“My tortured brain flowed with adrenaline, anticipating the adventure ahead while battling the effects of jetlag after the 13 hour flight across the Pacific as I made my way through the hustle and bustle of LA life. I finally reached my destination, the home of my recently purchased black 1950 Mercury coupe! As I swung open the driver’s side door, I thanked my American friend for all his help with the purchase of my new dream machine and sunk into the freshly upholstered white vinyl bench seat and fired her up. She sounded good!
Steering the big curvaceous front end onto the freeway, I took in the fact that I had a six hour journey ahead of me and I get to do it in a piece of classic American iron! Cool! Suddenly, my wandering mind was jolted into panic and confusion as I heard the screech of tires as the big Mercury pulled up hard while lurching violently to the left! My dream drive was over like that as I stood beside my defunct machine while taking in what just happened! It was the 9th of April, 2010 and the 60 year old front drum brakes had had enough! Bugger!!”
Craig Brewer’s dream drive was over as quick as it started with his new acquisition, but we’ve all been there before as we hesitantly yet enthusiastically embark on a journey down a path we hope will be a smooth one! They rarely are though!
With one chopped and highly customised 1950 Mercury already under construction at home, Craig wanted something he and his family could use for family outings and car events with the intention of selling it once construction was completed. “The story I told my wife, Joelene, is that while I’m building the other one, I’ll buy this one because it’s a driver and usable before I’m 60 years old and finish the other project. Then I’ll sell this one and put the money into our super but hey, if I have a garage big enough we’ll hang onto them both. We’ll have a chopped one and one that’s not.” He laughs nervously.
With assistance from a friend in the USA, Craig spent four months hunting for the Mercury he was after before landing this black beauty from a deceased estate. The previous owner had lovingly looked after the small block Chevy powered Merc with its Seventies styling of wide red rims and grey velour interior. Wait! A Chevy powered Merc?! “The Chevs fit in really nice with the reverse sumps. Many of the Mercury’s done up on the road have Chev engines in them” Craig points out.
After wiring through the converted Aussie dollars and before picking it, he had the interior reupholstered in the aforementioned white vinyl as a sound financial investment before shipping it back to Australia. Once back in Melbourne, it was time to give it a quick fix up before cruise time but we all know how those ideas go and it was no different for Craig! “This one was supposed to be the driver but as things go, one repair always morphs into the next one. You tidy something up on it because it’s just a driver but then you end up taking it to the next level. You do the wiring, clean up the motor, while that’s out, do up the engine bay. It’s basically turned into the car that I was building.”
The first thing to be replaced were those holiday ruining drum brakes, replaced with a disc brake conversion kit from Hoppers Stoppers which also gave the owner the standard Ford stud pattern and wider choice of wheels. The rear stud pattern received the same treatment thanks to the removal of the Chevy 12 bolt diff for a much stronger Ford 9 inch. This swap also helps out when lowering the vehicle height as the Ford yolk sits lower down on the front than it does on its Chevy counterpart. Narrower steel rims with wide white wall tires were sourced locally and complimented with 1957 Cadillac hubcaps and bullet centres. Reset coils up front and lowering blocks on the rear with air shocks help give this big cruiser the stance Craig was after!
The unknown small block Chevy engine was replaced with a healthy and reliable rebuilt 350 ci motor while retaining the trusty two speed powerglide. Twin exhausts and owner installed flame throwers add that fifties styling and sound while cruising the streets! A repressed radiator keeps it all cool with the aesthetics of a copper top tank complimenting the finned rocker covers and fifties Cadillac air cleaner!
Outside mods are limited as Craig felt this particular Mercury was too good to mess with due to its sound floors and no rust. “I’ve always had a soft spot for chopped mercs but this one is too good to chop. It’s very original with no rust. If I didn’t have the other one with the chopped roof, you could maybe twist my arm!” Craig explains. Metal spats off a 51 model Merc were restored to original condition to sit comfortably over the rear for the tail floating stance, while a 51 bullet style steering wheel was also added up front just to confuse us Mercury novices. Other subtle modifications can be found but are generally only recognised by diehard fans, such as the colour of the Mercury god head on the boot handle, blue dot taillights and the removal of the hood ornament and front over-riders.
When peering inside at the period style interior, your attention is caught by the uber-cool, fifties era microphone head sitting tall on top of the Lokar shifter. This is one of Craig’s own styling ideas and throws back to his days as a lead singer in a band before settling down to focus on family and career. “I used to be in a band years ago and used one of these mics, plus I’m also a big Elvis fan. Also, the fins on the microphone blend in nicely with the style of the dash” reminisces Craig. What’s not visible are the creature comforts of heating and cooling thanks to a Vintage Air system installed under the dash. Craig utilised the original Mercury heater controls to operate the system.
So, if this is a 1950 Mercury and it’s black, where do the Lime49 plates fit in? “Lime refers to my business name and I always wanted to buy a 49 Mercury. A mate of mine bought me a green 1951 Mercury hot wheels model car with the number plates Lime49…go figure. I bought the ‘Lime49’ rego plates first but then I ended up buying a 1950 Mercury! ! It all made sense at the time. The 49 and 50 are basically the same body shape except for a few noticeable differences such as the dash, back window and front grill.
Craig’s children don’t mind as his daughter calls the Mercury “the noisy car” while his two boys see it as the Sheriff out of the movie Cars thanks to some creative vinyl stickers Craig had made up a few years back! Whatever you choose to call it, it’s a cool classic cruiser and one that’s going to be hard to part with now it’s reliable for highway driving!