Join Newsday's car culture discussion.
In the Garage: 1951 Mercury coupe
THE CAR AND ITS OWNER
1951 Mercury coupe owned by Arthur French
WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING
Perhaps no other cars evoke memories of hot rodding, teen rebellion and Doo Wop music more than the early '50s Mercurys. "It was a teenager's dream car in the fifties," says French, whose hefty black coupe is rare among the breed because it hasn't been radically customized.
"It's a mild custom that has not been chopped (roof lowered), with a lot of chrome under the hood. It has a strong-running, original 'flathead V-8' and unusual 'frenched' (recessed) taillights, so different than all the others. The car was made with the 'flathead' engine and that is what belongs in there. There are not many left that haven't been chopped. People marvel at how straight the body is. Black cars show everything. One can look down the entire car and not one imperfection can be found in any of the body panels."
HOW LONG HE'S OWNED IT
WHERE HE FOUND IT
A friend told him about it and he bought it from an owner on the South Shore.
To the folks who love these Mercurys, the term "mild custom" is relative. French's coupe has many modifications, from the 1941 Lincoln pushbutton door latches to the '57 Cadillac wheel covers framed by three-and-a-half inch Firestone whitewalls. According to the owner, it has been "nosed and decked, lowered two-and-a-half inches front and rear." It has steel pack mufflers and side body moldings have been removed.
The frenched headlights are from a '53 Mercury and the taillights from a '54. A number of the remaining exterior and interior moldings have been chromed. Under the hood, French has chromed a bunch of engine parts and surrounding components. Other custom touches include the maroon rolled-and-pleated upholstery with black accent stripes, and exterior pinstriping that has been "tastefully done," he says, "not wild, like some cars."
TIPS FOR OWNERS
"Collectible cars are fun for all to see and especially fun to drive," he says.
"Hard to say," French says. "It depends how badly one wants to own one." The NADA Guides puts a "high retail" value of $54,900 on a 1951 Mercury coupe without modifications or options.
"The (license) plate is 'Doowop' and it has a companion in the garage, a stock '51 Mercury convertible, 'Kroozen,' that just underwent a body-off restoration," he says. "The question is how to keep them both happy by alternating the driving time somewhat evenly, to avoid jealously. Both of the cars draw spectators, especially when shown side-by-side."