39 MERC MYSTERY UNRAVELS
This unrestored very early 39 Merc Custom padded topped convertible showed up at the 2008 LA Roadster Show. It had every Custom Car enthusiast talk for ages. Where did it come from, who was the original owner?
This 1939 Mercury is possibly every Custom Car enthusiast dream come true. I guess we all dream about opening an old barn or garage and find an original Custom from the 1940’s or 50’s that has been sitting there for decades. A car with a load of history which unfolds into this great story about famous places, and well know custom builders from the past. A car which brings back memories to many people who look at it, and car that perhaps even brings old friends together.
Rob Radcliffe was at the 2008 LARS and took these photos of the Mercury. He was also very impressed and intrigued with the Mercury. The bottom two photos show the poor condition of the original padded top and the very interesting upholstery on the rear bench. The upholstery has an early Gaylord feel to it. The car appears to be in rather good condition for an nearly 70 year old custom having sat under a carport for several decades.
The first time this Mercury was shown to the public, like how we see it in this article, was in 2008, when Michael Lightborn en Ron Clapper had brought the car from Texas to sell it at the L.A. Roadster show. The car was owned at the time by Jorge Zaragosa from Texas. Jorge had bought the car as part of a deal which included a few cars, including this 1939 Mercury and a well known old Hot Rodded 1936 Ford 3-window coupe. Jorge was only interested in the Hot Rod, but could only get that when he bought the rest as well. The LARS looked like a good place to sell the car. There was some interest in the old Custom but it did not sell at the show, most visitors are more into historic Hot Rods and not into historic Customs. But one of the people that was very interested in the car was Squeak, who made Ron an offer, but he declined. Ron and Michael tried went to a few other places in the next couple of days trying to sell the car with no success. So after three days they accepted Squeak’s offer… they did not want to bring the car back home to Texas.
Hard to tell from this photo, but the drivers side has holes for an Appleton Spotlight. Later it was found out that the same holes were also on the passenger side, but they were welded shut and leaded at some point.
Squeak owned the car for about a year. He made plans in his head, but never got around to work them out. He knew how bad his good friend and early Custom Car enthusiast Kevan Sledge of Sledge Customs wanted to have the car. So one day he let Kevan buy the car from him. Squeak knew the car was going to a good home. Kevan brought the car back to his home in Grass Valley Northern California. Plans were to try and find out the full history on the car, then restore it back to how it used to be in the 1940’s.
In 2015 the car went to a new owner, Ronnie Lindblom, another die-hard early Hot Rod and Custom Guy made a deal with Kevan, and is now, Summer 2015, the proud owner of this 1939 Merc.
In the days after the 2008 LARS the car was offers for sale at a different event as well. Now some hubcaps where added to make it look more interesting, and a sign asking for more info on the car was taped to the rear quarters.
At this point of writing October, 2015 we do not know who actually performed the restyling on this 1939 Mercury back in 1939. The padded top was created by the Carson Top Shop who had their shop at 4910 S. Vermont Ave. in Los Angeles. At the time the Carson Shop also did body and fender work, so it could also be possible that the body work on the Mercury was done here as well, but we do not know for sure. Hopefully more info on the Merc will clear this up in the near future.
The windshield was chopped around two inches, and a padded top was created for it. The car comes with side windows, which were not stock on a 1939 Mercury, possibly these parts were hand made. The handle and script was removed from the trunk and a set in license plate was added. The gas filler was shaved on the fender and the filler moved into the trunk. The hood ornament was removed and holed filled for a smooth look, and the hood side trim was shortened. A set of Appleton spotlights was added. The car was lowered in the rear with longer shackles, and the bumpers where replaced with 1937 DeSoto ribbed units. The car was painted green metallic. According Kevan Sledge the color looked very similar to what was used on the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.
Detail photo of the wood top header and all the padding material.
More detail photos show how the padded top frame was constructed.
The main part of the headliner still looks pretty good.
One of the upholstered door panels is sitting on the rear bench in this photo. The wide very round horizontal rolls on the rear bench are quite unusual.
The dash shows mismatching gauge panel and glove box door. Although not confirmed it is said that the car originally had these parts chrome plated and that they where taken from the car at some point. Perhaps the old owner sold them and replaced them with stock units.
Most likely at this time the car was also upholstered with a new custom interior, but it is still unsure if the remains of the interior are from the original built in 1939. It could very well be that the interior was redone when the car was repainted a purple-ish brown with a slight metallic. We do not know when this was done, most likely in the 1950’s, but we are not sure. Most likely when the car was repainted the set in license plate was removed and the trunk completely smoothed. The passenger side Appleton spotlight was removed and the holes welded shut and body worked with lead.
During its life in California the engine was updated with an two carb intake manyfold. When the car changed hands in 2007-08 there was a different engine in the car, but the intake manifold came with the deal. Apparently the intake ended up getting sold… at this moment we don’t know where it went.
Kevan Sledge, the new caretaker in 2009
When Kevan Sledge became the new care taker of the car he made many plans to restore it back to original configuration. But time and to many other projects stood in the way of that.. But Kevan did work on the car a bit making sure the cars condition would not get worse. Kevan removed the padded top frame and upholstery material that was left on it. He also added a better set of tires, hubcaps and teardrop skirts, which really helped the looks of the car.
After having had the car for a few month it was time for Kevan to remove the top from the car so that he would store that in a better way. Judging the rusty bolts Kevan estimated that it might have been the first time in 50 or so years the top was separated from the car.
And while Kevan was at it, he also took off the ugly modern to big tires and replaced them with a bit better looking white wall tires. and added a set of Single Bar Flipper Hubcaps and beauty rings from his own collection. It changed the look completely.
The original padded top was then stored inside hanging from the ceiling in Kevan’s old place.
Kevan took this photo from the inside of the trunk which shows that at one time there was an inset license plate. At one point this was removed and the hole filled in again.
The car was lowered at the rear with longer shackles.
In 2015 Kevan realizes that he might not have the time to give this car the proper care it needs and decides to let it go to early time Custom Car and Hot Rod enthusiast Ronnie Lindblom.
Ronny Lindblom, the new caretaker in 2015
ever since Ronnie has become the new care taker of the Mercury he has been trying hard to find out as much as he can about the history of the Mercury. And he already has found out a lot as this article show. But he is still looking for more info on the car, especially from the 1940’s and 1950’s. Ronnie knows that the original owner of the car passed away in 2008, and that there was a good friend of the owner at the 2008 LARS show. So far Ronnie has not been able to get in touch with this friend. Of course he would love to talk to him to hear more details about the car and find out if there are possibly some old photos of the car.
Squeak told Ronnie this story from the LARS show.
While the car was at LARS and before I bought it, an old (in his 80’s apparently) was talking to Ron Clapper and told him that he knew the car quite well when it was NEW in L.A. in the 1940’s. The guys best friend had bought the car NEW from a Long Beach Mercury dealer and driven it to an Top Shop and had them remove the original folding top and fit a padded chopped top, new interior and repaint the car and this was all when the car was BRAND NEW in 1939….. un fuckin’ real. Thus making it ‘possibly’ the Worlds FIRST chopped Mercury.(????) The old boy then went on to tell Ron that his friend that owned the car in ’39 had just passed away the week before the 2008 Roadster Show and had been to every one prior to that, unreal! Anyway, Ron let the guy walk away and forgot to get his name or phone number or any other contact. So sad, this was probably the last real link to the cars early history.
With the help of the Kevan Sledage, Ron Clapper and Squeak the full history on this piece of Custom Car history is slowly unraveled. There are still some blank spots that need to be filled in… so if anybody remembers anything about this car from its early days, or has heard stories about it. Please Contact us and let us know so we can help fill in these blank spots and make the story complete.
Detail photo showing the frame work and fine chicken wire that was used to shape the top.
The top upholstery has now been removed and after inspecting the frame work and comparing it with as many old Padded Top photos as possible both Kevan and Ronnie came to the conclusion that the top was most likely done by the Carson Top Shop.
It is really amazing to see all the details on the top, work that was done back in 1939. The seats are some old seats from another car, sadly the original front seat is long gone, ended op on somebody’s front porch!
This is how the car looks in the summer of 2015 at the Sledge Custom Shop. Looking good with added amber fog lights and aftermarket hubcaps.
This is what Ronnie has found out about the 1939 Mercury Custom Convertible so far.
- The car was brought new in 1939 at a Long Beach Ca. Mercury dealer. Car was blue from the factory
- The car was taken to the Carson Top Shop when it was still brand new for a chopped windshield and padded top.
- The car was painted a light green metallic.
- At one point the car was repainted maroon, but other than that we do not know much about the cars live in the 1940’s and most of the 1950’s.
- In 1959 the car was bought by Eddie Dominguez. Eddie bought the car in 1959 in el Paso. One day in 1959 Eddie was driving around and saw this ’39 Mercury sitting in a drive way. He thought he as never going to be able to own a car like that, but still he decided to knock on the door and ask if the car was for sale. It was, and Eddie offered the guy all he was able to spend on it.. and he said yes. The car looked still very good, all nice and shiny. But when he had taken the car home it broke down after just two days of having had fun with it. The motor froze and turned out to be cracked. Eddie did not know how to fix it, not have any money to have somebody else do it. So he parked the car under a carport. At the time Eddie was in the navy, then came his family… and before he knew it the car had sat for 40 years. He saved the car for his kids, but nobody was interested in it. Ronnie talked to Eddie Dominguez on May, 29, 2016, and Eddie was really pleased to hear the car will be on the road again soon.
- Eddie stored the car under a carport and at one point somebody took out the front seat to use it as a couch on their porch.
- The interior in white and red as we can see it in the 2008 LARS photos has an early Gaylords feel to it. Bill Gaylords name has been mentiond in conversations about this car, so perhaps Bill Gaylord did do an new interior for the car when it was repainted maroon. At this point we do not know this for sure.
- In 2008 Jorge Zaragosa from Texas becomes the owner of the Mercury as part of a deal. But he has no interest in the car.
- in 2008 the car is for Sale at the L.A. Roadster Show and three days after the show Squeak buys the Mercury from Ron Clapper who was selling it for Jorge.
- In 2009 Kevan Sledge buys the car from Squeak
- in 2015 Ronnie Lindblom becomes the new caretaker and plans are made to find the complete history of the car, hopefully find some old photos and restore it back to how it was when first restyled in 1939.
If you have any info about this early 1939 Mercury, then please contact us so we can help get with this great customs full history.
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