Custom flush-fit fender skirts enhance the body’s smooth shape, as do custom running boards. To further enhance the car’s teardrop profile, Buck extended the decklid down 3 inches, bringing it flush with the ’46 Ford gravel shield. Both bumpers also came from a ’46 Ford.

Buck managed to massage the original hood into shape, leaving the louvers to help ventilate the somewhat unorthodox 390 Mercury mill underneath. “I wanted a car I could drive anywhere,” Buck says, when asked about the engine choice. The FE V-8 was rebuilt by R&P Machine Shop in Shawnee and outfitted with 427 heads and a factory three-deuce intake from a 406 Ford. “I had to do a lot of whittlin’ on the front crossmember to get that 390 to fit,” Buck says. He also had to set the engine back about 8 inches. A Tremec five-speed, purchased secondhand from a friend, keeps everything happy at high speeds.

Buck understood that color selection would be crucial for showing off the Mercury’s smooth body lines. After months of searching, he found the perfect hue on James Hetfield’s custom Auburn speedster at the Grand National Roadster Show a couple years ago. It required a bit of experimenting with various PPG paint mixtures and base colors to achieve the exact hue Buck was after. “It took us about two weeks of tweaking to get it right,” he says.

Though inspired by the Matranga Merc and other classic-era customs, several details separate Buck’s tail dragger from other efforts. One is the presence of exterior door handles, which came off a ’48 Ford pickup. (“I’ve had cars with door handles removed, and I hated them,” Buck says.) He also retained the Mercury hood emblems and added vintage foglights up front, just because he liked the way they looked. Advanced Plating gets credit for restoring the original grille, which involved repairing several broken bars in addition to replating. “I couldn’t believe they could do that good of a job on pot metal,” Buck says.

Like any good custom, the “shoes” help make this Merc’s outfit. Buck selected 215/75R15 BFGoodrich Silvertown whitewall radials for classic looks and modern road manners. Just to keep things interesting, he alternates between ’57 Cadillac wheel covers, ’54 Merc caps, and the ’53 Olds Fiesta flippers shown here.

The interior reflects the same resourcefulness Buck employed on the rest of the car, with a dash sourced from a ’59 Chevy and bucket seats pirated from an ’80s-era Honda. The dash was fitted with Haneline gauges, Vintage Air, and a ’59 Impala wheel atop a ’57 Chevy column. Dick’s Custom Auto Upholstery in Muskogee, Oklahoma, wrapped the seats, side panels, and custom console in creamy tan vinyl, using maroon ’60 Ford Galaxie fabric for the inserts and silver piping for additional accent.

Completed in early 2011, the owner-built Mercury immediately began earning accolades. Don’t mistake it for a trophy queen, though; this custom was built for cruising and is already soaking up road miles. For Buck, there’s only thing more satisfying than realizing his lifelong dream: actually putting it in motion.

Rod & Custom Feature Car

Buck Wilson

McAlester, Oklahoma

1940 Mercury Coupe