Collector Car Corner

Seven Decades Of Porsche Road Racing from Legend Holbert to Rookie Lewis

 

Q: Hello Greg. I am a 70 year old retired mechanic and I’ve been a lifelong Porsche fan and at one time owned a used Porsche 911. I’d like to know your thoughts on Porsche as a racing legend, as I’ve followed the Porsche road racers since Augie Pabst and Bob Holbert drove them in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

I know Porsche has been a big winner at Lemans and other major forms of racing, but I still like the racing today, especially in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup events, which I attended a few weeks ago at Sebring. Thank you very much for your time. Henry L., enjoying retirement in FL

A: Henry, I’ll get to GT3 Cup by Yokohama in a minute, but I haven’t heard the names Augie Pabst and Bob Holbert in quite a while from a reader. Pabst, he of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer fame, and Holbert, the famous Porsche dealer owner and factory team driver, are two legends indeed who helped push the Porsche brand forward in the formative years. Back then, Porsche won many big road races in underpowered cars thanks to its’ lightweight, superb handling and reliability. Like we used to say with my friends when we went to the races in 1960: “The Corvettes will pass them on the main straightaway, but the Porsches will catch them in the corners and pass them.”
Pabst won the 1964 Road America 500 with co-driver Bill Wuesthoff driving an RS-60, while Holbert (who I saw race many times in person in the early 1960s) was one of four drivers credited with bringing the Porsche brand to national prominence. The other three were Art Bunker, Charlie Wallace and Lake Underwood.

Today, the GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama you mention is one of the most popular all-Porsche racing series in the world, attracting lots of driving talent and team participation. These Porsche 911s are specially built for competition, and attract both factory and independent teams along with great series sponsors, like Yokohama Tire.

As for famous names in the series, good friends and business associates Cary Agajanian and Mike Curb (huge names in American motorsports and the Country Music industry, respectively,) are teaming with three time series champion owner Bob Faieta and his California-based “Competition Motorsports” to field an entry for IMSA/Porsche Scholarship award winner Michael Lewis, a 23-year-old Laguna Beach native.

Porsche Road Racing

Michael Lewis, 23, is piloting this Curb Records/Eibach Springs backed Porsche 911 in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama. The Porsche is fielded by noted car owner Bob Faieta and his Competition Motorsports team. Lewis brings several years of winning European Formula racing to the table, and earned an IMSA/Porsche Scholarship for 2014 to help make the effort possible. (Steve Romine photo)

After several go-kart championships, Michael cut his teeth in big-time Formula motorsports. In addition to racing in Europe and Asia in Formula BMW, Michael’s resume includes earning eight top-10 finishes in 2013 in FIA European Formula 3, one victory and seven podium finishes in 2012 in Formula 3 Euroseries and three victories in 2011 in Formula 3 Italia. These are impressive credentials for a young driver on his way up the ladder, especially considering he knows the business side of racing, too.
On the business side of racing and as a personal disclaimer, I have known Michael since he was an infant. Specifically, his father, Steve Lewis, is a respected publisher and founder of Performance Racing Industry (PRI), including its huge racing trade show and popular monthly magazine, all now owned by SEMA. I have been associated with PRI since 1985, thus my “extra excitement” over what’s going on in GT3 Cup by Yokohama. Additionally, Steve Lewis became famous as a car owner thanks to his championship USAC Midget team “Nine Racing,” which fielded Bob East prepared midgets with noted engine builder Ed Pink and his general manager, Frank Honsowetz, providing horsepower. (Yes, the Ed Pink of drag racing fame and the same Honsowetz that built the winning IRL Infiniti Indy Car engines. Both are involved with the Porsche effort, too.)

In summary, Michael Lewis will drive the No. 98 Competition Motorsports/Curb Records/Eibach 911 GT3 Cup Platinum Cup car this season and is off to a great start. His debut at Sebring, Fl., March 13-14 found him posting two top 10 finishes, eighth and sixth, after coming from deep in a 38 car field. (See www.MJL racing.com for more)

In ending, the next Porsche GT3 Cup race is at Watkins Glen, NY, June 27-28. God willing, I’ll be there.

Thanks for your letter Henry as it easily sparked my interest.

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader questions at 116 Main St., Towanda, PA 18848 or email him at extramile_2000@yahoo.com)

For more articles, visit Auto Round-Up News online to view our archives at www.autoroundup.com

General Motors LaSalle History

General Motors LaSalle History is taken on by Greg Zyla in the Q&A

 

Q: Hi Greg: I enjoy your very educational articles in the Spokesman Review in Spokane, WA. I’d like to know about the LaSalle automobile. My dad had a 1936 (I believe it was) 4-door sedan, purchased in 1943 and traded in for new 1950 Pontiac.
We never see or even hear of this car; can you give some background on the car, when and where it was manufactured and by whom? Also any statistics regarding engine size and horsepower would be appreciated. Thanks. Steve Marque, WA

A: Glad to Steve. LaSalle was a General Motors division that began in 1927 to fit between Buick and Cadillac. LaSalle enjoyed a 14-year run in this luxury position, and when discontinued in 1941, it took Buick up until 1960 to pick up the LaSalle name as a Buick model.

 

LaSalle General Motors Advertisement

The LaSalle was a very popular car for General Motors, beginning in 1927 and lasting until 1940. Harley Earl was the chief designer, and it was his very first design back in 1927. (Ad compliments General Motors).

Always highly regarded by GM, LaSalle is also noted as thrusting GM’s “Godfather of Automotive Design,” Harley Earl, into prominence. Specifically, the very first LaSalle in 1927 was designed by Harley Earl in his first ever effort.

Known as Cadillac’s less expensive choice, the LaSalle was built on a shorter wheelbase than big daddy Cadillac, and its popularity was instant. As for engines, LaSalle utilized the big V8 engines for most of its run, including Cadillac’s 353-inch V8 during the depression years. For many years and according to plan, LaSalle outsold Cadillac, which is the way the Buick-LaSalle-Cadillac pyramid theory was to work. However, when Cadillac sales outnumbered LaSalle in 1931, GM took another look at the brand in how to better the results.

By 1934, LaSalle was using Oldsmobile’s inline-eight engines and assembled on shorter wheelbases than Cadillac. However, things did not improve, and by 1937 LaSalle was back using the Cadillac 60 Series V8 engines and again stretching the wheelbase. The car was again a hit, and sales moved upward over 32,000 units.
In 1938, however, sales were again down.

In its final two years of 1939 and 1940, LaSalle was still a most respected car by consumers, but better sales by Packard and Lincoln spelled its doom. In 1941, LaSalle was dropped and Cadillac introduced its new “Sixty One” series, which officially replaced the LaSalle division, bringing LaSalle consumers to Cadillac showrooms. As for pricing, the entry level LaSalle in 1939 was $1,280 all the way up to the most expensive $1,800 convertible. The Sixty One Series Cadillac was priced at $1,445 in 1941, which explains why Cadillac sales improved.
The engines used the in the final two years were 322 inch V8s putting out 130 horsepower. Wheelbases were 120-inches in 1939 and then 123-inches the final year.

LaSalle General Motors Chassis Ad

The LaSalle was a very popular car for General Motors, beginning in 1927 and lasting until 1940. Harley Earl was the chief designer, and it was his very first design back in 1927. (Ad compliments General Motors).

Hope this all helps, and thanks for your question.

 

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader questions at 116 Main St., Towanda, PA 18848 or email him at extramile_2000@yahoo.com)

For more articles, visit Auto Round-Up News online to view our archives at www.autoroundup.com

 

Used Car or New Car, That’s The Question

Used car or new car, which is the way to go when you’re in the market

Q: Hi Greg and thanks for reading my letter. My question doesn’t have to do with collector cars or racing, but I’m hoping you can help with the answer. What is your opinion of buying new versus used? Also, what exactly is a program or off-lease car and do you recommend these as a good used car?

I do own a collector car, by the way, a 1967 Chevelle SS 396, but I’d sure love your opinion as you write about everything. Thanks, George L., Evanston, IL

Old Used Car Lot

Buying new or used is a situation that affects many car buyers today as it was in yesteryear. Making the right choice on a used car is still extremely important. (Greg Zyla collection photo)

A: George, first you’ve got a great car in that 1967 Chevelle SS, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite years of the Chevelle SS era from late 1965 to 1971.

To buy a car new or used is a concern for everyone. New cars come with full warranties, and deliver the expected satisfaction you may or may not get with a used car. The downside of buying new is depreciation, especially in the first 18 months.

As for “program” or “off-lease” cars, these are brand new cars put into service, used for up from 12 months to 36 or 48 months and then returned to the dealership via new car dealer auctions or lease returns. “Off lease” cars from this category not purchased by new car dealers are sold at used car dealer auctions, with many still in very good condition and offering great buys to the public at our nation’s used car businesses.

Not to get too complicated, today’s rental companies like Hertz, Avis, National and the such are either owned by the car manufacturers or in some way associated with them via fleet sale programs.

Most all of the rental cars on the road today eventually end up back at a new car dealer, like Ford, Toyota or Hyundai, or at a reputable used car dealer. These off-lease or program cars are actually good deals based on the fact that most all people that rent cars are not “crazy, young wild kids” that will beat a car to death. Granted, some people who rent cars do abuse them, but it’s just not true that the majority of rental units are bad apples. Overall, most rental units will deliver many years of service to the new owner, and are kept in great shape by the rental companies. So, don’t be afraid to buy an off lease vehicle from a new or used car dealer, as many still have warranties attached to them.

To those who buy a used car that is not “off-lease,” that’s where the “hope for the best” situation comes in. It is up to the buyer to determine if the car is a good choice, which is why I recommend spending $50 to $100 to have a trained mechanic look over the car you intend to buy. If the used car dealer disallows this, then think twice about your purchase.

Remember, too, that there is a lot of good information available on used car selection and reliability records, which is one of the reasons I subscribe to Consumer Reports magazine. This magazine delivers perhaps the best information on a car’s history available today, including features on “Used Cars To Avoid.”
Take care of the ’67 Chevelle SS, and thanks for the letter.

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader questions at 116 Main St., Towanda, PA 18848 or email him at extramile_2000@yahoo.com)

For more articles, visit Auto Round-Up News online to view our archives at www.autoroundup.com

The Dan Gurney Mercury Cougar XR-7G

 

Q: Greg, I enjoyed your recent article on “Designer” cars. At 61 years of age, all of the examples you used are familiar to me. My buddy even owned a new “Levi” Gremlin for a short time.
I do remember running across a pretty rare example of another high performance version of a pony car I’m sure you’ll recall also.
One of the bosses at my first job in the Summer of ’71 drove a ’68 Mercury Cougar XR-7G. This was the “Dan Gurney” version of a normal XR-7. I remember getting to ride in it a few times and it was a beautiful car, triple black with leather interior, fog lights, 390 big block, and a power sunroof.

Gurney was driving the Woods Brothers’ Mercury in NASCAR races at the time, and was the ‘face’ of Mercury performance.
My friend’s company and family bought all of their cars at our local Lincoln-Mercury dealership. Included were Marquis and Montego wagons, as well as a new Mark 3 and a new Grand Marquis sedan.

Years later, in the mid ’80’s, I realized how rare that XR-7G model was, (619 built), so I tried to track the car down and see what became of it. A friend discovered that the car had been passed down to the son of that boss I mentioned and he drove it around as his first car.

Unfortunately, there was a short circuit of some kind in the switch for the sunroof, and it started an interior fire which burned the car completely to a non-repairable shell. What a pity!
Today, every attempt would be made to save such a rare desirable car, but back then, it was just an old car, resulting in “here’s your insurance settlement, go buy something else.”
So, that was my brush with a truly rare piece of automotive history. Sincerely, Tim Wink, Washington state.

Dan Gurney Mercury Promo

Dan Gurney poses for a photo with his Gurney XR-7G, of which few remain today. (Ford Motor Company photo).

A: Tim, those Gurney XR-7G’s are indeed very rare. Mercury Cougar won Motor Trend Magazine’s 1967 “Car Of the Year” award and Gurney is still regarded as one of the very best race drivers and car constructors ever to call the United States his home. (He was born in New York).

Gurney dominated Riverside road races in NASCAR for the Wood Brothers, driving a car with 121 on the side. (21 is the Wood Brothers regular number). If you’d like to see footage of Gurney winning the Motor Trend 500 there, check it out on YouTube as he did it four times in five races in the 1960s.

I have also attached an ad from Castrol Motor Oil, showing another Ford legend car owner, Bud Moore, along with Gurney, Parnelli Jones and Mercury Cougar GM Fran Hernandez. It shows how involved car makers and oil manufacturers were in racing back then, as they are to this day.

Dan Gurney Castrol Oil Ad

This Castrol Motor Oil highlights the efforts of Mercury in the Trans-Am series back in 1967. (Compliments Castrol Motor Oil).

In ending, thanks for the great letter, and for bringing Dan Gurney’s name to the forefront again. He is perhaps best known for Formula 1 racing and Indy Car racing, where his Eagle chassis offerings were some of the best in the business. In his career, he personally drove to four Formula 1 wins for three different manufacturers (Porsche, Brabham and his own Eagle Westlake powered cars), the aforementioned four Riverside 500 wins in NASCAR, and numerous other road racing titles, including Lemans with co-driver AJ Foyt in 1967.

After retiring from driving, Gurney became the heralded team owner and constructor now looked on as one of the best in the history of racing…worldwide. He was the sole owner and CEO of All American Racers from 1970 until his son, Justin, assumed the title of CEO in early 2011. The company operates out of offices in Santa Ana, CA.

In those 41 years, Gurney’s team won 78 races including the Indy 500, 12 Hours Of Sebring, Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and eight championships.

There will never be another Dan Gurney, and it’s good he’s still around to see him at shows and races. (See www.allamerican
racers.com for more).

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader questions at 116 Main St., Towanda, PA 18848 or email him at extramile_2000@yahoo.com)

For more articles, visit Auto Round-Up News online to view our archives at www.autoroundup.com

Quick Answers To Quick Questions! Wankel Rotary Motor in Mazda Cars & Custom Car Pricing

Collector Car Corner
Quick Answers To Quick Questions!

By Greg Zyla

Q: As a classic car owner, I’ve enjoyed your articles very much. I own a 1985 Mazda RX-7, and I realize Japanese sports cars are not looked upon with great enthusiasm at local car shows.
However, the engine in my Mazda is a Wankel, as Mazda’s use of the this rotary engine was a pioneering breakthrough. It is also used in racing cars, aircraft and a variety of small-engine devices. At car shows, I always hear “Oh, I used to have one of those.”
I’ve since refurbished the upholstery, replaced the wheels and restored the exterior to its original condition. As of last summer, I believe it’s one of four RX-7s in the Southern Tier of New York/Pennsylvania. Much thanks, Bob White, www.booksbybobwhite.com

Bob White Mazda RX-7

Bob White’s beautiful and rare 1985 Mazda RX-7 Wankel. These cars are popular these days with engine enthusiasts as the Wankel is still in use to this day. (Bob White photo collection)

A: Bob, I’m not sure if you are aware, but American Motors was also scheduled to use the Wankel Rotary in it’s all new AMC Pacer back in 1975. Due to both financial and economy problems (gas crisis), AMC went with its trusty inline six-cylinder engines.
The first Wankel I drove was a Mazda R100 sedan back in 1971, and boy did it have power. Thanks for your letter and photo. I included your website for your books, and it sure looks interesting. (Bob is a writer and earned a B.S. in Aeronautics and Meteorology from St. Louis University. He worked as a meteorologist on the first six TIROS and early Nimbus weather satellites. See his page for more.)

Q: Greg, I see your name in Auto Round-Up Magazine and really enjoy your articles. My friend has a ’36 Chrysler he is putting together with a ’57 DeSoto Hemi 341 V8, a 727 transmission and a Ford rear end. I am wondering what this car will be worth? You mentioned Hemi-powered cars are worth money in October of 2011 article. Thank you, Ken J. Fortna Sr., Pennsylvania.

 

All makes of the Chrysler 1957 vehicles

Here’s the entire Chrysler Corporation family of cars for 1957. Featured are Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler and Imperial. A fine looking bunch in my book! (Compliments Chrysler Corporation).

A: Ken, it would be hard to value a car in the building stage, let alone when finished! How about sending me photos when the car is completed and I’ll check with some of my street rod friends as to value. It sure sounds like a neat street rod, and that 341 Hemi was fast back in 1957.

 

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader questions at 116 Main St., Towanda, PA 18848 or email him at extramile_2000@yahoo.com)

For more articles, visit Auto Round-Up News online to view our archives at www.autoroundup.com

The AMC Renault & the French Connection

 

Q: Greg, I appreciate your car articles as it sure brings back great memories. I noticed in one of your columns on AMC where you had the incorrect manufacturers named in the AMC merger. I know it was a memory lapse, as you’ve written about AMC in the past and mentioned some AMC cars you owned.

The AMC French Connection

••The 1984 AMC Renault Fuego was for the sports car enthusiast, and came with 4-cylinder turbo power. (Compliments Renault/AMC).

I want to also say that AMC was once a partner with Renault before it was sold to Chrysler. Some of the Renault cars were good, others not so good. Just wanted to write you a letter letting you know I enjoy the articles, and how the manufacturers used auto racing, too. Sam J., Arkadelphia, AR.

 

A: Sam, thanks very much for your letter. I did make an error a few columns ago, but want to again repeat that I do know it was Hudson and Nash-Kelvinator that merged in 1954 to form American Motors, back then. AMC featured cars that were small and affordable, although never forgetting that the larger Ambassador catered to those who wanted a big car.
Through the early 1960s, AMC was doing very well selling its brand of compact economy, especially cars like the Rambler American. By the mid-1960s, larger was better and muscle cars were the “in” thing. AMC responded well, and thanks to the larger Ambassadors and Matadors and the new line of Gremlins, Hornets and Marlins, sales were good.

As for racing, American Motors came into NHRA Pro Stock Drag Racing in 1974-75 with two AMC Hornet X machines, one driven by Wally Booth and second by Dave Kanners and the team of Dick Maskin and Dave Kanners. Booth won a national even in his Hornet, while Kanners had strong finishes at several NHRA national events. Roger Penske also took AMC to new heights, winning several road racing Trans Am titles in the early 1970s and then followed with NASCAR Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) victories in a factory-backed AMC Matador effort.

However, not everything was rosy at AMC as the company struggled financially. Even after purchasing Jeep in 1970, which did help sales but not the bottom line, AMC needed a partner with money to invest. That’s when Renault of France entered the picture as a “quarter-partner” in 1978, and then upped the ante to 49-percent interest by 1983.

 

The AMC French Connection

The Renault LeCar was a sub-compact that delivered 39 MPG highway and was sold at AMC dealers starting in the late 1970s. (Compliments Renault/AMC)

The Renault-based AMC cars were good, specifically the 1983 Alliance which received the Motor Trend “Car Of The Year” award. I also remember the 1984 sports car called the Fuego, which was pretty nice, too and the LeCar, a subcompact that sold fairly well also.

The Renault deal fizzled badly, however, when politics, lack of credit and even an assassination stopped everything. Renault’s CEO Georges Besse was killed in 1986 by a militant group upset with many job layoffs and Renault’s building of a new plant in Canada. The new Renault CEO, Raymond Levy, wanted out, and this is when Chrysler stepped in and by March of 1987 agreed to buy all of Renault’s stock in AMC. Chrysler also bought all remaining AMC shares, resulting in Chrysler’s new Jeep-Eagle division. This move put an end to AMC as we once knew it, yet to this day the Jeep brand is one of America’s most popular vehicles.
Thanks again for the nice letter, and I’ve owned four AMC cars in my day: a 1974 Hornet X (new, 258 six), a 1976 Gremlin X (new, 258 six), a 1979 Spirit with four-cylinder VW engine (used leftover) and a 1974 Matador sedan (used, 304 V8).

 

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader questions at 116 Main St., Towanda, PA 18848 or email him at extramile_2000@yahoo.com)

For more articles, visit Auto Round-Up News online to view our archives at www.autoroundup.com

 

Designer, Performance And Cartoon Characters

 

While test driving a 2014 Chrysler 300H John Varvatos Luxury Edition recently, it brought back memories of the many designer and performance cars that have graced American showrooms.
Varvatos, by the way, is the noted menswear American contemporary fashion designer who not only lends his name to the 300H, he OKs and designs the numerous style accompaniments and special touches. The result is hands down one of the best-looking cars on the road today.

Designer, Performance And Cartoon Characters

The Ford Motor Company cashed in on designer cars, utilizing four famous designers to brand its beautiful Mark V Continentals. (Compliments Ford motor Company)

As for using designer names for cars, it’s nothing new. Ford enhanced the “designer footprint” practice in the mid-1970s ala its Eddie Bauer Fords and Lincoln Mark Vs, the latter featuring four famous fashion designers: Blass, Cartier, Givenchy and Pucci. (See advertisement.) Lincoln’s designer trend actually dates back to 1968 when Cartier, the world famous watchmaker, added a nice “timepiece” to the center dashboards of the big Lincoln Sedans.

However, before Lincoln went designer full bore, there were other surprising examples, specifically, American Motors Corporation (AMC) and its family of less expensive cars.

Designer, Performance And Cartoon Characters

The AMC Gucci Hornet Sportabout interiors were, well, loud. The Gucci Sportabouts were available in 1972 and 1973, with nearly 6,000 sold.

AMC’s efforts centered around the Hornet, Gremlin, Javelin and Matador, starting with one of the best-looking mid-sized wagons of the decade in the 1972 and 1973 Hornet Sportabout. Special designer Gucci Sportabouts appeared, with special interiors and exterior badges. Next came a Levi interior Gremlin X, and then a Pierre Cardin Javelin. Even the top line Matador got into the branding game, releasing a good looking Dr. Oleg Cassini AMC Matador.

Still, I always went for performance marketing names, the likes of the George Hurst (AMC Scrambler) and Mark Donohue (Javelin/AMX). Both are performance and racing legends, and were joined by other racing legends like Carroll Shelby with his Cobras, Mustangs and Chargers; Hurst again with the 442 W30 Oldsmobiles and Dick Harrell and Don Yenko, both big names of cars coming from Nickey Chevrolet in Chicago and Yenko in Canonsburg, PA, respectively, with transplanted big block Chevy engines.

Designer, Performance And Cartoon Characters

This AMC Matador Gucci was more refined than Sportabout and looked good inside and out. (Photos compliments of former AMC)

Instead of designers, I favored cartoon character based cars, like the “beep-beep” Plymouth Roadrunners, complete with the Warner Brothers famous “Bird” that was always pursued by the Coyote in the cartoons. Matter of fact, instead of the sibling Dodge being named “Super Bee,” I always felt Chrysler missed the boat by not calling Super Bee the Dodge Coyote. In retrospect, however, the Coyote’s accident prone and failed chases always found the Roadrunner winning. Thus, and in keeping with utilizing the name and graphics they paid $50,000 to use, Chrysler’s “Coyote Duster” ram air intake system did appear on its muscle cars for several years, much to my liking.

As for spokespeople, Ricardo Montalban was the top car man of the mid 1970s. Already a famous actor that starred in the long running TV hit Fantasy Island, Montalban added to his famous resume as the face and voice of Chrysler’s new 1975 Cordoba personal size luxury car, with special emphasis on its Corinthian leather interior. There may not have been a “Montalban Cordoba,” but the millions of Cordobas sold came with the help of what I feel is one of the most famous car advertising campaigns ever.

Chrysler, by the way, released a Frank Sinatra Edition Imperial in 1981-1983, but the good-looking car was short lived due to the fact that manufacturers were downsizing its large luxury cars.
In ending, I’ll reach out to my many readers and ask what designers, performance legends or movie and TV stars do you remember in car promotion, like Farah Fawcett and her Mercury Cougar ads? I’ll put together a hodgepodge list of the best replies, with your name in print…just like the designers, performance legends and movie stars.

 

Bob Johnson’s Customized 1953 Mercury Convertible

 

 

Q: Greg, I have a 1953 Mercury convertible that has been customized. It has a 1987 Lincoln 5.0 roller engine, rebuilt and bored .30 over. It has a small cam and 3:55 rear gears.
It also has air conditioning, power steering, 1993 Thunderbird bucket seats and hood with 130 louvers. My Merc also features a 1955 Pontiac grill, 1956 Buick side trim and 1956 Packard taillights. I then added Mercury Turnpike Cruiser skirts and a few other things.

My car is finished in a white pearl with pinstriping and it even has keyless entry.

I understand that these 1953 Mercury convertibles are rare, but my question is how rare are they? Also, how can I find out how many are left? I really appreciate your help. I used to live on Sayco Rd., in Towanda, PA. Thanks much, Bob Johnson, now living in Hudson, FL

1953 Mercury Convertible

Bob Johnson stands next to his beautiful, fully customized, 1953 Mercury convertible featuring a modern Lincoln 302-V8, custom paint and much more.

A: Bob thanks for sending all of the great photos of your unique 1953 Mercury Convertible. It is truly one of the nicer customized cars I’ve seen, and is certainly worthy of many magazine covers in my opinion.

As for being rare, in 1953, Mercury built a total of 305,863 vehicles of which just 8,463 were convertibles. They were all powered by the Flathead 255-inch V8 that produced 125 horses. The base price of your convertible back then was $2,390, which was a good amount of money back in 1953.

Your Mercury, however, has long since gone the way of a stock ’53 convertible. Your excellent customizing brings out the best of what a real street sled was like in the 1950s, including items like continental kits, real spinner tipped wire wheels, different grilles and tail lamps, full length lake pipes and fender skirts, all of which were part of the recipe for a “cool ride.”

1953 Mercury Convertible

Johnson’s Mercury from a rear view highlights the beautiful pinstripes, Packard tail lamps, continental kit, skirts and side “lake pipes.” (Bob Johnson photo collection)

You’ve gone far beyond a “Fifties Sled,” though. With the modern conveniences of a 302-inch V8 Lincoln engine conversion along with popular additions of air conditioning to keyless entry, your Mercury has modern retro appeal which makes it more valuable than a stock Mercury by far.

I notice in your photos much more, including a four deck stereo system in the trunk and an interior that is also well done thanks to the “rolled and pleated” treatment.

You really have a beautiful custom Mercury on your hands, Bob. I feel your car is one of the nicest customized ’53 Mercurys in the country thanks to the modern engine and drivetrain. Take good care of it because of the 8,463 originally built, and considering there are no concrete numbers available, I doubt there are few left in excellent condition, and even fewer featuring work like you have done on your beauty.