Monday, August 4, 2014

1949 Mercury Coupe and 1956 Ford F-100: The Quintessential Customs

It is common knowledge in the car community that the 1949-1951 Mercuries, along with their Ford and sometimes Lincoln counterparts, are some of the most popular, if not most sought-after custom cars.  Starting at the time when these cars were new, people started shaving, slamming, and repainting the curvaceous bodies to be sleeker, lower, and more beautiful.  Most of these customs were more focused on appearance than on speed, although raising performance was not uncommon.  Today, a quick Google image search of "49 Mercury" will yield many more customs than stock, restored vehicles. With the popularity of the cars among hot rodders, it's no wonder that the '49-'51 is the most replicated Mercury in small scale models.

Pictured above is my 1:24 scale model of a '49 Mercury Coupe produced under the name of American Graffiti.  It had all of the stock trim, Flathead V8, and was not lowered; the only custom work that the company did to it was the flame job.  While it wasn't bad, I thought it wasn't quite fitting for the car.

It was kind of a shame that I would lose the nice "MERCURY" lettering on the hood after painting it but I went ahead anyway in the summer of 2013.  I planned for the car to be Duplicolor dark metallic green, the same color as my Sable wagon.  Before that, though, I had to lay on an opaque coat of silver in order to prevent the flames from showing through the green.  Metallic paint is not completely opaque and gets darker as the coat gets thicker.

I used the butt of a pen-sized screw driver to push the trim out from behind.  The cheap plastic broke off easily where it was melted to the back.  I then used a bush to hold my parts in the yard, as I always do for painting.  I did not sand before repainting, although it probably would have helped.

I first went over the original paint with silver that we had in the basement.  
Ghosts of the old flames are visible before sanding.

The flathead V8 was a block of chromed plastic, but I colored most of it red.  

I mocked up the trim and everything just to take photos of the silver.  I actually considered keeping it like this because it looked so nice.  At this point, I had accidentally lost the hood ornament but Mom found it hours later when she stepped on it.

If I remember correctly, I used two coats of green.  The resulting finish was not completely shiny due to the nature of spray paint, exactly as I had planned.  I was thinking of something like a satin or suede finish even though the metallic flakes wouldn't show quite as well like this.

I think this color fits the character of the car a bit more.  The side trim no longer has those chrome lines, but I'm okay with that.  I was originally considering grinding off the trim lines and "channeling" the frame, making the car sit closer to the ground without messing with the tricky wheel mounts, but I didn't.

Next is my 1:64 scale '49 Mercury by M2 Machines.  It's got plastic headlights, bumpers, and grille and hard rubber tires that don't roll well.  There was a seam for the hood but when I unscrewed the bottom and disassembled the car, I found the hood was riveted in place. I wonder if the hood seam was just for detail or if there was a different casting with an opening hood and an engine but either way, I drilled out the rivets and removed the hood.

I then found a '60s Indycar style overhead cam V8 from a Hot wheels "I-Candy" that was just the right size.  I used a Dremel to grind it down so it would sit in the engine bay and I then ground the bars off the bottom of the hood.  The engine fits perfectly under the hood but I have no way of attaching the hood.

I took these photos after discovering that I could make reflections on the gray table if I aimed the camera along the surface.  There are photos earlier in this post where this is visible as my computer's desktop background.  

Shown here is the ~1:52 scale red '49 Mercury with a '56 Ford F-100, both from the Hot wheels Fresh Paint series.  They have super nice rubber tires and the truck has the most beautiful paint of any of my toy cars.  On the right are regular 1:64 Hot wheels cars: a '56 Ford F-100 panel van (grille detailed by me) and Purple Passion which was modeled after a '49-'51 Mercury custom.

Similar to the '49 Mercury, the round '50s Ford pickups are also extremely popular for customization.  While the 1953-1956 trucks had more or less the same body style, the '56 had different features such as a wraparound windshield and frenched headlights that people tend to prefer.  It is common to find '56 headlight housings attached to a '55 grille on a '56 pickup, as is the case with the blue truck above.

The white 1:24 F-100 was made under the name American Graffiti just like the Mercury.  It has the regular 272 c.i. Y-block V8 inside and is pretty accurately proportioned, except the windshield is too steep and has rounded edges.  The bumper was also too close so I did some "plastic surgery" to stick it forward a bit.  The yellow 1:36 F-100 was bought at the Daytona Beach gift shop when my family went in 2005.  I had to persuade my parents of course, but I think this is the truck that made me start loving the '56 so much.  A truck of the same color was my dream truck for a few years until I discovered the '60s trucks.

The smaller yellow truck is a 1:64 1956 C-500 Cabover semi truck by M2 Machines.  It has a Moon Pie trailer that can carry cars and the rubber tires roll super well.  This model is amazingly detailed.

So, yeah.  I think the '56 Ford pickup is the one vehicle that I have the most of, followed by the '49 Mercury.  Actually, I take that back.  I have seven '65 Mustangs, six of which are small Hot wheels.  Of course, that's because all of these are super popular in real life.

That was a long post.