Custom '51 Mercury Convertible
One of the key missions of the Museum is to finish up with important models in our collection, and to restore vintage
models completed decades ago. One recent effort has been the first-rate work of
Joe Prestia who, with the help of master painter Lance Norman, undertook the task of
completing one of Bob Barnett's unfinished customs, a '51 Mercury convertible. While the unfinished model was in good shape, and had benefitted from some previous work by "Uncle Bill" Aitchison, it still needed
a lot of careful work. Joe has finished up this piece, so let's let him describe the project in his own words!
The resin trunk supplied did not fit well at all. I had to
hunt down a plastic original trunk to fit. Only minimal re-sizing was necessary. The complete body was sanded down with 400 grit. Old loose body filler was removed from the windshield area. The
hood was rounded off. There were cut marks in the door jam areas which were filed down. A styrene strip was added to the windshield roof line. There was old tape adhesive that needed to be removed off the
body. I also had to rework the left body line over the rear wheel well. There was a low spot in the upper rear quarter driver side that needed to be repaired. Also, the front headlight housings area and
the front roll pan needed to be finished so I added filler and plastic to complete. Door jams were made with a sheet of styrene cut to size. Hinges were taken from an old '55 Chevy plastic kit. I used
metal tubing to hold the hinges in place. This worked, but not as well as I had hoped. They have a little play which makes the doors hang down when opened.
I had a hard time locating a good set that would fit well. The
ones that were supplied did not fit at all. At this point, I was determined to make a pair. I took a red transparent toothbrush, cut two pieces off then filed them down with a jeweler's file to fit. I
then used fine grit sand paper to smooth them down. The tail lights were set aside until the paint was done. They were installed by using a clear nail polish (compliments of my wife's nail polish
collection). The hardest part of the tail light making was trying to hold the part while filing it. It seemed to have a mind of its own and pop out of my grasp many times to uncharted areas under my work
I sent the body out for paint. A good friend of mine, Lance
Norman, has an incredible talent when it comes to painting.
The interior was given a tuck and roll feature by adding a strip half
round styrene, cut to size and glued in one by one. Once completed, it was painted semi-flat white.
Chrome trim was added and the dash was detailed with bare metal foil and after-market
The top was repaired and painted flat white. Although it was
a slight bend to it, I tried to straighten it out the best I could.
The inner tub needed much attention. Plastic was added and filled in, then
painted. After the paint dried, blue flocking was used for the rug and trunk areas.
The suspension was basic, simple low-rider style. The bumper was hand made. It
started with a resin one, cut it in for parts and then added plastic and filler until the right look was achieved. Many hours went into fine fit and sanding before the chrome was added.
The glass for the windshield did not fit well. I had to cut it down and polish out
the fine scratches it received in the box over the years. I used toothpaste and then a fine compound and car polish for a smooth finish.
The complete car was ready. A Cadillac motor was used. The
wheels and tires were fit. The interior was then added and the body. I used an after-market banjo style steering wheel because it is cool for that era.
The Museum expresses its great appreciation to Joe and Lance for their top shelf
work. We hope they'll team up again to finish – or restore – another model in the Museum's collection!
The Merc convertible exhibits both good design and excellent painting and assembly skills. Check out the smooth bodywork. Dark pearl blue paint by Lance Norman is a nice contrast to
the bone white top and interior."
The great looking, and carefully fitted, taillights were carved from a clear red toothbrush handle."
Joe exquisitely detailed the dash, steering wheel, and applied a matte-finish white to the interior to offset the dark blue carpet."