When you say “’40 Merc” to someone, a half dozen or so images probably pop into their head. Maybe Gil Ayala’s car appears, or Nick Matranga’s, or Ron Martinez’s, or even John D’Agostino’s Stardust or Brian Everett’s contemporary examples come to mind.

It’s hard to break new ground when working with such an iconic profile, but the guys at TED’s Rod Shop in Riverside, California, were able to do just that. They combined a hot rod attitude (and drivetrain) with classic custom lines with just enough unique touches to set this 1940 Mercury coupe apart from anything else parked alongside it. And when you’re talking about '40 Mercs, that’s a real accomplishment!

Tod Saylor and Eric Newman make up the “T” and “E” in the TED’s name (their buddy Dave is the “D”, but not part of the business), and the project started when Tod bought the car after seeing it at the first West Coast Kustoms car show in Santa Maria in 2008.

The car had been chopped and a Mustang II front suspension added, but it wasn’t until TED’s blasted the paint off the body that they could see what was underneath, and it wasn’t pretty! Both the front and rear suspension sections were welded in a few inches forward of where they should have been, and the chop job wasn’t up to TED’s standards, so they started over from the ground up.

Since the car was basically shop-owned, the guys couldn’t really work on it during business hours (as those are reserved for customer’s cars) but, to add to the mix, the TV show Chop, Cut, Rebuild was knocking on their door wanting to film the entire process for their upcoming sixth season. TED’s said “yes” and it was off to the races!

TED’s wanted to build the Merc with classic custom styling, but also wanted to detail every aspect of the car as they went along (not really the norm in the custom world), so underneath this car looks as good as the exterior does. The chassis was addressed with a new Mustang II–type front suspension from Jim Weimer Rod Garage, which utilizes an air ride system from RideTech and a set of 11-inch disc brakes.

Out back a Currie 9-inch rear with an aluminum carrier and a Detroit Locker differential and a set of 4.11:1 gears went together with a stainless steel four-bar system from RideTech installed by TED’s. Currie Enterprises also supplied the Ford Explorer disc brake conversion for the 9-inch, and ECI delivered one of their clutch and brake pedal assemblies.

One of the more imaginative design aspects of the car is with the 15x6 steel wheels from Wheel Smith, which are copper plated, that provide a polished penny appearance at the outer edge of the wheel as they’re mostly hidden by the Dodge hubcaps and custom bullets. The rollers are wrapped in Firestone 670-15 wide whites.

Besides the chassis detailing, another non-traditional approach with the car was taken with the drivetrain, which centers on a Ford Racing 347 that is prepped with Edelbrock performance and dress-up parts. The crank, rods, and pistons are all forged, and an Edelbrock roller camshaft was used. Up top a pair of Edelbrock thunder AVS 500-cfm carbs feed the beast, which is fitted with headers and stainless steel exhaust by Doug Thorley and an ignition system from MSD. A Be Cool aluminum radiator works in tandem with the mechanical fan, and a chrome 100-amp alternator supplies the juice to the motor.

Under the car a polished aluminum driveshaft from Inland Empire Driveline matches the polished bellhousing for the Tremec TKO five-speed box. The pressure plate and clutch disc came from CenterForce, and the pedals, shifter, and cables arrived from Lokar.

This all makes for an impressive rolling chassis, but the best was yet to come. Though the roof had been chopped before TED’s got a hold of it, Eric Newman decided to take another 2 inches out of the rear and another inch up front before raising the entire windshield 1 inch (into the roof) before he was satisfied with the lines of the hardtop roof. And since there wasn’t an off-the-shelf answer to the “What are you going to do about the side glass” question, TED’s spent dozens of hours in the fabrication of the one-off curved glass trim edging and subsequent blocking of the copper before the chrome plating was done. Glass for the car came from Oldies Glass in San Bernardino, California, which is a family operated business since 1923.

The hood’s side molding was shortened, too, and front and rear bumpers from a ’47 Ford were added (with taillights added to the rear bumper guards). Ted Elliot helped with the build, too, and Herb Weber and Dan Geiger both worked on the leading before the car was turned over to Jimenez Brothers Customs of Riverside to have the paint applied (House of Kolors Brandywine over a black basecoat).

With the gloss done, the car was coming together nicely, and the attention turned to the interior. Mike Grandaw, from Studio Steel, applied his metal fabricating skills to the column drop, molding it into the dash, and behind the middle glovebox door (there are two gloveboxes) you’ll find the controls for the RideTech suspension, the Old Air Products A/C system, as well as the tiny iPod Nano that manages the headless stereo system.

Wanda Wells of Wanda’s Upholstery laid out the HushMat insulation before the burgundy carpet from J&J Auto Fabrics in Rialto, California, went in. Wanda’s also created the split bench front seat as well as covered the door panels and seating with a combination Ox Blood and White Diamond pattern vinyl. Up on the dash a chrome ididit column went in as did a stock Merc steering wheel, which was modified to fit on the column.

TED’s turned to Julia Owen to restore the original gauges, and she augmented the look by adding some copper around the edge of each gauge. (Copper is used throughout the car, from the wheels to the additional firewall piece, to some of the engine’s water and fuel lines). Wiring of the gauges was made easier with a kit from Painless Performance, and Audio Shoppe in Riverside set up the sound system using Arc Audio gear. The power windows, controlled by switches from Hotronics, are from Specialty Power Windows.

With all the work that went into this cruiser, plus the added pressure of having a film crew looking over your shoulder while it goes together, then you might be surprised to hear that TED’s was able to complete the build in five short months, start to finish. The car made its debut at the Grand National Roadster Show in 2010, where it won the Radical Early Custom 1935-1948 class as well as the prestigious West Coast Kustom Outstanding Nostalgia Custom Award, too.

Reluctantly, Tod had to sell the hardtop, but it went to a friend of the shop’s, so it’s OK, and TED’s is working on a host of new projects. We’ll have to wait and see what comes out next—just imagine what they can do when they have more than 150 days to completely build and finish a car!

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