Ken Gypson’s Journey with His Mercury Creation
The old car hobby has many facets, maybe too many. Grandpa was into Maxwells, early Buicks and Pierce Arrows. Dad was into British sport cars, open wheel race cars (midgets and sprint cars) and Franklins and Packards. Me? I’m into all of the above plus vintage stock cars and traditional Kustoms.
The 49-51 Mercurys are the holy grail of traditional Kustoms. (Yes, with a “K” as coined by George Barris.)
I bought mine in 1988 for $3,500. It was already a mild Kustom. Nosed, decked and shaved. (Nosed – hood ornaments removed, decked – trunk emblems removed, shaved – all other non-essential trim and latches removed.) It had a modified ’51 Merc grill that I immediately replaced with a shortened ’55 DeSoto grill. Door handles were removed and replaced with ’57 Plymouth trunk locks. I also “frenched” the head lights (no outside trim rings). Shortly thereafter the stock flathead went south. In the course of a rebuild the flathead was bored 40 over, given dual Stromberg 97carbs, a Chevy 283 distributor and a one wire alternator upgraded to 12 volt negative ground.
While the engine was out for machine work, I got the crazy idea to chop the top. I had no idea the task I created for myself. I took a perfectly good car and whacked it 5 and a half inches!
With such a radical lowering I had to get a donor ’50 Merc for the rear window. The ’51 window has a 90 degree corner and would have been 2” below the fender line. The ’50 is rounded and worked perfectly.
I also slanted the door posts and removed the drip moldings over the rear quarter windows, and installed a ’49 Merc dashboard with brand new VDO gauges. I drove the Merc in enamel and lacquer primer until 2018. During this time I also installed a MSD electronic distributor and adapted a Chevy S-10 5 speed overdrive tranny to the flathead.
It was time to refresh the Merc. I was also determined to finally get an interior done up for it. All those years it had late Chrysler seats and NO other interior. My friend, Dave, and I took the ’51 Merc interior seats and panels from a local junk yard to Labaron Bonney 2 days before they closed their doors. The shop manager took the seats home with her and did a great job in her home shop.
Dave and I stripped the car and did whatever minor body work was needed to paint it. We flush mounted the skirts and had a body shop friend shoot the car in SEM Products Hot Rod Black. It took 3 months to put back together and install the beautiful black and red Naugahyde interior.
I now have at least 6 times the amount of money into the Merc than what I paid for it! And, I only got to drive it one day before the snow came!