Throughout the decades, there has been a lot of debate regarding who was the first to chop the top on the 1949-51 Mercury. Some prominent names that come to mind include Buddy Alcorn, Sam Barris, and Lou Betancourt, but all that aside, it is undeniable that the chopped topped Mercury (Mercury Custom Coupe) is one of the most iconic custom car designs in automotive history.
For a long time, Sam Barris was believed to be the forefather of the chopped top Merc’. In February 1951, he showed his 1949 Mercury at the Oakland Roadster Show. It only received second in the full custom class with the incomplete interior a probable cause of its rank.
It had a full fade away fenders, molded in rear quarter panels, a grille from a 1951 Ford, a heavy chop with straight B-pillars, hand-made taillights, and sharp hood corners. It is said that Sam Barris worked on the used car during his spare time at Barris Kustoms, after shop hours. During shop hours, he was said to be working on the Gaylord 1949 Mercury Convertible Custom. Although it is not considered a coupe, it is still said that the 1949 Mercury was the first to be chopped. While it’s difficult to know who chopped the initial 1949-51 Mercury Custom Coupe, Sam Barris’ car was the first to be presented at a car show.
1951 Mercury Custom Coupe for Auction
This 1951 Mercury Custom Coupe example which is currently being auctioned by Stratas Auctions was made by Arizona Street Rods in Phoenix for the original owner. The owner lived in Southern California before they moved to Phoenix in the 1950s. He grew up with Arizona Street Rods owner Rod Palmer and after making a ’32 Roadster together, they decided to finally build the chopped top Mercury of their youths.
There were a lot of custom modifications done on the car. It includes a three-inch chop, nosed hood with rounded corners, lowered springs, decked trunk lid, and shaved handles and emblems. It features a molded grille shell with a 1952 DeSoto grille, a 1953 Buick side trim, 1954 Mercury taillights, as well as restyled bumpers and flush fit skirts.
They kept its original Flathead V8 engine although they added the Offenhauser aluminum heads, a pair of Stromberg 2-barrel carburetors, Edelbrock dual intake manifold, headers, and Smithy’s steel pack mufflers. The electrical system was upgraded to 12-volt, and they added an extra capacity stainless fuel tank Power steering, and a Vintage Air system with custom-made vents were also installed. The V8 engine was also mated to a three-speed manual transmission.
Vic Kitchens Custom Upholstery in Lake Havasu, AZ worked on the interior of the car. It was designed with tan and black leather to imitate the Hirohata Mercury.
The headliner uses Desert Camel Ultra Suede, while the carpet has Mercedes Saffron fine tuft. The interior has been decked out with a modern cabin light, Dakota Digital instrumentation, Pioneer sound system, and a cut-down (3 inches) stock steering wheel.
This example was featured in the May 2010 issue of Rod & Custom Magazine and was also the recipient of the Boyd Coddington Top Ten Award. This iconic example is ready for a new owner who will appreciate its history and style.
More information regarding the auction of this 1951 Mercury Custom Coupe may be found at Stratas Auctions.