Mel Lehman's 1940 Mercury

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In 1952, Clean Gene and Blackie met Mel Lehman when they were showing their cars at a Fresno car show put on by Gene Bender. "I did not have use of a garage in 52 and used to work on my 34 sedan on my front lawn. Mel and his friends used to come by and offer help," Gene told Kustomrama. Mel had a 1940 Mercury Four-Door Sedan that he decided to turn into a full custom. Gordon's Custom Shop took care of the build, and Mel started showing it at Fresno and the Oakland Roadster Show in 1953. Mel’s dad was an engineer, and he helped Mel design a stainless steel firewall with a bunch of polished solenoids. The solenoids operated the hood, trunk, and shaved doors. "During its time, the polished solenoid-firewall and a detailed full race 296 engine, made a unique eye catching display." Photo from The Clean Gene Sadoian Photo Collection.
Mel's Merc as it appeared in 1954. Photo by G. Hill
Photo by G. Hill
Photo by G. Hill
Photo by G. Hill
Photo by G. Hill
Photo by G. Hill
Photo by G. Hill
Photo by G. Hill
A photo of Mel's Mercury and 1940 Ford Coupe taken around April of 1955. Photo from The Clean Gene Sadoian Photo Collection.

1940 Mercury 4-door sedan restyled by Gordon's Custom Shop for Real estate agent Mel Lehman of Fresno, California. The car took four months and almost $3000 to complete. Four-door sedans are not traditional customizing material, apparently for the reason that they are awkward to chop. However, there is no reason why a four door can't be just as sharp as another body style. With the current emphasis being places on square feet of glass area by the stock car manufacturers in Detroit, it seemed kind of mid-Victorian for Mel to cut this area down while all the new cars were building it up! The windshield would require raising the top to increase the glass area! That would be unthinkable to do, but the back window particular on these models was never famous for its rearward visibility anyway. A 1950 Ford rear glass was installed to achieve a sweeping view. The stock Merc headlight rims were reversed and inverted to fit, then welded to the underside of the fenders, making a tunnel-like effect. 1948 Chevrolet bumpers were acquired and shaved for guards and bolts. The rear bumper featured a cut out for the license plate. The achieve a smoother look, the car was nosed and decked, and the door handles shaved. Small crests on the cowl panel contained push-buttons for the doors. The rear fenders were molded to the body, and custom taillights were built. The front fenders were frenched into the running boards and body. To smooth out the running boards required filling 362 holes![1]

The big sedan might look slow, but a hopped up 59AB block provided power for the car. The engine was ported and relieved, and bored and stroked an eight of an inch each. The new engine was fully balanced and assembled, using Navarro heads of 9:25 to 1 ratio combined with an Edelbrock triple manifold. A Harman & Collins cam gave the valves boost they needed to get the wheels rapid in motion. Mel succeeded where others have failed in the never ending quest for individuality in modes of transportation. The interior was all refurbished, and the pleated and rolled leather upholstery contrasted nicely with the chrome plated window reveals.[1]

Magazine Features and Appearances

Rod & Custom November 1954



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