Louie Bettancourt's 1949 Mercury

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The first version done by the Ayala Brothers
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The second version done by Barris Kustoms. The photo is taken at the Compton Drive-In by George Barris
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Carson Top Shop upholstered the Barris version of Louie's Merc with egg-white tuck & roll with maroon hair.
The Johnny Zupan version of the car, restyled by Barris Kustoms in 1956
The photo is taken outside Lynwood City Hall by George Barris
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Ron Dragoo's 1954 Mercury at an outdoor car show in the 1950s. In this photo, the Merc is parked next to Buddy Alcorn's 1950 Mercury and Louie Bettancourt's 1949 Mercury. Glenn Springer's 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air can be seen in the background. Photo from The Ron Dragoo Photo Collection, provided by Bill Layman.
A rear end shot of Louie's Merc at the same outdoor car show. Photo from The Ron Dragoo Photo Collection, provided by Bill Layman.
A photo of Bengt Wennergren next to the old Bettancourt Mercury during a visit to Barris Kustoms in 1967. Bengt moved from Enskedefältet in Stockholm, Sweden to California in 1967. Photo from The Bengt Wennergren Photo Collection.
The Zupan Merc in Dean Jeffries lot. This photo was used in Car Craft July 1970.
Another photo from the same story, showing the Merc after Bill DeCarr had updated it for Johnny Zupan with quad lights.

The Ayala Version

1949 Mercury originally restyled by the Ayala Brothers for Louie Bettancourt. Louie bought the Merc brand new. After driving it around as a stocker for a short period of time he brought it over to the Ayala Brothers for a full custom treatment. Louie's Mercury could have been one of the first 1949 Mercury hitting the street with a chopped top, but Sam Barris' 1949 Mercury was finished before Louie's Mercury. The Ayalas chopped the top 3 inches and removed the drip rails. The B-pillars were also modified by the Ayalas centering the door line on the B-pillars.[1] The seat frames were lowered about 6 inches in order to get more comfort due to the lowered ceiling. At the Ayala shop the body was also shaved of emblems, handles and moldings. Hood and decklid corners were rounded and the car was fit with full Fadeaway Fenders. This was done by filling the factory dip on the doors and by extending the fender line on the rear of the car, fading it into the trunk. The trunk, doors, hood and windows were electrically operated. The headlights were frenched using 1951 Mercury headlight bezels, which stretched the fenders and provided a deeper look.[1] The taillights were frenched using sheet metal and tubing housings and equipped with custom made lenses. A new grille opening was made by welding a second 1949 Mercury grille shell upside down in the front gravel pan.[2] A 1951 Kaiser floating grille bar was fit in the new grille opening. Louie wanted his car low, so in order to give it the right stance it was lowered 6 inches in the rear by C'ing the frame and installing lowering blocks. The front was lowered 4 inches by stepping the "A" arms.[3] Fenderskirts, wide whites with Cadillac Sombreros and dual Appleton 112 spotlights were added. Once the bodywork was done, the Merc was painted Scintillating green gold. Inside, the dashboard and gauge cluster were chromed, Louie kept rest of the interior stock.[2]November 10 thru 16, 1952 Louie's Mercury was shown at the third annual Motorama. In the official program the car is listed as a 1950 Mercury owned by Louis Bettencourt.[4]


The Barris Version

In late 1952, early 1953, Louie brought his Mercury to Barris Kustoms for detailing and finish work.[5] All the bodywork that the Ayala Brothers did to the car was left alone. At the Barris Shop 1949 Cadillac side trim pieces were added in order to give the car a lower appearance. Barris also created a new grille by using two 1952 Ford grilles and 1951 Ford grille end tips. The grill teeth in the middle were from a 1952 Mercury.[3] The stock bumpers were replaced by 1953 Pontiac DeLuxe bumpers. The rear bumper was a narrowed and the front bumper was recontoured. 1952 Kaiser bumper guards were added both front and rear with the exhaust routed trough the bullets. Metal casters were also installed in the rear of the car. Barris replaced the Cadillac Sombreros with 1953 Studebaker hubcaps featuring fake knockoffs fitted with Barris crests. Glen Houser of Carson Top Shop upholstered it with egg-white rolled and pleated naugahyde combined with a metallic threaded maroon hair wine fabric. This time the car got painted in mile deep Tingia maroon lacquer.[5]


The Johnny Zupan Barris Version

Louie Bettancourt sold his Merc to Johnny Zupan in 1956. Johnny also brought the car to Barris Kustoms, wanting them to make a new version of the car. Functional air scoops were made in order to cool down the rear brakes. The sidetrim also went trough minor modifications. Carson Top Shop upholstered the car once again in white naugahyde and red frieze with gold lining. A 45 RPM player was installed beneath the dashboard. Johnny also installed an Oldsmobile Rocket engine with a four barrel-carburetor.[6] The Merc was painted in a metallic gold and rust two-tone scheme. When the car was painted, George Barris called Dean Jeffries and asked if he could come and pinstripe the car. "Jeff" came, and the Zupan Merc was the first car "Jeff" pinstriped for George. Dean added stripes around the trim and to the hood, fender tops, and decklid. He also striped the dash and put some crazy cartoons on the glove box and the heater. George must have been pleased with what "Jeff" had done, because he offered him a job right after the car was pinstriped. Dean said he didn't want to work for him, but that he wanted to rent some space from him instead.[7] Once completed the new version of the car was entered at the National Roadster Show in February 1956.[8] It was also demonstrated in Car Craft July 1956, in "Preparing Your Car For An Auto Show".


The Johnny Zupan Ortega Version

In an old article about the whereabouts of the car from Rod & Custom Magazine , Bill Ortega of Ortega's Custom Shop tells about how he updated the Mercury for Zupan with quad headlights and Studebaker pans in the front and rear.


Where is it now

Dean Jeffries inherited the car after Johnny Zupan was killed in a heavy equipment accident. In 1970 the car can be spotted in Car Craft July 1970, in a humorous fictional story about the Road Urchins Car Club of Lompoc. Written by Terry Cook, the story features some photos taken outside Dean Jeffries shop next to the Hollywood Freeway. Looking at the fenderline, rounded rear hood corners, and the side trim, there is no doubt that this is the same car. Shortly after the photos were taken in 1970, the car was stolen from Dean's lot. On Rik Hoving's website there are two photos of the car in an unfinished condition supposedly taken in the 1980s.[5]


Magazine Features

Trend Book 105 Restyle Your Car
Popular Mechanics April 1953
Car Craft May 1954
Car Craft October 1954
Custom Cars 1955 Annual
Car Craft July 1956
Car Craft September 1956
Trend Book 133 Custom Cars 1957 Annual
Custom Cars October 1957
Car Craft July 1970
Kustoms Illustrated 15


References





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