For many folks, after they start on a street rod project, they see it through to the very end. Some others might consider the point they sell the project before it's finished as the very end, but for others it's when they get to drive to the local donut shop or burger joint and sit in a booth and stare out the window at the vehicle they just spent the last six years building.
But there is yet another scenario: one where a hot rodder gets most of the way through a build before realizing there is an easier path to follow. For Mark Jaynes from Beavercreek, Ohio, it came at about the halfway mark while building a '40 Mercury convertible.
As most people who have owned one know, '40 Merc 'verts are fairly rare, as only 9,700 or so of them were built that year. Most owners also have to deal with what they have, making the best of what is sometimes a bad situation. A few years back Jaynes was driving around in a '40 Merc convertible he really liked and, more importantly, had a lot of fun with. He had traded it for a '34 Ford sedan he owned for 17 years and knew the '40 wasn't as nice as it could be, but it was something he didn't have to worry too much about. With its primered decklid and hood contrasting its red body, it only took 5 years before the kidding from his friends shamed him into doing a complete paint job, starting with the removal of the old paint.
Dave Middleton and the Performance Clinic assembled the Chevy 350 using a Comp Cams camsha
But, as Mark tells it, it seemed the paint was the only thing holding the car together. He found it needed floors, lower quarters, inner and outer rockers, inner wheel housings, windshield posts and more. It was so bad he even thought about cutting the body up into three pieces and hauling it away.
Instead, he dove into replacing all of the required body panels, and the work was indeed tedious. About halfway into the redo, the mother of Mark's fianc, who happened to be the editor of a Model A club newsletter in Spokane, Washington, told Mark's fianc about a '40 Merc convertible that was for sale in one of the club newsletters. The car was in Yakima, and had barely survived a garage fire. It seems the paint had been blistered, and a rafter fell and creased a section of the car, but overall it was still in pretty good shape. The fire occured while the car was apart in the garage, with the hood, interior parts, N.O.S. runningboards, and other small pieces stored in another location and its perfect grille hanging on a wall so it wouldn't get damaged. Unfortunately they hung the grille on the fuse box, which is where the fire started, so it was the first item to turn into a puddle of metal.
Since Mark was across the country, he asked his fiance's brother in Washington to check it out and send him some photos. He did, and after hearing the owner wanted $10,000 for the car, Mark bought it and eventually drove across the country with his buddy, Russ Speelman, to get it and bring it home. Even with the searing Mark could tell the new car was much better than the old one but knew only after having the body dipped at American Metal Cleaning in Cincinnati would he know for sure. After the 60-year-old body came back from the stripper it looked like it had just been created by the factory yesterday and, except for the crease across the daisy panel (the section above the trunk lid), Mark couldn't find even a pinhole of rust.
Though the excellent quality of the metal surprised him, Mark now had two '40 Merc convertibles at this point, so he made the decision to finish up the first one and sell it so he could concentrate on the second. But before doing so, he did swap the chassis, as the one under the "fire" car already had a 302/C4 engine-and-trans combo and an 8-inch rearend. He didn't know much about Fords, and his original chassis was setup with a Chevy 350/700-R4 combo, so it was good enough for Mark.
Jaynes chose to run all the chrome on his ride (including a great-looking bumper overrider
But one update Jaynes did do was to add a complete front and rear air bag system (something he'd found on e-Bay) to the Fatman Fabrications' Mustang II-type front suspension and the Lincoln Versailles 9-inch rear, which works with a triangulated four-link system and CoolRide bag setup. At this point the project was already nicer than any other car he'd owned, and it wasn't even finished! It also forced Mark to pay more attention to the build as he went along. After bracing the interior so it wouldn't shift when he moved it around the garage, Jaynes also built a sled-like device that allowed him to tilt the car to one side so he could easily work on the bottom of the car.
Jaynes then filled all of the firewall holes, hid wiring looms in the kick panels, and even fab'd a large sling to pick the body up (high enough to roll the chassis in and out) using his engine hoist. Having never done much of this work before, Mark was learning a lot, and then spent the next six months priming and block-sanding his convertible. What he didn't know about was how to use a guide coat, which was pointed out to him by his friend Jim Zehring. Jim knew body and paint as he'd spent 37 years in the business, the last 27 at a Cadillac dealership. Zehring offered to paint his car and Mark wisely accepted. It turned out Jim had his booth in a barn and, in the space of a weekend, not only two-toned the body (with '92 Cadillac Polo Green and '05 Jaguar Seafrost Mica RM paint) but covered both the top and bottoms of the hood, fenders, and trunk lid as well. After letting it set for a week back at Mark's place, he then wet-sanded the finish and buffed it.
During the build Jaynes had to collect some of the parts he didn't have for his car, or at least repair what he already had. He could have made it easy on himself and gone with a kustom look and dechromed the convertible, but since he had most of trim and he liked the look of it he decided to put everything back on the car. And though he did have to use the parts from five different grilles to get one good one for his ride, he was beginning to learn about how rare (read: expensive) '40 Merc convertible parts really are.
The rear two top bows were laid back 4 inches to give an illusion of a slight chop. The bl
The rest of the build went together well, with Mark relying on Dave Middleton and Performance Clinic (Beavercreek, OH) to supply the car's Chevrolet 350 engine, which uses some Comp Cams internals, a 9.5:1 compression ratio, and '69 350 heads fed by a single Edelbrock carburetor attached to an Edelbrock manifold. The transmission is an '85 700-R4 unit prepped by Bill Allen and is equipped with a 2,200-rpm stall B&M converter.
Though the dash was redesigned with a milled aluminum center plate (fab'd by Russ Speelman and Bob Wellbaum) the real custom work went into the center console, which was created by turning a '46 Chevy truck headlight bucket around backwards and filling it with the controls for the Southern Air heat and A/C system as well as the 16-inch Lokar shifter. VDO gauges, with stock Mercury faces, were also used as was a Lecarra steering wheel and a Flaming River aluminum steering column. Both a Centech wiring harness and a Kenwood stereo system (with Infinity and MDX amps) was installed by the owner, but Mark left the stitching of the interior to a pro.
Mark Gillum not only supplied his expertise in covering the car's innards with pleated and rolled black leather, but also reshaped the last two bows of the convertible top so it appears it might have been chopped. Gillum also added saddlebags to the backside of the split bench seat (with power lumbar and heat elements) from Wise Guys, covered the floor a black loop pile, and then used Haartz cloth for both the top and top cover. With the addition of a power cowl vent and windows (controlled by Rock Valley stock handle switches) and Phipps oval interior lights front and rear, Mark's convertible was finally ready for the road.
Jaynes was in high school back in the heyday of the muscle car era from '69 through '72, and had a friend whose father owned a Chrysler dealership, so his buddy could take any car he wanted off the lot (though Mark suspects his buddy's father didn't know about it). But even though those were fun times, Mark believes the current era is great, too, as he's had a great experience building a nice car that he enjoys driving even more.
The rear seat uses a stock frame, but the split front bench is a Wise Guys unit (with powe
The stock frame utilizes a Fatman Fabrications Mustang II-type IFS with CoolRide air bags