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Unmolested and Uncut: 1950 Mercury Monterey Coupe

In hot rod culture, the 1949 through 1951 Mercury coupe is one of the most popular starting points for building a custom vehicle.  Influenced by James Dean’s 1949 Mercury coupe in “Rebel Without a Cause” and the Barris brothers’ Hirohata Mercury, hot rod craftsmen and amateurs alike have cut up many a third-generation Mercury.  So much so that finding an uncut Mercury of this era is right up there with finding Bigfoot and locating Atlantis.  Thanks to T.J., our readers can look at and maybe purchase a very nice original example of a fabled Mercury.  This 1950 Mercury Monterey for sale on Facebook Marketplace in Dalhart, Texas is nearly as it came from the factory and is looking for a home at an asking price of $29,500.  Do you think this Mercury should stay stock, or is it the perfect starting point for a lead sled project?

Ford was in bad shape by the late forties.  Poor management severely hurt the company’s bottom line and bankruptcy was a real possibility.  Some accounts had the company paying bills by the weight of the stack of the bills.  The company needed to move beyond the prewar designs they were hawking to have any chance of survival.  Henry Ford II and his team swung for the fences by redesigning the half-ton Ford truck in 1948, and they stunned the automotive world by offering complete redesigns of Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln passenger cars in 1949.  Only the Flathead-powered drivetrain remained.  Ford produced its own, smaller body, with Lincoln and Mercury sharing a larger offering.  This risky move turned Ford’s fortunes around, allowing it to regain the number two sales position behind General Motors in short order.

Mercury’s success was almost instantaneous.  Customers loved the larger body that set it apart from its smaller and less expensive Ford counterpart, and could choose from two-door coupe, four-door sedan, convertible, and wood-sided two-door wagon body styles.  The styling for the Mercury was also far more attractive than that of its Lincoln stablemate.  The division was rewarded with a marked increase in sales for the 1949 model year.  In 1950, an upscale version of the coupe dubbed the Monterey, was added to the lineup.

These cars took on a new life after they left the dealerships.  Customizers had already set their sights on the car’s long, smooth lines.  The debut of the Hirohata Mercury, a wildly customized 1951 Mercury club coupe by George and Sam Barris, introduced the world to the concept of the “lead sled.”  These cars had such features as lowered suspensions, chopped roofs, frenched headlights, and a general smoothing out of the lines by using lead as a body filler.  The car turned the world on its ear and is still regarded as one of the most influential custom cars ever built.

The popularity of Mercury coupes reached new heights when James Dean drove a slightly modified 1949 coupe in the movie “Rebel Without a Cause.”  The movie debuted one month after he died in 1955, and the notoriety of the incident pushed the movie into the status of a cult classic.  A third-generation Mercury was the car to have among mainly the younger part of the population, and it was just the right time for these cars to be affordable to them as used cars.  The sad part of this story is that many Mercury coupes had their roofs cut to “chop” or lower them.  This is a skill level five activity, and most of the cutters were lucky to understand which end of the torch was the hot end.  This doesn’t even take into account cutting down the curved back glass.

The sheer number of coupes such as this that ended up as either hot rods or junkyard ornaments is staggering.  This fact makes the overall condition and originality of this 1950 Mercury quite remarkable.  The seller tells us that this car is in great shape and runs like a top.  The only deviations from stock on this apparently restored car are an electric fuel pump and a set of glass packs.  These two modifications can be forgiven, as the fuel pump helps make the Flathead easier to crank, and the sound of a Flathead through such mufflers is the siren song of the angels.

There are a few flaws attributable to age and negligence.  The ad shows a small, damaged area in the upholstery that you would have to look for to find.  There is also a gouge in the paint on the passenger door that the car received at a show.  The odometer reading in the ad says less than 54,000 miles, but the picture in the ad has it north of 58,000.  Perhaps the seller has been driving it around while they can.

In all, this is a fantastic car that needs little to be quite presentable.  The asking price may be a big ask for some.  However, there are still a whole lot of people who saw James Dean drive one in “Rebel Without a Cause” at the picture show or tacked up a magazine spread of the Hirohata Mercury on their bedroom wall.  Putting a 1949-1951 Mercury in their garage might be worth the pain of raiding the retirement account.

 

Comments

  1. Avatar photo Aussie Dave Member

    Good write up Jeff.

    Beautiful car, I want, no, I must have. But can’t.
    If I could, I would get all the period correct go faster parts for it.
    And a push button starter? What goes around, comes around.
    Love the dash, sort of Aero inspired.

    Like 11
  2. Avatar photo Aussie Dave Member

    Update.
    I love this car so much, I’m actively looking for one here in Aus.
    I don’t know if they were ever sold new here in Aus.
    But lust has no boundaries, lol.
    Ideally I’d prefer a RHD, but LHD is ok.

    Oh Jeff.
    Your comment about raiding a retirement fund?
    One benefit of being in the military for 30 years, it’s not raiding, just pocket change, lol

    Like 7
    • Avatar photo TIM HAHN

      Hey Dave. I have sent some cars to Australia back in the day. Now I never hear from you guys. The last time I had a chance to sell over there during covid, I was told you were quarantined and I could not find a shipper to take the car. Then a fellow said he couldn’t afford to have all the asbestos removed from a 1944 Studebaker 6X6 military truck I was selling. I was also told by a fellow that he would have to pay to have the vehicle converted to right had drive to be allowed to legally drive it over there. Is any or all of that true? Or were they just looking for an excuse to cancel the sale? Thanks Tim

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo Aussie Dave Member

        Tim, yes Aus is anti asbestos, brakes, clutches gaskets etc. Customs will tear down the car(at your expense) remove the asbestos, and say here’s your car.
        Conversation to RHD is only for cars 20 years or younger. But provision for cars that can’t be converted, like million dollar lambo’s, lol

        Like 0
  3. Avatar photo james sartor

    OK, one more time: Not all Mercury’s are Montereys. 1950, 51 had Montereys and, like Ford Crestliner and Lincoln Lidos, were purely attempts to simulate the GM hard top models (no B pillars.) that GM brought out in 49, 50.

    Like 2
  4. Avatar photo Will Fox

    What’s not to love here. Air up that tire, give it a good cleaning, and prepare to have you heart stolen when you drive this superb original `50 Merc! Here again, my ship comes in and where am I? At the airport!! LOL

    Like 5
  5. Avatar photo Fahrvergnugen Member

    Unfortunate about the dent.

    We saw the flagpole fall down on the Hirohata Mercury when Wayne brought it to an event in RI…what a gasp!

    Like 3
  6. Avatar photo Chris Cornetto

    How did it survive? Fantastic that it did. Like putting forests and other items that should be preserved, lets hope this fellow doesn’t get absorbed by some high rolling hack with Ridler dreams.

    Like 7
  7. Avatar photo David R.

    Remarkable car. I intensely hope this one is not rodded. I am 24 years old, have been going to car shows along the Gulf Coast since I was 6, and I have YET to ever see a stock 1949-51 Mercury in person.

    Like 18
    • Avatar photo Shaun

      They do exist David. Lots of them were customized but many stock ones still survive. A guy in my area bought a 51 from auction about 10 years ago. Had 5,000 original miles!. What’s even more rarer is the Lincoln and Monarch versions. Essentially same body except Lincoln had a different front. The car guy “Bad Chad” did a video last week about a collector who had many original unrestored 49 to 51 Mercs. I’ve never seen so many in one place.

      Like 1
  8. Avatar photo Fred W

    Not quite as hard to find as the writers like to state. I counted over 20 unmolested 49-51 Mercs right here on Barn Finds alone!

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Matthew Dyer

      Please do.

      Like 0
    • Avatar photo Norm W.

      Keep it original, too nice to start changing things on such a nice car. Be ashamed to cut it up, keep it original.

      Like 2
  9. Avatar photo Matthew Dyer

    Will you look at that! Like David has said, I’ve never seen one in person. I still believe in them, but not necessarily Bigfoot. Ha!
    Atlantis on the other hand, ancient civilizations are still being discovered older than anybody imagined or predicted.

    Like 0
  10. Avatar photo Mike M

    Please please please leave this one alone!

    Like 13
    • Avatar photo Dave B

      Multiple thumbs up!

      Like 3
  11. Avatar photo z1rider

    When I finally got the chance to see Rebel Without a Cause I was surprised to see that JD’s Merc looked to be virtually stock. So many years of hearing of and seeing his image posing next to radically customized Mercury’s (Mercuries?) certainly created some expectations.

    Like 2
  12. Avatar photo Terry M

    The 49-51 Mercs were both good looking and nice riding. The 51 was the pinnacle of the series, the grill change, rear window change and “finned” rear fenders but an exceptional design balance to the styling. One note about the 50s, early 50s had the 49 dashboard/instrument panel, the later 50s had the 51 dashboard/instrument panel–a great upgrade in modernizing the interior appearance. Have never had a Mercury but this series has been on my wish list ever since kindergarten (49-50). Even kids don’t miss a good design.

    Like 4
    • Avatar photo bobhess Member

      I liked the ’49 Merc’s dashboard so much that I put the gauges in my ’32 5 window.

      Like 2
  13. Avatar photo Alan_In_Tn

    My younger brother is finishing our Dad’s as we speak. Built MERCURY flathead, not Ford. Just got the overdrive rebuilt and working. Non original color, but looks much better than the drab white it came with.(Medium Metallic Green) Dad never had the resources to build it the way he wanted. Brother is doing it out of a labor of love. Uncut original body. Just finishing the paint in the trunk. Other than that, good to go.

    Like 13
  14. Avatar photo Stu

    I think Ford got the Mercury profile right. I prefer an uncut Coupe to a custom but I realise I might be in the minority………

    Like 7
    • Avatar photo Terry M

      you’re not in the minority Stu. Never quite grasped the coupe description though for the Merc’s, swear they seemed as roomy as a 2-door sedan but only 2-door versions were either the “coupe” or a station wagon. Great cars.

      Like 4
    • Avatar photo bobhess Member

      The ’49 Mercs and Hudsons already looked chopped so why chop them?

      Like 2
  15. Avatar photo 86_Vette_Convertible

    I had the opportunity to see one when I was about 14. One of my brothers classmates had one and drove it he did. One thing I never understood was IIRC he pulled the rear end and put it on top of the springs. It may have looked cool in town but we lived in the country on dirt roads. They were rutty in the spring till the road grader went through and you could hear the exhaust or something else scraping on the gravel.
    This is one of those cars I wouldn’t touch a thing on other than those items that needed it, then go out and drive it. It’s only original once and looks like most everything is original so I hope the new owner keeps it as is.

    Like 8
  16. Avatar photo Lion

    I got my first Mercury in 1963, A 1951 Monarch, actually. Over the years I owned 8 ’49 – ’51 Mercurys and/or Monarchs, I’m Canadian … all 4dr sedans.
    Living north of the boarder in Saskatchewan meant lots of cold and snow so in my first car I installed a second heater hanging from the rear package shelf, running hoses and wiring through the firewall, under the carpets and into the trunk. Got real cozy in there no matter the temp. Had lots of plans for a mild custom (loved those suicide doors) but a drunk destroyed it one winter night. I missed out on 3 coupes over the years then restored a ’49 Monarch but added a Hurst floor shift on an O/D tranny, duel exhaust, 12 volt system and electric fuel pump. Had to sell when we moved to BC. Man I miss that car.

    Like 4
  17. Avatar photo Bob

    My Grandfather had a 1950 Mercury 4 door, manual shift with overdrive. On trips, he would let me sit beside him and steer. I would be allowed to operate the accelerater (foot feed, he called it.) too when out of traffic areas. Later, he traded for a 1954 and his last car and first automatic transmission with a 1963 Mercury Meteor. He, absolutely, despised the Meteor. Not so much the car, but the automatic transmission.

    Like 2
  18. Avatar photo Dale L

    The 1949, to 1951 Lincolns are really nice lookers too.

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Shuttle Guy Member

      I’ve been watching a lot of “Film Noir” lately. The gangsters had a thing for them. I had to do some Googling for information. A good site is Internet Movie Cars Database…www.IMCDb.org

      Like 1
  19. Avatar photo Billy Jacobs

    1962 Electra Texas, 1950 black Mercury flathead 8 with 4dr (rear suicide doors) was my first car. It had sun visor, spotlight, push button AM radio, push button start, 15” wide whitewall tires. It was $150 and in great shape, an old rancher had owned it and didn’t drive it much. I was one of the “coolest” high school Junior and Senior, at least I thought so! The Merc cruised like a Cadillac on the open road but after about 80mph, it felt like it was floating. Put in dual exhaust, Hurst floor shifter and 3-2 Strombergs. Beefed up suspension and larger tires. Raced once at Red River dragstrip in Wichita Falls, TX. Got beat by GMC pickup. That was the end of my racing career. Traded the 50 Merc for 55 Chev 210 two door post in 65. Then on to the US Army for next 35 years. I recommend the buyer keep this Merc stock and drive it around and imagine how “cool” it will make them feel!

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Lion

      Oh Billy, we could swap stories for hours. Drove my Merc for my year and a half in grade 12. Kept the car for a few years after I dropped out and had big plans for it. I was brock and figured I could keep my ’51 on the road for many years for lots less than a newer car would cost. I wonder to this day how long it would have lasted if that Studebaker hadn’t slammed into the left rear corner.

      Like 1
  20. Avatar photo Shuttle Guy Member

    Very nice. I should by it just to make sure it doesn’t get cut up.

    Like 4
  21. Avatar photo JOHN SCROGGINS

    Touch it only to wash/polish.

    Like 1
  22. Avatar photo BigDaddyBonz

    Nice car. Love the looks of 49 thru 51 Ford products (all Ford, Merc & Lincoln). Great looks. I’d keep this one stock looking and the flattie as well. Maybe upgrade the electrics(12volt), brakes & suspension. If drivetrain issues arise (after all, it is over 70 years old), at least replace with Genuine Ford Parts. Best wishes to new owner. Take care of her.

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo Travis Jon Powell

      Ridin’ top the floodway on a Friday night,
      The landscape’s a fine and nat’ral sight.
      Just cruisin’ slow through the dark of night.
      With Precious and Grace ev’rything’s all right.

      Good God Almighty, we was goin’ down slow,
      Yeah, if we knew just where we had to go.
      Cryin’, just a flyin’ down a put out road
      With Precious and Grace in my flathead Ford.

      -Precious and Grace, ZZtop

      Like 3
  23. Avatar photo Skystone Jim

    My father had a ’49 merc. Said it took off like a “scalded cat”. He said it ate too much gas, so he traded it in for a ’53 Volkswagen. Wish I had both.

    Like 1
  24. Avatar photo GitterDunn

    Kustomizing this particular Mercury coupé, as nice and original a survivor as it is, would be a capital offense.

    Like 6
  25. Avatar photo HoA Member

    We can all agree, the 49-’51 Mercs were the epitome of cool. Not so much for it’s movie fame, but its style just LED[sic] itself to customizing. While an Olds Rocket 88 could blow this cars doors off, it wasn’t always about speed. I too am amazed this car was never chopped, but proof someone loved their Merc for what it was. Look at it, dash controls a 3rd grader could handle, AT THE TIME. Today, I feel, as with all these finds, the stick will hold back a potential sale. Cars that the media featured, have a special place for the future, but they won’t be able to drive the dang thing, and have to be more future user friendly,,like an automatic. Quite a find for us old timers though. You too can be as cool as James Dean, clearly the original owners intent,,he was too fast to live, too young to die, bye, bye,,

    Like 1
  26. Avatar photo Yblocker

    Keep it stock please

    Like 1
  27. Avatar photo Joe Dean

    What a beauty! My dad ended up with my Uncle Dave’s 49 coupe, such a beautiful ride, he also has a customized but not chopped 51 sedan. Being this car is a little north of Rt 66, I would love to fly in, spend a few days doing new tires, belts, hoses, fluids, and a complete check over, and point this thing towards Ohio!! What an epic trip that would be and complete the collection with a 49 a 50 and 51! It’s about a 1225 mile trip, man I’m thinking about this one, too bad I don’t do the Facebook thing, not able to get a hold of him.

    Like 1
  28. Avatar photo Alan_In_Tn

    The stick might give them trouble, but the Borg Warner overdrive will really mess up their minds.

    Like 1
  29. Avatar photo John

    For God’s sake. Leave it stock. I want to puke every time I see one chopped

    Like 1
  30. Avatar photo br Worden

    Don’t think the Hirohata Mercury was ever in Rhode Island. And never heard of anybody named Wayne associated with the Hirohata Mercury. 🙄

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Joshua Mortensen Staff

      Wayne Carini of Chasing Classic Cars was put in charge of selling the Hirohata Merc a few years back. Here’s Wayne talking about the car back in 2022 when he took it to Mecum’s Florida auction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQjZCHBUdCQ

      Like 1
  31. Avatar photo Bama

    These cars look great stock or with a proper chop. You don’t cut the rear window glass, you cut the frame around it and lay it down in one sloping piece. Can’t cut the tempered glass, it will explode into a jillion pieces. The laminate windshield on the other hand can be cut by a competent glass guy. I’d leave this one stock though since you seldom see one uncut.

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Aussie Dave Member

      Totally agree, do not chop.

      Like 1

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