So many people have their own idea of how a '39-40 Mercury "should" look; a number of them have gone so far as physically transferring those thoughts. Barris' Johnny Zaro and Nick Matranga Mercs are perfect examples. Rudy Rodriguez too has always had the image of an early Mercury in his head. Like others who preceded, it's a heavily altered car, but remarkably, it's also very stock. His idea of the perfect '40 coupe embraces its identity rather than trying to alter it, as so many have attempted in the past. The items that are commonly discarded and smoothed over are the very items Rudy believes make the car so elegant-this car would highlight the original designer's triumphs while giving some of the so-called hiccups a little well-deserved help.

When describing the Merc, Rudy becomes quite passionate about the artwork found on the original car. "People just never take the time to appreciate the Art Deco sculptures all over this car, like the door handles or the hood ornament. I don't want to remove the door handle, I want to make the car look just like it." So, as the car's design developed, moldings were added, the roof and windows took shape, and the final touches were completed. All the modifications were made to look as though they were thought out in the design room at the factory back in the '30s.

Paul Hoffman's original offering for the build was a low-mile, original California gem. The car came from a small private collection whose owner had recently died. This would be the 10th collaboration with its owner, and the two agreed that the only way to take on a project like this was to find the best car they could to start with. Within days of purchasing the near-perfect coupe, it was totally dismantled and cross braced for the impending roof surgery. To get the desired flow and profile, Rudy decided it would be easiest to save only the front portion of the roof and totally hand-make the rear. The side window frames are often cast aside and replaced with C-channel for ease of fabrication. In this case, the original pieces were kept and another complete set was added to serve as the donors for the totally reshaped side window treatment. The desired effect was to appear as if they were not altered at all. The builder's commitment to fit and finish can be seen in the final result of the side windows, which fit much nicer than the original.

The stock driveline, which includes the original Flathead V-8, three-speed transmission, and a factory two-speed Columbia rearend, was nothing short of perfect, thus kept intact. The torque-tube rear is C-notched into the frame, allowing the rear to rest neatly in a custom-made (but stock-looking) compartment in the trunk. The final ride height is accomplished by a hand-made tunnel through the floorpan for the driveshaft and an adjustable coil spring setup. There are no airbags or hydraulics; the car is low ... it rides low and stays low. Scratched rear bumper chrome is part of the deal.

The paint and body were done by Hot Rods and Hobbies in Signal Hill, California. For a black car it must have absolutely flawless bodywork and prep beneath. Painter Scott Bonowski and bodyman Dante ValVerde spent countless hours massaging the gaps and panels to perfection before spraying the car in single-stage black. The result is nothing short of perfection-the accompanying photos can testify to that.