Jim Doyle's 1952 Mercury

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Bill Babb and J.R. Wirth installing a mesh-type grille in Jim's Mercury around 1957.
Another photo of Bill Babb and J.R. Wirth working on the rear end of Jim's Mercury.
The Merc after side pipes were installed. Photo by George Barris
Jim's merc as it appeared in Car Craft January 1960, featuring a Dean Jeffries paint job.
The Merc as it appeared when it was featured in Trend Book 205 Restyle Your Car in 1961
The Merc outside Joe Bailon's shop in Auburn around 1985. Photo provided by Rik Hoving
Photo provided by Rik Hoving
The car as it appeared after the restoration. Photo by Paul Kell taken at the Cruisin' Nationals in Paso Robles in 1998.
The restored version of the car at the "Kustoms with a K" exhibition at the Petersen Museum in 1999. The Merc was chosen as the best example of Joe Bailon's work, and it was on display there for a little over a year.

1952 Mercury Convertible restyled by Wirth Body Shop and Bailon Custom Shop for Rod and Wheelers member Jim Doyle of San Jose, California around 1958. Jim wanted a car which attracted a lot of attention. He weighed the pros and cons before he ended up buying a stock 1952 Mercury.[1] The Merc was originally yellow with a green interior, and according to Butch Gardner, who bought the car in 1996, Jim decided to have the car customized after he had wrecked it. Jim wanted to have Joe Bailon restyle his Merc, but Joe was so backed up, so the initial custom work was started by Bill Babb of Wirth Body Shop in 1957. Bill created rear fins on the car that housed four 1956 Packard taillight lenses that were spliced together. The rear of the car was extended 9 inches using two 1953 Studebaker grille pans. The pans formed a rear grille opening. The stock quarter panel side scoops were extended 10 inches towards the front and sculptured into the rocker panels. Bill also removed all of the trim and filled the holes on the car.[2]

During the build, Jim was in constant contact with Joe Bailon. In 1958 Joe had time for the project, and the car was turned over to Bailon Custom Shop for completion. Joe extended and peaked the fenders, before he added a pair of 1958 Chevrolet headlights. He also created a front pan with center peak for the car. The hood was lengthened and peaked, before two side scoops were added. One-inch tubular steel grille bars were created for front, rear, and sides. Joe also fit the front and rear grille opening with gold expanded mesh. All handles on the car were flushed. When the bodywork was done, the car had been extended 16 inches, 7 inches in the front, and 9 inches in the rear. Several magazines claimed that the car was channeled 7 inches, something that is not true, as all floor pans were in tact when Butch Gardner had the car restored. Joe Bailon finished the Merc in his signature Candy Apple with Candy gold scallops & white striping. All the custom tubular bumpers were also chrome plated. The car received a brand new interior by Fremont Upholstery in Newark, California in white Naugahyde tuck & roll with red frieze cloth in biscuit pattern. The convertible top was white.[2] According to Custom Cars September 1959, the build took 15 months to complete. In February 1959, the newly completed build was shown at the 10th annual National Roadster Show in Oakland, California.[2] Later on the same year, Jim's Merc appeared on the cover of Custom Cars September 1959. From 1959 to 1961 the Merc was picked as Top 10 Custom 3 times.[2]

In 1959 Jim's Merc was featured in Customs Illustrated September 1959 in a coverage from the first annual Pasadena Motor Pageant, by then the car had received a brand new scallop paint job. This version of the car had also chromed side trim from a 1952 Ford along the body side.[3] In 1960, Jim's club the San Jose Rod and Wheelers won the Car Craft Car Club of the Year award. The club was presented as the winner of the contest in Car Craft January 1960, and Jim's Ford was shown amongst the club cars. At the time, the car had received a Candy Apple and Pearl panel paint job by Dean Jeffries.[4]

According to Butch Gardner the car was pained several times in the 1960s, and wound up as Candy orange in the early 1970s. During the 1960s the Merc also received a Chevrolet V8 engine and a 3-speed transmission. Butch Gardner remembers the car being a daily driver in Carmichael in the early 1970s. After a while in the Sacramento area the Merc was abandoned on a river levee in the 1970s. Collector Bruce Guy of Rio Linda, California rescued it due to its limited production numbers (The 1952 Mercury convertible was the least produced of all FoMoCo cars after WWII).[2]

Around 1980 the car changed hands, and was bought by another collector, Trevor Thomas of Pleasant Valley, California. Trevor also intended to restore the car back to original condition. In 1985 the Merc was featured in Classic & Custom magazine as a "Survivor" asking about its origin, and current location and owner. In the late 1980s Joe Bailon contacted Trevor Thomas and asked if he could buy the Merc from him. The Merc was Joe's wife Maria's favorite of all the Mercs Joe was involved with, and the reason why Joe wanted to buy the car. Joe and Trevor made a deal that included Joe Bailon doing the body and paint work on Trevor's 1956 Lincoln Premier. Joe never completed his part of the trade, and the owner took the Merc back and parked it in a turkey barn in Pleasant Valley for another 10 years. In 1996, Thunderbolts Auto Club member Butch Gardner of Shingle Springs, California traded the car and a 1953 Mercury parts car for a running 1955 Ford Town Sedan.[2]

After buying the car, Butch began the restoration in November 1996. The restoration was completed in December 1997, just in time for the the 1998 Grand National Roadster Show were it made its debut and won 1st place in the Full Custom Convertible Class. Butch did most of the work on the car himself, but had Paul Sheehy finish of the bodywork and paint. The restored version of the car was painted in a 1996 Ford Lase Red tri-coat with 1996 Ford Anniversary Gold tri-coat scallops. Jim Mosher applied some pinstriping under the clear coating. When Butch restored the car he installed a 1974 Ford 351 Cleveland engine with less then 40 000 miles on it. The interior was redone by West Coast Custom Interiors of Placerville, California.[2]

Since the restoration, the car has rolled less then 1000 miles. From April 1999 thru April 2000 it was displayed as one of 10 Best 1950s Customs in the "Kustoms with a K" exhibit at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. The car has been in storage since the exhibit, and is currently up for sale.[2]

Magazine Features

Motor Life May 1959
Motor Life July 1959
Custom Cars July 1959
Custom Cars September 1959
Car Speed and Style August 1959
Customs Illustrated September 1959
Car Speed and Style October 1959
Car Speed and Style November 1959
Car Craft January 1960
Trend Book 175 Custom Cars 1959 Annual
Trend Book 189 Custom Cars 1960 Annual
Trend Book 205 Restyle Your Car
Classic & Custom September 1983
Classic & Custom November 1983
Classic & Custom January 1984
Custom Rodder November 1997
Custom Rodder May 1997
Custom Rodder July 1998
Custom Rodder July 2000
Street Rodder May 2008



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