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Mercury Custom, Red, for sale in Warrensville Heights, Ohio, for $39,900.
If you want to be noticed, this is an E-ticket ride.
The first thing you should know about this 1950 Mercury coupe (known as the “Harris Mercury”) is that it attracts more attention than any other car we’ve got in stock, whether it’s inside or out. We have some pretty spectacular cars in inventory, but none can compete with the eyeball appeal this one offers. The traditional “lead sled” look is 100% authentic on this car, thanks to a chopped top, fender skirts, a cool Canadian Mercury Monarch grille up front, and hand-painted pinstriping throughout. In short, this is the perfect car for cruising on a Friday night, arm out the window, listening to the rumble of the exhaust, and looking for some fun.
Built in the early 1990s by a man whose family had owned the car for decades, he used it as a daily driver for several years. He poured his heart and soul into the build, working extra hard to get the chop done right. A few years later, the well-known father and son team at Harris Customs in Connecticut acquired the car and completely gutted it, upgrading the interior, tweaking the bodywork, and finishing it with the stunning House of Kolor Tangelo Pearl paint. The body modifications are extensive and all the usual terms apply here: chopped, channeled, frenched, smoothed, nosed, decked, and shaved. The look is classic lead sled, from the roof that has been chopped three inches, to the frenched headlights, and molded-in taillights, along with those gorgeous fender skirts that really give it a long, low look. With expert workmanship, the car fits together extremely well, and the seams and modifications required to get it into its current condition were professionally done by guys who knew what they were doing. The C-pillars flow naturally, there’s no sign of the seams, and the doors fit well with no rubbing. It has been smoothed, sanded, and expertly straightened so that three-stage Tangelo paint could go on. It’s got a ton of metal flake in it, plus a pearl topcoat, and it’s simply dazzling out in the sun. Once it was dry, the contrasting pinstripes were hand-applied in traditional patterns on the nose, tail, and above each headlight, as well as other discreet locations throughout the car. The car has been driven quite a bit, and is a reliable summertime cruiser, so there are a few very minor signs of use, but overall it is smooth, bright, and quite striking.
Harris also spent a big pile of money on the chrome. A lot of the original trim was shaved during the customization process, but the stuff that remains has been refinished to show standards, including the 1955 Ford side trim. The grille is from a Canadian-only 1949 Mercury Monarch, and the way it fits on the front of the car kind of makes you wonder if the same guy designed both cars. It just looks natural. The bumpers fore and aft are also super-rare Monarch pieces, and still have mounting points for the license plates, just so you can keep it legal at all times. And kudos to the builder for modifying all the window frames to fit the newly sectioned openings; the work is seamless and professional. Both spotlights are dummies, of course, but have been trimmed in off-white with orange pinstripes for a very unique look. There are no door handles, but a tiny pinhole on each door uses a special key on the key ring to pop the latch from the outside.
Inside, the ultra-traditional white vinyl tuck-and-roll interior is straight out of 1955 and professionally installed by Ken’s Upholstery in Ellington, Connecticut. Like the body, it’s beautifully done to a very high standard using all the traditional tricks and techniques to create a period piece. The front seat is a Mercury Comet bench, lowered just a bit so there’s plenty of room with the chopped top, and it’s actually quite comfortable to cruise in there, even for someone six feet tall. The carpets are a cool magenta, which is a neat contrast with the Tangelo paint that actually works really well, and the hand-made headliner fits extremely well. No custom would be caught dead with a stock dash, so this one has been heavily modified to accommodate a set of white-faced Dolphin gauges with orange needles, the perfect match to the car’s color scheme. There’s also a powerful Pioneer AM/FM/CD stereo system fitted in the center of the dash, and it sounds awfully good—pop in your favorite CD and hit the streets! I’m also digging the tall shifter for the C4 3-speed automatic transmission underneath, especially with the piston-shaped knob up top. You’ll feel like turning up your collar and slicking back your hair when you hang your hand from it while you drive. Also note that the window frames have been expertly modified to fit the chopped doors, giving it a highly finished look. Controls for the Air Ride suspension are at your fingertips, and other details like the headlight switch, trunk opener, and heater controls are neatly tucked under the dash on the driver’s side to keep everything ultra-sanitary. The trunk has been finished with more magenta carpets, and house the air ride suspension compressor and tank, as well as the fuel filler neck, so the flanks can stay smooth.
Cruising in a car like this is about looking good, and nobody looks good stranded by the side of the road, so this Merc has been fitted with a bulletproof Ford 302 cubic inch V8 and a 4-barrel carburetor. Not only is it an actual Ford in a Ford, but it is as reliable as a wood-burning stove. Better yet, it delivers great performance and is as easy to maintain as any late-model car, so this car will never need expensive, unobtainable parts. There are a few chrome dress-up pieces under the hood, and overall the installation is neat and tidy, although it has obviously been built to drive, not sit on a show stand. It fires up quickly and easily with a fantastic muted rumble from the dual exhaust, and has enough of a lope in the idle to let you know this isn’t a stock Merc. It stays cool by running what appears to be the original radiator with a custom-made shroud, and a fresh battery kicks it over instantly when you hit the button. The original heater plenum is still in place, although disconnected, as this has always been a fair-weather cruiser with no need for heat, but it’s there if you want it.
Underneath, it’s still highly original, with the factory 1950 Mercury frame holding up a modified front suspension fitted with airbags instead of springs. Out back, the de-arched rear leafs are augmented by a second set of airbags that allow it to sit low and level itself out to compensate for loads or road conditions. It appears to be the original Mercury rear end out back, now wearing a set of modern tube shocks for easy driving. All four brakes are factory drums which work well and are easy to service, and since this car is about cruising, not racing, they’re more than adequate for regular use. There are no rust issues or signs of other trouble under there, although it has been undercoated to absorb heat and sound and improve the driving experience. Four recent wide whitewall radials have been fitted, and the wheels wear cool polished wheelcovers with some matching white pinstripes on their centers for a period-perfect look.
This car also appeared on the cover of “Kustoms Illustrated” identified as the Harris Mercury, along with a four-page spread inside detailing the build and its history. If you want to be noticed, this is an E-ticket ride. When we had it outside the shop for the photo shoot, it took three times longer than normal with all the people stopping by to get a closer look, and I have to admit that it’s hard not to feel cool when you’re behind the wheel and you know everyone is admiring your ride. No nonsense, reliable, and simple was the mantra for the build, and the result is a car that can run cross-country without issues, and looks like a million bucks doing it.
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Engine:302 cubic inch v8
Location:Warrensville Heights, Ohio