Ever wonder what happened to all those monochromatic customs from the '80s? You know the ones-all one color with pastel graphics, side pipes, body-color bumpers, and steel modular wheels. There was nothing wrong with them per se, it's just they were of their time. However, some of 'em resurface as traditional customs thanks to the vision and talent of new owners. Steve Lucas' '56 Mercury Montclair is one such resurrection.
"The Merc was originally built in 1988 by Mike Thompson and John Childers at C&W Auto Body in Brookville, Ohio. It started as a rust-free example owned by a lady who moved back to Ohio from Los Angeles; the car was eventually sold by her estate in Erie, Pennsylvania. Every single nut, bolt, screw, and all the metal on the car was like brand new." Steve discovered all these details after tracking down the guys who first built the Merc. Apparently the car drove as though it was brand new too, and while most people wouldn't do anything to modify such a well-preserved car, as Steve says, "Most people are not custom car lovers!
"Once rebuilt, with no chrome or stainless, the Merc debuted at the James Dean Rebel Run in 1989 and went on to be shown on the ISCA circuit, where it took First Place in the Full/Radical Custom class, along with other awards," Steve says. "It was then sold in September 1990 to Scott Moorehouse, a friend who continued to show it at the ISCA competition in 1991, again taking First Place in many classes. It won Coolest Custom at the old Medina, Ohio, Goodguys event in 1992 and KKOA awards in 1993. In 1997, Moorehouse sold it to a guy in a neighboring city and it dropped out of sight. Five years later the owner contacted him saying he wanted to sell it. Moorehouse called me as he knew I was looking for a custom, though the engine, suspension, and body were showing signs of wear. With the help of friends I renewed the motor and suspension and drove the car to the Goodguys Columbus event in 2002. I wanted to resell it as I also had a '40 Merc and '65 Galaxie convertible, but my wife and two sons loved the long, low look and begged that we give the car a makeover. The family voted and I lost 3-1! I sold the '40 and set the money aside for the '56. I could only think of one shop that could bring the car back to life; Jerry's House of Kolor in Elyria, Ohio. Jerry Koenigsmark has been turning out award-winning rods and customs since 1957. His son, Joe, now handles the shop duties under his dad's watchful eye, and is one of the few local guys who takes time to go out west and study paint and bodywork trends. His annual vacation is to the West Coast Kustoms Cruisin' Nationals. This was a guy I wanted doing my car!
"I handed Joe the keys along with the artistic license to do what he saw fit. He took off all the metal trim and immediately sent it to Jason's Metal Polishing for removal of all the black paint, followed by fresh chrome, once repairs were made, as needed. The body was stripped and the few damaged spots repaired. We agreed on the paint color after much persuasion by Joe and the transformation began. I was hesitant on the scallops but after seeing them in tape on the car I trusted Joe's artistic eye-which I'm glad I did!
"Though I drive the car proudly I give much credit to Joe and my two boys. Their persuasion has given me a car that is unlike any other, and that is what I love about customs. They're like fine art for car guys. I am sure the little old lady who once owned this car is smiling down. I was honored at the compliments the car received from George Barris at a recent show, who took many pictures of my sons and the Merc."