In March 14 IssueRussell County NewsBy Ron Cowell, Columnist
Mercury Hot Rod, the words go together like bread and butter. Next to Ford, the Mercury probably is the second most favorite choice for Street Rodders and Hot Rodders alike.
When that first Mercury rolled off the assembly line in 1939 it had a standard 292 cubic inch V8 motor, it was an instant success. With a little fine tuning this engine would push a stock 39 Mercury down the road at 100 mph!
1949 saw the introduction of the Mercury 8, and another favorite of Mercury hot rodders, customizers, and street rodders was born. The legendary 1949 - 1950 Mercury has been featured in several films, appearing with James Dean in “Rebel with a Cause”, the Pharaohs gang in “American Graffiti, with Sylvester Stallone in “the Cobra”, and later with Nicolas Cage in “Gone in 60 Seconds 2”.
The 1949, 1950, 1951 series Mercury has been the one car that has captured the custom look of the Fifties.
The way to get that Led Sled look was to give the car a chopped roof. To round off that look they added fender skirts, headlights and tail lights that were frenched.
Louvers were also added to the hood. The outside trim and door handles were removed, interiors was rolled and pleated, then add some “flames” to the side panels front fenders ...and presto the car has achieved that famous Lead Sled look....
One of the premier Hot Rodders, Sam Barris, is generally credited with chopping the top of the first 1949 Mercury. He bought his Mercury in 1949 brand new, and figured the lines of the car would really look sharp by lowering the roof line, and that’s what started a trend that has continued right through today.
This style went on to become what is referred to as a Lead Sled. Early hot rodders used melted lead to fill in holes and seams in the body to give it a smooth finish that today’s plastic fillers or “bondo” now accomplish.
Minor trim changes marked Mercury’s 1950 models. The one-millionth Mercury was built that year. In lieu of a hardtop, which Mercury didn’t have, the flashy, padded vinyl or canvas-roofed Monterey coupe was added, along with a cheap, fixed rear window, two-door as an entry-level model. 1951s were restyled with a new grille, roofline, extended rear fenders and vertical taillights.
Besides Merc-O-Matic transmissions, many items had wonderful, period-perfect names like the Econ-O-Miser carburetor and the Safe-T-Vue instrument panel.
Almost as soon as these Mercury’s were sold, customizers began removing chrome, chopping top, adding sides pipes and grilles from other makes, and lowering the cars to within a cigarette pack’s height from the ground.
Popularly called “bathtub” Mercurys today, the 1949-51s have become the definitive early Fifties American “lead sled” customs. So many were modified, then and now, it’s hard to locate a stock one. When you do, look for rust, saggy springs and blow-by from worn valve guides.
CPI says to figure on $15,000-$20,000 for a good coupe, add $10K for a nice convertible or Monterey.
That venerable flat head purrs at idle, heats up quickly in stop-and-go traffic, but still accelerates quite fast when you put your foot into it. And also those broad bench seats were ideal for “parking,” then and now.
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Until next time, Keep Cruisin’!