Modern Rodding TECH

a metal-finished ’50 Merc parked in a garage
1. This ’50 Merc is sleek, slippery, and sinister, all in one beautifully metal-finished package. The reshaped side window opening visually lowers the roofline more than the 4-inch chop. Note the perfect panel gaps, all thanks to Craftworks Fabrication.
The Merc in Metal typography

This Full-Custom ’50 Merc Leaves Us Green With Envy

By Gerry Burger Photography by E.J. Talik

ike Green has many interests in life; now that he is retired, he has time to pursue two of his favorites: early customs and baseball. His garage currently holds a ’50 Merc Fordor, and while he has enjoyed this early custom, he always wanted a Tudor version of the classic custom. He is also the assistant coach for the Fairview High School varsity baseball team in his hometown of Fairview, Pennsylvania.

With visions of timeless customs rolling in his head he turned to Tavis Highlander to collaborate on the design of a ’50 Mercury Tudor. In Mike’s words: “I wanted to build a custom with some features no one has seen before, while still paying homage to all the things that have been done by all the talented customizers from generations of years past.” Armed with Highlander illustrations the build began.

In the summer of 2020, Mike located an old, chopped Merc, a car with a nice profile but in dire need of repair. Northeastern weather had taken its toll and while the early chop had a nice profile it would require a lot of work. Enter E.J. Talik and his shop Craftworks Fabrication, located in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania. Like many great customs, the end design would come from the collaboration of the owner, the designer, and the fabricator. With input from these three hot rodders, one unique ’50 Mercury custom was born. In the end it would be Talik’s responsibility to turn visions and renderings into reality.

Once in the shop, Talik took inventory of the old custom. It would require a completely new floor and the lower sheetmetal around the entire car would be replaced. Since patch panels and reproduction sheetmetal are not available for a ’50 Mercury, all the metal would need to be fabricated. We mentioned the old, chopped Merc had a pleasant profile with a properly laid-down rear window, and while we try avoiding criticizing early hot rod work, suffice it to say the metalwork on the roof was not nearly up to Craftworks’ standards. The entire roof would be reskinned and in the process the car was converted to a hardtop. Talik decided the original chop (approximately 4 inches) was fine, as he knew the conversion to a hardtop and reconfiguring the quarter-window openings would visually lower the roof line.

So, roof repair, lower body rust repair, and a new floor were first on the list. Things like filling all the trim holes, frenching the headlights, forming a new grille opening, and filling it with two modified ’51 Ford F-1 grilles came later. The grille makes a bold statement, think ’53 DeSoto on steroids. The completely reworked decklid now fits flush between the quarter-panels, rather than on top of them. The decklid work is not shown in our photos, but we did get a sneak peek and the metalwork is amazing.

This reshaped body will roll on a Roadster Shop chassis with custom air-ride suspension. Merc customs from years past were often referred to as “leadsleds,” in reference to the soft metal filler of the day. They were also not known to be particularly fast. All that has changed with the modern Merc. There will be minimal filler and maximum horsepower for this custom. Power comes from a 302-inch, Gen II Coyote Ford engine pumping out an estimated 700 hp. A Ford 6R80 tranny passes the power back to a Currie 9-inch rear.

We mention this only because, for the most part, it will all be covered with some of the finest metalwork found anywhere. The custom floorpan features a beautifully formed tunnel, bead rolled floor panels, and a firewall featuring formed recesses. When building a custom car, the floor is a structural part of the body. It is imperative that the floor be strong enough to hold the shape of the body. So, all those handsome beads rolled in floorpans look great, but they also add structural integrity to the floor. Another unique feature of the floor structure is the subframe that Talik fabricated under the floor panels. This subframe follows the contour of the Roadster Shop chassis and provides a strong mounting structure for the floor sheetmetal and for the body mount bolts attaching the body to the chassis.

We will bring you a full feature on the Mike Green Merc upon its completion, but we wanted to give you an inside look at what goes into building a car of this caliber. Much of this beautiful work will be covered when the car is complete, and with the low stance seeing it from below will be difficult, at best.

A project of this magnitude takes years to complete and Team Green is hoping for completion next year (Summer 2023). There are still many things to fabricate and solutions to be found, ranging from the dashboard to making those hardtop quarter-windows work. Many decisions will be made along the way as cars begin “to talk to you” as the modifications accumulate. We can’t wait to see the finished product, and while the final color has yet to be chosen, Green did mention the color of bare metal sure shows the lines nicely.

One thing is certain, Green has stepped up to the plate for this build and while we are only approaching the seventh inning stretch, we feel certain, upon completion, this Merc is going to knock it out of the park.

top view of a Roadster Shop chassis with custom air-ride suspension, stout X-member and super beefy front crossmember
2. That slammed stance is complements of a Roadster Shop chassis with custom air-ride suspension. Note the stout X-member and super beefy front crossmember. Motor mounts will support a 700hp Ford Coyote engine.
the partially complete ’50 Merc body parked in a garage
3. The body arrived at Craftworks looking like this, an early custom with a pleasing profile but less-than-satisfactory metalwork. An entire roofskin would be formed to replace the existing piece and the entire lower portion of the body was replaced due to rust issues. Here the body is fitted to the Roadster Shop chassis with engine in place.
the original floor is removed exposing the Roadster Shop parallel four-link suspended, 9-inch rear, and Ridetech airbags

4. The original floorpan suffered from rust issues and those wheeltubs are not nearly large enough to house Schott 20×11 wheels. Removing the original floor exposes the Roadster Shop parallel four-link suspended, 9-inch rear, and Ridetech airbags.

the Craftworks fabricated floor subframe rests on a stand
5. Craftworks fabricated this floor subframe for two reasons. First it provides attaching points for the new floor panels, and second it adds structural rigidity to the body. Since the conversion to hardtop eliminates the B-pillar, the floor must be very strong.
the floor subframe is test-fitted to the Roadster Shop chassis

6. Here we see the floor subframe test-fit to the Roadster Shop chassis. The bolts are going to the original body mount locations. This subframe will be welded to the floor, thereby becoming part of the body.

Cleco fasteners holds a floor panel and the subframe in place prior to welding

7. E.J. Talik began the fabrication by forming the piece that goes over the rear axle housing. The subframe provides attaching points for the 18-gauge, bead-rolled floor panel. Cleco fasteners hold the panels in place prior to welding. Note the original wheeltubs have been cut out.

view of the trunk panel
8. The next panel to be formed is the trunk panel. Perfectly formed and beautifully beaded, yet another group of Cleco fasteners hold the panel to the subframe. Note factory body mount locations are now bolted through the new floor panel and subframe. The horseshoe-shaped relief is for the fuel fill pipe.
the third panel is formed
9. Turning his talents to the front of the rear suspension the third panel is formed. You’ll note the factory floor remains intact and this new panel meets that raised portion of the original floor.
the rear portion of the floor welded to the subframe
10. With the beautifully formed wheelhouses in place the rear portion of the floor is welded to the subframe. The Mike Green Merc is now rust-free, strong, and it almost seems a shame to cover metalwork this pretty.
a box tubing subframe is installed to support the floor on both sides of the X-member

11. A similar box tubing subframe was made to support the floor on both sides of the X-member. Once again, ease of panel attachment and body rigidity are enhanced with this method. Four beaded panels form the floor while the original seat mount remains.

view of the panels fitting perfectly and the front panels now connecting to the rear panels
12. Looking from the front rearward you can see the panels fit perfectly and the front panels now connect to the rear panels. This floor system mounted to the Roadster Shop chassis makes for one very stout combination, so setting door and fender gaps can be precise.
view of the custom formed, welded in place driveshaft tunnel
13. The driveshaft tunnel was custom formed and welded in place from the transmission hump to the rear panel. This housing works like a “spine” on the fabricated floor.
view of the cab showing the new firewall and the transmission hump that connects the firewall to the driveshaft tunnel

14. After fabricating a new firewall, the transmission hump connects the firewall to the driveshaft tunnel. Note the access panel in the bellhousing area.

view of the cab showing the toeboards and filler panels for the front floor in place
15. The toeboards and filler panels for the front floor are now in place. As it is with all top-shelf hot rods and customs, some of the most beautiful work lies below the surface.
view of the back seat area with the strong brace for the package shelf in place along with the mounts for the air tank for the Ridetech suspension

16. In the back seat area the strong brace for the package shelf is in place along with the mounts for the air tank for the Ridetech suspension. Note the inner body panels with access for window regulators. Yes, this hardtop will have functioning quarter-windows.

the Gen II Coyote sitting behind the custom-fabricated core support and the Performance Rod & Custom radiator

17. Sitting behind the custom-fabricated core support and the Performance Rod & Custom radiator and in front of the custom firewall is a Gen II Coyote engine displacing 302 inches and pumping more than 2 hp per inch.

the hood is test-fitted using a set of modified Billet Specialties ’55 Chevy hood hinges

18. Test-fitting the front sheetmetal and mounting the hood using a set of modified Billet Specialties ’55 Chevy hood hinges provides an engine bay just big enough for that Coyote. There will be extensive sheetmetal work under the hood to house the front suspension and wheels.

close view of the ’50 Merc grille featuring a distinctive early DeSoto-like flavor

19. OK, we absolutely love this grille. With distinctive early DeSoto-like flavor, it is formed from two ’51 Ford F-1 truck grilles. The results are one very bold, early custom statement. The front fenders have been extended down 1-1/2 inches and the grille pan is handformed.

three quarter rear view shot of the metal-finished ’50 Merc parked in a garage
20. We’ll end this buildup story with a drama shot. From this angle you really get a feel for the overall custom styling on Green’s ’50 Mercury. That rear decklid will be extensively modified to close the gaps and the rear bumper will be neatly tucked. Like you, we can’t wait to see the finished product.
Craftworks Fabrication
(412) 922-7062
Roadster Shop
(847) 949-7637
Modern Rodding

VOLUME 3 • ISSUE 26 • 2022