Big Al's Featured Car's
Steve's Blue Jewel
Owned by Steve Lucas
Pictures & Story by John Carollo

Not All Kool Kustom Mercs are ‘49s!
A funny thing happens when a true gearhead sees a Kustom ’56 Mercury. Usually the viewer doesn’t even think of the most famous of Mercs; the ’49. That’s because a well done ’56 Merc will stand on its own every time, without any help from big brother.

A great case in point is Steve Lucas’s 1956 Mercury which actually came from the factory with the name Custom as the model designation. Steve’s car was a super-clean, one-owner car from Los Angeles, California and that was the good news. The bad news is it went from its stock appearance to be done up in the ‘80s as what Steve calls a “Euro Custom.” It ended up being all black with no chrome or stainless and was actually a winner while that style was popular. Then it sat in a garage for five years as that style went quickly and maybe even mercifully out of favor. That’s when Steve found it. The first thing was, that Euro look had to go. Steve, a gearhead since he worked at a SOHIO gas station while in High School, had a string of cars he built. He’s owned cars from the ‘40s, ‘60s and ‘70s so it was time for a ‘50s car to go under his touch. And he got help from his family as his wife and teenage sons talked him into first keeping the car and then making it over. Steve started the three year project that turned into the beauty you see here. Today, Steve says, “I’m glad I listened to them and kept this car.”

Underneath, a subframe from a ’76 Nova was grafted onto the original Merc frame for ease of modernization and to reset the front end stance. Throwing a modern subframe at a ‘50s Shoebox does two important things. The first is to keep it from handling like a ‘50s Shoebox while the second is to make the front end more modern and even easier to work on. That’s especially true for finding parts and spinning wrenches. Steve went one step better and grafted the Nova’s rear subframe onto the Merc, too. Now, front and rear would be modernized and provide some nice, decidedly non-Shoebox ride and handling. Air shocks all the way around with an onboard compressor allow for the famous ‘Laying of Frame’ that makes all good Mercs and Kustoms look even cooler. For rolling stock, Steve went from thinking to bolt on with one phone call to Coker Tires. He ordered 14x6 chrome smoothies with 3 1/2 inch bullet cap centers and 205/75R14 Coker Classic tires with 2 3/8" wide whitewall all the way around. When he opened the box from Coker, all he had to do was pull ‘em out and bolt ‘em on as they came mounted and even balanced. Steve was really thinking there and even had Coker send along a matching spare.

For moving power, we have to say, sorry Ford fans, this Merc’s got a Chevy engine. It’s a 350 NAPA crate motor with a Holley/Demon 4 barrel carb. Steve installed a new set of Taylor wires, tuned up the motor when he got the car and that’s all it needed to be road worthy. Recently, Steve added a classic Caddy air cleaner. For getting the power to the wheels, a 350 Turbo-Hydro automatic tranny sits behind the Chevy.

A Kool Kustom Merc is all about body mods and there’s just the right amount here. The most noticeable one is the use of inverted ’56 Packard taillights in the whopping 10 inch extended rear quarters. There’s also a pancaked hood, frenched and peaked headlights and the usual removal of all trim and door handles. The handiwork of Joe Koenigsmark at Jerry’s House of Kolor is clearly evident. Joe also shot the House of Kolor, True Blue Pearl paint. Those pencil thin scallops really make the Merc look classy as do the Lake pipes and big fender skirts. The stock bumpers received some massaging in the form of removing their guards and smoothing. The grille is stock but also was slightly modified. Between it and the bumpers, onlookers often have a sense of ‘What am I looking at?’ when viewing the front end as it works so well.

For the inside of the Blue Jewel, it’s a continuation of the outside’s killer colors. Up front, a ‘60 Chevy aftermarket steering wheel atop a GM column shows those colors as does the modified dash that now incorporates modern controls such as for the A/C and audio. Steve handed off the stock rear seat and a Nova front seat to Ron Farabaugh at Northcoast Upholstery for some classy pearl white vinyl, roll and pleat work. You can’t see the Ron Francis wiring but you can hear the Pioneer system installed by Auto Sounds & Security of Willoughby, Ohio

The finished ride won some cool honors, too. Like a Rod & Custom Top Ten at Goodguys and the Mayor’s Choice at the Lakewood Car Kulture show. And that illustrates another lesson on how to treat a Kustom. You don’t always have to have a massive chop job that leaves a mail slot for a windshield. You don’t need to change every body line and obliterate the original design forever. You can do like Steve did and key off of some very cool, classis Mercury lines, add a few distinctive Kustom changes to the body and complete the car with great attention to detail and consistency. That kinda work can result in a real jewel.