Merton Peterson's 1950 Ford
1950 Ford restyled by Carroll "Red Eye" Gentry of Styler's Custom Shop for Merton "Pete" Peterson of San Diego, California. Gentry built the car from verbal instructions given by Pete, who demanded a 5 inch section job, a Ferrari type grille, pancaked hood, and radiused wheel openings. Before the car was sent to Gentry, Pete had already built his own electric door and deck lid latches, and lowered the front of the car 2 1/2 inches. The lowering was done by installing 2 1/2 shackles on the lower outboard A-frame. The same length was fitted to the upper inboard A-frame.
At Styler's, Red Eye marked the body cut line and removed the doors, front fenders and hood. A 5 inch horizontal swatch was cut from the body with a panel cutter, while a hack saw or torch was used on the door posts and heavy metal sections. Instead of welding the top and bottom halves together, and take a chance of warping the larger body panels, the top half was overlapped onto the bottom half, and the two were bolted together with cap screws and self locking aircraft nuts. The same system, used on the doors too, obviated the use of body lead and provided an extremely rigid means of joining. All of the heavier braces and inside panels were welded together. The overlap was covered by chrome trim spears. At all points were the chrome trim did not cover, the overlap was welded and filled with lead, providing additional strength. Next step was to remove the tail light fins from the rear fenders with a panel cutter. The top edge was hammer welded back together again before the new top seam was filled and smoothed. The wheel openings were radiused using 1/2 conduit on the leading edge. The rear deck lid was shortened 2 1/2 inches and changed to accomodate late style hinges that mounted on the inside of the body. A smoothed 1951 Ford deck lid was installed in the modified opening. The rear bumper was removed and replaced with a rolled pan. Taillights, fashioned from 1951 Ford parking light rims and special lenses were molded into the rear pan. Moving forward, the front fenders were first cut. All dust pans and gravels had to be rebuilt to fit the narrowed fenders. Fenders, hood and grille were then aligned in preparation to form the pancaked hood. With everything perfectly in place, the front 14 inches of the hood were welded solid to the fenders. The new shorter front hood opening was then outlined and the panel cutter was brought back into play. A half inch steel rod was welded in to form a brace for the new contour while a piece of 1/2 inch conduit placed 8 inches to the rear afforded further stiffening. The lower section of the previous hood became part of the front fenders and body panel and it was braced with 14-gauge sheet metal. The Ferrari inspired grille opening was formed from exhaust tubing, while flat bar stock, hammered to contour, served as grille bars. A pan was built to fit under the grille, and the front bumper was replaced with Studebaker grille guards. Studebaker grille guards were also installed in the rear of the car. The top was left unchopped, but the drip mouldings were removed to lend a smooth appearance and add further European styling. The top corners of the doors were rounded. The micro-switches that operated the shaved doors, were mounted just inside the body panels. Upon entering the car, the driver had to press his knee against the panel. The metal deflecting was enough to make contact with the switch that worked the solenoid. As the body was not channeled over the frame, it was unnecessary to raise the driveshaft tunnel. Due to a lack of space, the battery had to be relocated to under the front seat. The engine, a 239 cu.in. 1950 Ford V8 was ported and relieved. When the build was started, Pete was a navy parachute rigger stationed in Kodiak, Alaska. He started working on the car's engine in Kodiak, ordering speed parts by mail. The engine was hopped up featuring a 3/4 Howard cam, Edelbrock heads, Mallory ignition and a dual manifold fit with Stromberg 97 carburetors. The exhaust pipe was side-mounted, and the exhaust was routed trough Belond headers and Porter mufflers. Water pump and generator belt drive were changed to early model single belt for more space. Painted red, Pete's shoebox featured a matching rolled and pleated red and white Naugahyde plastic upholstery by Scott's Top Shop in San Diego.
The build took 6 months, and construction photos published in Hot Rod Magazine March 1954 shows it before it was painted. According to the captions, Pete and Red Eye were hurrying the build in order to get it ready for the 1953 Motorama, held October 26 to November 1. Total build cost was $1800. Once completed, Pete's sectioned shoebox was featured on the cover of Hot Rod Magazine March 1954.
Where is it Now?
Pete sold the Ford, partially in a trade, to Tony Curtis of Glendale, California on August 9, 1956. Pete's family doesn't know what happened to the car after that, and they are currently trying to locate their dad's old custom. If you know what happened to Pete's car, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 1957, Merton's old Ford appeared on the cover of Custom Cars September 1957, the first issue of Custom Cars Magazine. A month later it was featured on the cover of Custom Cars October 1957. The magazine contained a story about "The Secrets of Body Sectioning."
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