Custom Touring. It’s a phrase very few, if anyone at all, has even heard of till now. That’s because up until Zane Cullen at Cotati Speed Shop commissioned Brian Stupski to do renderings of a ’50 Merc for customer Knick Jimenez, the phrase didn’t even exist. It was Stupski who actually coined the term, which sums up the mixture of traditional custom touches with pro touring hard parts that the Merc will entail.
While that particular axiom may seem unfamiliar, the ideology is nothing new. As a matter of fact, it’s something that an old familiar magazine by the name of Custom Rodder tried very hard to develop years ago. Whether it was ahead of its time or the contradiction that many decried it to be, who knows, but looking back now, everything it strived to represent in a modern custom is exactly what this Merc is all about. But, have the times changed enough for more people to accept a non-traditional custom as such? Guess we’ll just have to see about that.
Phrases and design contradictions aside, one thing there is no question about: Knick Jimenez’s Merc is the real deal. It all started, ironically, with renowned automotive designer Larry Erickson introducing owner to builder. Erickson was a friend of the Jimenez family, while Cullen had met Erickson roughly a decade prior and the two also became friends over the years.
Since he was a kid, Knick had always dreamed of owning a custom ’50 Merc. Early on, his visions were filled with traditional styling—you know, chopped top, fender skirts, spotlights, etc. By the time his dream had turned reality, that was pretty much the game plan once Cotati Speed Shop was in the picture. In a nutshell, Cullen was initially to undertake the project with those ideas as a guideline, but as things sometimes tend to do, the project eventually snowballed—Knick’s initial thoughts were compounded by new ideas, ones that Cullen says ultimately perpleted things in a manner that disrupted the overall styling more than anything else. For instance, while the spots and skirts remained on the wish list, added to the to-do list were 20-inch HRE wheels and an Art Morrison chassis—a little above and beyond the standard James Dean fare, wouldn’t you say?!
Fortunately, with the aid of Stupski’s detailed renderings, Cullen was able to tone down the contradictions and come up with a more middle-of-the-road combination of old and new. Gone are the Appletons and Fox Crafts; present are the requested pro touring style wheels as well as a blown Flathead. But where the Merc really differs from all the rest is in the multitude of body modifications, which greatly outnumber the “high-tech” features.
Let’s start with the obvious—the roof’s been chopped 3 inches with the B-pillars slanted. But there’s more to it than just that; for instance the dropped and leaned backlight with hand-formed window surround and sail panels. Furthermore, not only are the wing windows fully as functional as they originally were, so too are the rear quarter windows—something many a traditional custom cannot claim. Moving forward, literally, notice that the headlights have been frenched … sort of. While the buckets have been modified and blind-mounted from the rear, the ’52-54 Ford-style bezels are actually “thread-on” units manufactured by Greening Auto Co. And though it may not appear so with its un-rounded corners, quite a bit of work went into the hood—including the corners (all four were reconstructed to better fit/flow). Below the rebuilt and peaked exterior, a new tubular inner support was added and the hinges completely redone (with machined bushings, among other things). Even further below, you’ll see that along with the stock grille getting slightly massaged, the bumper now flows uninterrupted from end to end—as well as with the overall contour of the frontend—thanks to its center license recess and boltholes being filled. Around back, the trunk (which uses a stock hood latch, while the doors use Honda Accord latches) has been decked and refit; the rear bumper given the same treatment as the front; and, also like the lights up front, the taillights are encased with custom machined bezels courtesy Greening Auto.
That aforementioned Art Morrison Enterprises chassis, well, as you might expect, is nowhere near traditional custom requisite when it comes to a foundation. No, far from the heated coils of the past, this platform features AME’s tubular IFS and triangulated four-link (both with RideTech ShockWaves), along with Wilwood six-piston disc brakes and rack-and-pinion steering behind BFGoodrich-shod, 19x8 HRE wheels (20x10s cap a 9-inch rearend out back). And that Shadow Rods flat motor between the ’rails is no ordinary vintage mill, either—the Motor City Flatheads 8BA is topped by a Holley-fed MagnaCharger blower, has been equipped with a custom-made stainless exhaust and an adjustable MSD electronic ignition, and is backed by a GM 200-4R overdrive.
The interior we’ll leave for the upcoming “finished” feature—but for the time being, use Brian Stupski’s doodling for a little teaser and idea of what’s to come. Cotati Speed Shop’s handiwork will soon be covered in black metallic, so soak up that majestic bare metal glory while you can. To be continued…
Rod & Custom Feature Car