Father and son project cars are nothing new. Gale Potter had been messing with cars since the '50s. When his son Todd was old enough, he began working on a '52 Chevy pickup, which he still has 20 years later. Gale always wanted to build a cool '50s-style Merc. When the opportunity arose, he sold his '37 Chevy coupe and spent the money on a solid, but well-used, '49 Monarch four-door sedan. Father and son jumped headfirst into the project. Gale had a clear vision of what he wanted: a traditional-styled Mercury custom with some modern amenities to make it more of a driver. The car was already a very mild '50s custom, with '58 Biscayne taillights, a '54 Chevy grille, and "a ton of lead," according to Todd.
The ventilated trunk and floorpans were replaced, and the body was separated from the frame and placed on a rotisserie for a top-to-bottom rebuild by Jim Morris of Jim's Restoration Plus in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada. Jim took the car to the next level, creating such details as the reveal around the existing '54 Chevy grille insert. He shaved all unwanted chrome. Local laws say you must have access from the outside-in other words, door handles. What's a customizer to do? Improvise, of course! Jim used VW trunk releases as door buttons-a good idea in case the remote door poppers run out of juice.
The 3 1/2-inch chop was performed by Larry Foster of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, who gracefully sliced and blended the rear deck filler panel right into the roofline to give it that swooping look. The window frames were sectioned and welded up to match the new roofline. The vent windows were kept to retain some of the period look. Since nothing says cool like louvers, the hood was punched with 100 of them.
The Merc was going to need a little more engine than the stock flattie and is now powered by a Tri-power 350 Chevy backed by a TH700-R4 automatic overdrive transmission. A five-core radiator keeps things cool on those long hauls, and haul it does. This custom has a trailer hitch for a reason. Todd and his family tug a '70s travel trailer behind the Merc when they make long runs-which they do frequently. Since being completed, the Merc has clocked 3,000 highway miles.
This custom was a true family project for the Potters. Sadly, Gale never saw his car finished. He passed away in 2001 after a battle with cancer. Todd believes that working on this project is what kept his dad alive much longer than his doctors expected. Todd and his mother, Leslie, arranged for the Merc to be finished based on Gale's vision for the car, to the point of testing different mufflers until they found a set of Thrush glasspacks that hit just the right note.
This car is a tribute to Gale's memory. "We followed his vision and this is what we got," says Todd. "I'm just the caretaker." Eventually, the Mercury will go to Gale's grandsons. Until then, when people ask Todd if the cool four-door Merc is his car, he just smiles and says, "Nope, it's my dad's!"
Gale & Todd PotterPenticton, British Columbia'49 Mercury SedanDrivetrain: The original flathead was moved out and a '70 350 four-bolt was rebuilt by Dick Knorr at Route 66 Rebuilders in Summerland, British Columbia. The 350 was punched .030-over and backed up by a 700-R4 built by Thunder Alley Transmissions. Triple Rochester 2CG carburetors on an Edelbrock intake top off the engine.
Chassis: Dick Knorr and Paul Hutchings at Route 66 Rebuilders handled the installation of the suspension. Firestone airbags at all four corners bring the car down to earth via Street Rod Engineering's Mustang II frontend along with a trailing arm/Panhard bar rear suspension kit, which was designed specifically for this car. A disc/drum brake package brings everything to a quick halt when needed. A Ford 9-inch brings up the rear with 3.50 gears.
Wheels & Tires: The rolling stock consists of 15-inch steel wheels wearing '57 Cadillac sombreros with Moon bullets, all wrapped in Coker wide whitewalls. The combination is a natural choice that really hits home with the traditional crowd.
Body & Paint: Jim Morris of Jim's Restoration Plus did most of the extensive bodywork on the Merc. The hood and trunk corners were rounded. Hagan supplied the fuel door and the frenched headlight kit, and '59 Cadillac taillights in handmade buckets light up the rear. Stock bumpers were straightened, rechromed, and popped back on-they just plain work on this custom. Larry Foster took 3 1/2 inches out of the top and created the custom profile. When the bodywork was done and the frame back underneath, the Mercury was shipped to Eric Adams of Adams Auto Body in Spruce Grove, Alberta. Eric skillfully laid down the eye-pleasing paint. Gale's grandsons, Sayer and Rylan, picked the color: '01 Honda Tiger's Eye Pearl. The final touch was the subtle pinstriping done by Bill Gouchie.
Interior: The living room of the Monarch is done in white tuck 'n' roll stitched at Dan's Place Custom Interiors. A '94 Chevy pickup gave up its 60/40 benchseat, recovered in white Naugahyde. The door panels are reproduced in factory style but drenched in white leather along with headliner. Golden carpet contrasts the white interior nicely. VDO Classic gauges fill the stock dash panel. Vintage Air keeps things on the cool while an Alpine six-disc stereo provides the tunes. A custom panel below the dash holds switches and gauges for the air suspension. A GM tilt column topped by a LeCarra traditional series wheel rounds out the interior.