“My friend Miguel Zarate of the Strays Car Club knows that I like collecting the old-school cars and asked if I remember that car called ‘Nostalgia Sleeper’. I said, ‘Hell yeah, that was my favorite car growing up!’ He said that it was for sale but I wasn’t buying his story.” So Zarate sent Conrad a link to where the car was, which was in Kentucky. Despite a three-hour time difference, Conrad decided to call the number even though it was late at night. Surprisingly, the guy still had the car. “Well, I said, I’ll take it! Then the guy asked me if I want to know if it was rusted? I told him if it was rusty, I’ll still take it. He then asked me if I wanted to know if it ran, and I told him if it wasn’t running I can make it run again. Finally he says, ‘Isn’t there anything you want to know about the car? Maybe you should sleep on it and call me in the morning with your final answer.’ I said, ‘Nah, you know what, I’ve lost good cars like that. I’d prefer to lock the deal in now.’” The former owner wasn’t too comfortable with the deal but did ask for $1,000 deposit and as soon as he received it he gave Conrad two weeks to come up with the balance. Once he had the money, Conrad booked a flight, checked it out, actually drove it, paid for it, and then scheduled a transport company to have it brought back to California.
“The car changed hands quite a few times, and from the research I’ve done, Charlie Lopez sold it to a guy named Rogelio who lived up north. Rogelio is an upholstery guy who used to do a magazine back in the ’70s called Custom and Classics, and from my understanding Lopez used to work for him. During the time Lopez worked for Rogelio he fell in love with the car, and eventually bought it. Later on Rogelio got into a bind and he sold the Merc to Joe Moreno. Moreno did some stuff to it, took it to a few shows, and then sold it, and that’s where things get kinda fuzzy,” Conrad says.
The previous owner attempted to restore/redo the Mercury and after a while his interest in the project and his funds dwindled so he placed the car for sale online. It wasn’t getting much attention because of its lowrider roots, but Conrad knew the custom credentials of the Merc and swooped on it.
As for the original builder, Lopez died in 2005, but some of his club members have had the opportunity to see the car and meet with Conrad. “I couldn’t go to the funeral because I had to work, but after the service the guys went to this park, which was like two blocks away from my job, so when I got out of work I shot over there.”
Conrad plans to restore the Merc to its former custom glory. “The car was complete when I got it, the only things missing were the Tru-Spoke wheels, but I got me another set already and the skirts that they had on it were some funky bubble skirts so I took those off and got the correct skirts it used to have—I just need to have them sent out to get louvered. What makes it real nice is everything else is there; it’s a runner, got the interior, everything,” Conrad says.