes redid the padded top.

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The Butler Rugard, Harry Westergard-built 1940 Mercury was invited to the prestigious Taildraggers on the grass exhibit at the 2005 Pebble Beach Concourse.

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At some point not too long after the Pebble Beach event Jack Walker and Ed decided to let go of the Historic Mercury and Ralph Whitworth’s aquired it for his Museum. Sadly the Museum plans came to an halt in 2009 and most of the collection ended up being auctioned. The Butler Rugard, Westergard Mercury ended up in the hands a new owner from Greece.

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When the car was part of Ralph Whitworth’s Museum the car was invited to the Mercury Gathering at the 2009 Sacramento Autorama. A historic event with the best and most historical Custom Mercury’s from all over the US.

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To Greece

Not long after the Sacramento show the Museum was closed and most cars in the collection auctioned at the special Icons of Speed & Style RM Auction. The car was sold for $75,000.- plus 10% auction fees. Far below the estimate. The new owner of the Butler Rugard 1940 Mercury takes it to his home in Greece after that.

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The Harry Westergard Butler Rugard 1940 Mercury as advertised for the Icons of Speed & Style RM Auction. Estimated to sell for $125,000 – 175,000 it eventually went for $75,000.- plus 10% auction fees.

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The Butler Rugard’s 1940 Mercury after it has been shipped to the new owner in Greece.

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In June 15, 2013 the car ends up at an COYS auction in Greece. However the car did not meet its reserve, it was estimated to bring: ‚ā¨80,000 ‚Äď ‚ā¨100,000 ($124,208.00 ‚Äď $155,260.00) and was not sold and went back to the owner who had bought it at the US Auction.

The Mercury at the 2013 COYS Auction.

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This photo, and the four below shows the car as it was in 2015, photographed by the then owner in Greece. The owner had contacted us to advertise the car for Sale on the CCC. Eventually around 2019 he is able to find a new owner for the car.

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The car today is still in the same condition as the Jack Walker team restored the car in. Odd, far from period perfect Candy apple red with red wheels and Packard baby moon hubcaps. A nice set of Lyons hubcaps, wide whites and a dark maroon or black paint job would do wonders for this car.

GOOD NEWS!
September 2019. The really great news is that the new owner has great plans for the car. The new owner, and his friends are very dedicated. First plan is to get it technically all in order so that the car can actually been driven, and driven safely. The next plan is that the car will most likely be shipped to the US at the end of the summer in 2020, possibly to attend some shows there. The new owner lives half of the year in Greece, and half of the year in the US. Then the later part of the plan is, and this is the most exciting part of it…. to have the car brought back to early 1940’s specs. Black paint, DeSoto Bumpers, just as how the car was initially created for Butler Rugard.

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We soon will be updating this article with more info, and current photos of the car.



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Sledge Customs Classic 1940 Sedan

CLASSIC 1940 SEDAN

In the works at Sledge Customs is a classic styled chopped 1940 Mercury sedan. Created by the cars owner Vic Jimenez and Kevan Sledge.

In 2007 my wife, our son, and me decided to leave down town Amsterdam and move to a very small village in the Northern part of the Netherlands. From a 5th floor apartment to an old farm with a two car garage. A few month ahead of the move I decided that my time to create my dream custom would come as soon as we would have settled in our new house. So I started out designing my dream custom. I have always loved the shape of the 1939-40 Mercury bodies. And could not understand why we do not see these bodies on more traditional styled customs back in the day, or now. The body has this perfect teardrop shape. This same shape also makes it hard to chop. But I knew it would not be impossible to do, just a bit harder than the coupe or convertibles.

I used Photoshop to create my dream custom 1939 Mercury sedan. A nicely balanced chop with the rear of the body and rear side windows shortened for the perfect lines. Actually I did a few different versions, but all were based on the chopped sedan body. My personal favorite was the one with the running boards removed, stainless trim on the frame covers and rock shields on the rear fenders.
Sadly only few weeks after we moved to our new home, the economy collapsed and now working free-lance made it financially impossible to get started on my dream custom project.
I decided to show my designs on the Custom Car Photo Archive and hoped that somebody would get inspired seeing how good these sedans looked fully customized. I’m extremely happy to see that my original designs helped inspire Vic Jimenez to get his project 1940 Mercury Sedan started.

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One of the original Photoshop designs I made in 2007.

Vic Jimenez will be doing most of the work on the car himself at the Sledge Customs Shop in Grass Valley. The Sledge Customs Shop is owned by World leader – when it comes to chopping 1939-40 Mercury’s – Kevan Sledge. Vic will be using the Photoshop design as base for his dream Custom. Vic’s Mercury is a 1940 Model, while my original design was based on the more basic 1939 model.
Kevan Sledge has created a CCC-Forum post about the project, where we can follow the updates.

CCC_sledge-40merc-sedan02-WThe chopping of the top has begin. In this photo you can see how much the back of the car will need to be laid forward to meet the lower edge of the top.

 

CCC_sledge-40merc-sedan04-WVic’s 1940 Mercury Sedan before the work was started. The body is nice, straight and mostly rust free, a perfect project car.

 

CCC_sledge-40merc-sedan03-WFirst job was to lower the rear by flattening the rear cross member.

 

CCC_sledge-40merc-sedan05-WCar owner Vic working on his Mercury.

 

CCC_sledge-40merc-sedan06-WThis is my own personal favorite of the designs i made in 2007. Removed running boards with stainless trim on the frame covers and rock shields on the rear fenders.

 
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