Mystery History: 1950 Mercury Custom

Reader Derby A has been on the hunt. Not for a car or even for a hard to find part, but for information! You see, a friend of his late father had this 1950 Merc parked in his barn. Derby was able to purchase it, but the previous owner sadly didn’t know any of the car’s history or who the original builder was. Initially, he reached out to our buddies over at Custom Car Chronicle who managed to find a good lead to get him off in the right direction but there’s still lots of digging to be done. So he’s turning to the Barn Finds Community to see if any of you happen to know more about this Merc.

Derby’s best lead so far is an old photo from the 1958 Porterville High School yearbook. One of Custom Car Chronicle’s Instagram followers posted a photo from the yearbook of the car with several other hot rods at a Del Simpson’s Service Station in Porterville, California. While it tells us that the car was in the Porterville area in the late ’50s, it doesn’t tell us much else. Derby plans on restoring the car back to how it was during the late ’50s, but is hoping to find out who built it, what parts they might have used and who else has owned it over the years.

Documenting the history of hot rods like this one can be a serious challenge. Quite often, they were built by young men who simply wanted to go fast and look good doing it. They weren’t too concerned with where the car would end up in 50 or so years. So unless this car was shown at major events and ended up in a magazine, finding information is going to boil down to word of mouth and anyone that happened to live in the area at the time.

Custom Car Chronicle did a great job of detailing the features of this Mercury, so be sure to have a closer look at their write-up here. If you happen to recognize this car and know more about it, please share in the comments! We want to thank Derby for sharing his find with us and we wish him luck as he fixes it up. Hopefully, he will keep us updated with us progress!


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  1. Dean

    She knew he had a Mercury……cruise up and down this road….apologies to Steve Miller, but I couldn’t resist

  2. Richard Ochoa

    Where are you, James Dean?

  3. Albert Pendergraff

    If you still have the car look inside and on the fenders for any sign of a Gorge Barris crast he made a lot of 50s cars

  4. Beatnik Bedouin

    Don’t think it’s a Barris car (and Sam was the artist wielding the hammer and dolly, btw).

    Probably the best person to ask who’s still around would be Gene Winfield. I’d be surprised if Rik Hoving hasn’t already contacted him – if not, he should.

    Gene chopped a lot of Mercs in that part of California, back in the 1950s and probably knows the car.

    Like 1
    • Chuck Simons

      I was just going to suggest the same. Winfield is in Rosamond Ca still leading and hammering.

      • Beatnik Bedouin

        He’s an old friend of mine, Chuck.

        I missed seeing him when he was in New Zealand, last year, for the Beach Hop. It would have been great to catch up after something like 25 years.

        I still have the brochure for his ‘glass Merc bodies that he was peddling in the early 1990s, which was the last time I saw him.

        Gene’s one of the gentlemen of the custom car sector, and I’m honoured to call him a friend.

    • Derek

      Hey Beatnik, Say hi to Hotrod Harry from Christchurch if you run into him.

      • Beatnik Bedouin

        Will do, Derek.

        Realise that I live in the North Island, so there’s a few miles and a body of water that separates us.

    • BigRob

      The fact checking with Rik Hoving, Anthony White, and Gene Winfield has all been done.

  5. Barzini

    The black and white photo of the service station wonderfully captures a different era.

  6. John M

    I still have a model of a slightly customized 49 Mercury from my younger days in my display cabinet. The top isn’t chopped but it’s still cool nonetheless.

  7. packrat

    Would it have ever hit the pages of Honk, Rod & Custom, or Car Craft in the day? They did cover cars in “the flyover”, as well as getting submitted photos from around the country.

  8. chad

    not sure what’s been done (but it was all abt @ 10 y/o?)?
    Door handels shaved, hood emblem too?
    Was top chopped, tail lghts lowered?
    What else?
    ( luv all the ol split windshield car/truck models)

  9. David Frank David Frank Member

    My wife is from Porterville and still knows people there. Perhaps she can come up with something.

  10. delimad

    Do you think those who might remember will remember it with all that dirt on it?

  11. Joe Haska

    As nice as the car is ,I would be optimistic that some one is going to be able to provide the history of it. I would sure like to know, it has to be a good story.

  12. Norm Theil

    So thats where i left my glove

  13. stillrunners LAWRENCE Member

    Yep….still fishing for history….as one the other sites. Why can’t people just be happy they have the car and not worry about pedi-greed….?

    • glen

      I’m sure he’s quite happy with what he has, or he wouldn’t have bought it. A little history behind the car isn’t such a bad thing, and I don’t think it will have any affect on his opinion of it. Some people just enjoy doing the research.

    • Beatnik Bedouin

      Should that not be ‘petty-greed’, Lawrence? LOL

      Seriously, if I had an old custom like that I would love to know its history.

      I have a few vehicles in my collection where I know about their previous owners that others enjoy hearing the stories when the cars and bikes are displayed at shows, etc.

      • Derek

        I do realize you’re North Island and he’s South but you’ll probably run into him at the beach hop or muscle car madness or something. I lived in Chch from 2002 to 2005 and I loved it there. Harry was a great friend of mine. Cheers mate.

    • LAB3

      Tell him it’s a Barris original done by the lesser known but far more famous Chuck Barris, host of The Gong Show!

  14. ccrvtt

    Cool. Way cool.

  15. Lemble

    A bath might stir some memories more than the Barn Find Dust and Dirt.
    Nice car though.

  16. Pete

    There looks like an old plate on the front of the car, might be able to run it through DMV? Just a thought? Can’t hurt.


    naw he needs to give up and sell it to me

  18. ron bowles

    I live just down the street from the picture location sadly all the gearheads i knew from that era have passed on its currently Dales muffler on the corner of henderson and main

  19. Andre

    I was following the thread on this car on The H.A.M.B – the original custom work was quite well done. Hope that’s an indication it was done by someone locally notable and memories can be stirred.

  20. ron bowles

    It would be reasonably certain that car made a few trips to Famoso raceway possibly a member of the smokers car club would remember it

  21. Joe Haska

    Derek, I have been to NZ once, my question for you is, why would you come back here? You do know what the So. Islanders, think about the No. Islanders, and visa -versa.

  22. olddavidp

    There are a group of norsemen from Oslo who print a sheet called Kustomrama. The obscure pictures they have and the relationships they have cultivated is astounding. And doubly so if you remember where they’re starting from. I am a troglodyte computer user and have to have help posting pictures, so forget me giving you one of those red lead-ins to go with this missive. I got their info from the half-assed message board, but I bet if you just google Kustomrama you’ll get at least their attention. Good luck.

  23. Ric Parrish

    I would love to have some history on my 62 vette. I have had it since it was 11 years old. It came from Bakersfield California through Texas, It was obviously a drag car and possibly one of the ‘Bakersfield Smokers’ crowd. It could explain some of the incredible things we have found working with it, like the standard tweaking of the frame from wheel stand hard landings.

  24. RobF

    Post an ad in the Porterville newspaper & area Craigslist if you haven’t already. Include the pic and let them know you’re trying to learn the history of the car; who knows what’d come of that.

  25. FRED D

    love the desoto grill

  26. Rustytech Member

    When l was in my early teens a friend of my dad that owned a body shop had one very similar to this that he had built in the early 50’s. It was done in a two tone. ( purple/ pink. ). I thought it was cool then, and l think this one’s cool today. I don’t know what happened to that one after the builder died. I’m sure this isn’t it as it was in Maryland. I hope the owner finds the information he’s looking for as it will enrich the ownership experience.

  27. Lion

    I have a spotlight with no mounts that would be great for the hole in the A pillar.

  28. Jim Kirkland

    I saw a maroon Merc like this on vacation
    with the family during the early 70s in
    the Pacific Northwest. A couple was
    driving it. I asked about the toothy grille,
    and the woman said it was from a

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