Louie O’Donnell talks about his ’49 Mercury and says the one thing he he wouldn’t change about it is the body patina
This article on Louie’s Mercury was originally published in the April 2015 issue of Street Machine
I’VE had my ’49 Mercury for three years now. I imported it from the States, where it had been sitting in dry storage since 1967! The car had been owned by one family from the Colorado area since new, and it was a daily driver until the motor blew in ’67. Then they stripped her out and locked it away in a shed. It was only pulled out in 2013 and that’s when I imported it to New Zealand.
The body had the rusted patina look to it, which is what I was after, but most of the interior was missing and it had no engine. It also had rusted sills, which I had to get repaired to legally register the car in NZ.
I started by sourcing a 289 Windsor with a C4 transmission and nine-inch diff to get the car driving, then I began finding bits for the interior. It had the dashboard so I just gave that a tidy-up, but the seats had been demolished by rats, so I made my own out of cool hippy material I found at old coffee shops and op shops. The gearstick is an old microphone!
I also got a disc-brake front end for the car and it’s been slammed into the weeds with flattened leaf springs, one-inch blocks and shortened front springs. It was two inches lower than what it is now, but I had to raise it up to get it to the Muscle Car Madness show – the driveshaft was on the ground!
A mate of mine did the welding for the engine mounts, otherwise I did all the work on the car myself. I work as a drain layer so I’m pretty hands-on and I reckon working on the car is half the fun.
I enjoy taking it to car events like Muscle Car Madness, which I’ve been going to for the past eight years. My dad is right into hot rodding, so I grew up with cars; they took me to my first show and since then I’ve been hooked. Now that I’m a bit older I come with my mates, who are all into the old-school customs too.
At the moment the Mercury is my only old car, but I’m heading over to the States in June to pick up something else. I’m not sure what it will be just yet, but something will catch my eye!
As for the Mercury, the plan is to put airbags under it at some stage, and who knows, I might even go full custom and chop the roof! The body patina is too cool to touch though, so it’s definitely not getting painted.