When we ran across this fabulous homebuilt custom '50 Merc, it was like being knocked backed to the days of the original leadsleds. Owner Chris Addington has had a bunch of cool hot rods over the years, but the itch to build a genuine custom prompted him to start looking for a postwar car. "My dream was to build a 'sled that could drive anywhere and look cool," Chris said.
Finding the right car took several years. Of course he finally did find it, but, as Chris told us, "Someone had done a terrible job of putting it together." His first improvement to the car after bringing it home was to disassemble it and start from the beginning.
It took two years to convert his '50 Merc from somebody else's terrible job to the excellent job you see here. Chris started with the chassis, adding a Fatman Fabrications IFS clip, an Air Ride Technologies triangulated four-link suspension system in the rear, and airbags at all four corners, plus custom-built front and rear antisway bars.
Keeping it simple is the way to go when putting together a drivetrain package for a traditional custom, especially one intended for regular street use. In this case, a 290hp 350 crate engine matched with a 700-R4 is the perfect choice. In the rear, Chris added a Currie 9-inch rearend with 3.50:1 gears. The Sanderson cast headers feed gases to 2-inch pipes capped with fishtails. The frame was cut to make room and still allow about 6 inches of body travel when the airbags are activated.
Chris relied on Tim Robinson for a lot of the body modifications and, later on, with painting chores. They removed the hood emblem, grille teeth, driving lights, and bumper guard that camouflage the lines on a stock Mercury-replacing it all with a much cleaner valance around the bumper and a custom-made grille insert. The headlights were frenched and spots were mounted on the A-pillars. Two and a half inches were chopped out of the top, and the Merc also lost all emblems, ornaments, door handles, window trim, and side molding, except for the strips running just below the windows.
When the time came to finish the interior, Chris had a choice: replace everything with new parts from the aftermarket or from other cars, which would've looked good, or maintain the '50 Merc components and freshen them up to the level of a show custom, which looks great. Choosing the second option, he kept the seats, dash, and even the stock steering wheel, making mods in the form of fresh paint and upholstery (a lot of upholstery) to create the look of a highly modified ride. Adam Salazar gets credit for covering the bench seats, panels, and headliner in white naugahyde with black piping. With so much color all over the rest of the car, these neutral colors were a smart pick. A little bit of orange was added to the stock instrument panel and on the steering wheel (mounted on a tilt/telescoping column). Other additions to the otherwise stock cockpit include the controls for the power windows, and the spoon gas pedal. A bank of Auto Meter instruments, Air Ride gauges, and the Sony stereo were tucked underneath the dash. A candy-colored skull knob adds personality to the gennie shifter.
We haven't even mentioned the paint yet. Chris drove the in-progress custom for about a year before starting the paint, working out the bugs and making sure the practical things that would guarantee the "drive anywhere" half of his dream were done right. He and Tim started on the paint eight weeks before showing the car at Hot August nights in Reno, and as you can see, no ordinary paint job was intended for this custom. Tim shot the House of Kolor/valspar products in Chris' shop, starting with the yellow basecoat with ice pearl, which blends to orange along the beltline. narrow white scallops extend across from the lower front quarters and doors to break up the yellow, and are repeated on the decklid.
The top is finished in orange metalflake with Sunset Pearl scallops, 'striped in white. The look is enhanced by leaving the yellow basecoat around the pillars and edge of the roof, instead of covering the whole top with a second color. As a final touch, pinstriper Ron Beam stepped in and added some decorative details to the nose, deck, and C-pillars, saving enough in his brush to add some 'striping to the dash. The orange is carried over onto the 15-inch steel rims, to which Chris added polished Packard hubcaps with Moon center caps.
The days before the Hot August nights event included some 10- and 12-hour shifts in Chris' shop to make sure the car was perfect and ready to go. When it was, he jumped in and drove it to the show. now, Chris and his wife, Bette, go for rides weekly, sometimes around Bakersfield, sometimes on long trips. Chris' dream, remember, was "to build a 'sled that could drive anywhere and look cool." The 400-mile inaugural road trip to Reno in the just-finished Merc, and the 400-mile trip home with an award for Best Paint were just the beginning of that dream coming true.