No, this isn’t the world’s earliest Mercury. Don’t believe everything you read on a hot rod’s tailgate. It’s not the world’s only Merc pickup, either, but we’ll get to that.
What you’re looking at is an outstanding blend of Model A, Deuce, and Merc. It’s a combination that would probably have Henry Ford wondering why he hadn’t thought of it first (if he were still alive, that is).
This phantom roadster pickup was dreamed up—and built—by John Barbero, owner of Pyramid Street Rods in Bellingham, Washington. After creating award-winning hot rods for many of his customers, Barbero decided that he wanted a roadster of his own. But his own couldn’t be something ordinary, it needed to be unique.
The body is based on a steel Brookville ’30 A highboy RPU. Dropping it on SAC Deuce ’rails and adding a Deuce grille contributes to the roadster’s frequently mistaken identity. The three-piece hood is custom made and punched with louvers on the top and sides. The body was stretched and the cowl had to be reshaped to accept the DuVall windshield provided by Dave York. A pair of ’29 Model A headlights were mounted on the framehorns; taillights are ’37 Ford.
So, what about that bed with the Mercury tailgate? The bed itself is a steel Model A reproduction from Brookville, shortened to 40 inches. The tailgate is a hybrid of a Brookville repro and actual Mercury truck, and an important part of Barbero’s quest to build something unique.
In Canada in the years following World War II, Ford (using a strategy called “badge engineering”) marketed some of its Canadian-produced vehicles as Mercurys. The first vehicle to receive this treatment in 1946 was the pickup truck. The Mercury name continued on north-of-the-border pickups until 1968. With little searching of the Northwest, Barbero was able to locate a tailgate from one of these genuine Mercury trucks, cut out the logo, and weld it into his re-popped ’30 tailgate. It looks so right, it would be easy to fool people who didn’t know their FoMoCo history.
Kenny Gilmore handled much of the custom metalwork, with Warren Johnson and Earl Neyrend of Pyramid Street Rods also getting credit for the amazing bodywork. Neyrend followed the ’30 into the spray booth where he shot the PPG Nightwatch Blue paint. Afterward, Mitch Kim from Clackamas, Oregon, added pinstriping to the frame, louvers, body panels, and dash.
The Mercury twist was now an integral theme of the project, and Barbero continued it into the interior. Modifying the cowl to match the ’46 Canadian Mercury pickup dash was one of the most challenging parts of the buildup, but, just like the tailgate, the end result looks as natural as if it had come from the factory that way. Even the stock gauges were retained, but rebuilt to ensure accuracy. The ididit column and LimeWorks ’40 Ford wheel take care of steering duties. The aftermarket shifter and emergency brake are mounted in a removable trans cover, which, in addition to more pinstriping, is decorated with a Mercury emblem.
Paul Reichlin at Cedardale Upholstery in Mount Vernon, Washington, modified the Glide bench seat and covered it in rich red vinyl, extending the tuck ’n’ roll pattern to the inside panels. The same red was selected for the German square-weave carpet. In addition to nostalgic, the environment is cool and comfortable. More of the vinyl finishes the luggage-inspired cover for the custom aluminum fuel tank in the bed. Oak boards were used for the bed floor.
The mill in the “Merc” roadster is a 347-inch Ford Windsor engine, assembled by Tyler King in Bellingham. Running a COMP cam and roller rockers, 10:1 Ross pistons, Eagle rods, and a Scat crank, it’s more than enough to keep the thrill factor at a peak. A team of thirsty Holley 2300 carburetors on a 3x2 Ford intake manifold handle the mixing chores. Pyramid built the exhaust tubing, connecting Patriot headers to a pair of glasspack mufflers.
The engine’s vintage look is derived from an old air cleaner and the Mercury valve covers. The Mercury stampings were cut out of original valve covers and welded into the Ford units. The gold paint perfectly ages the engine and the color is echoed in the Mitch Kim’s exterior ’striping. A C4 transmission with a B&M converter was modified with a shift kit and is operated with a Gennie shifter.
The body perches on a Pyramid-engineered chassis. Barbero started with SAC ’32 rails, stretching them 3 inches and moving the rear axle position forward 1 inch, then connecting the boxed ’rails with his race car–inspired crossmember system. Traditional hairpins locate the axles at both ends. The front axle is a 6-inch drop Magnum tube, with Magnum spindles and Panhard bar, plus a mono-leaf spring and SO-CAL tubular shocks. The rear is a Winters quick-change with 3.42:1 gears and a Trac-Lok limited slip, hanging on Strange coilovers.
The competition look is a part of virtually every Pyramid build—and that includes the tires and wheels, but in this case it’s all about the traditional look. Those 295/65R16 and 205/65R16 Diamond Back whitewall radials are relatively narrow by Pyramid standards. The 16x8 and 16x6 solids from Wheel Vintiques were dressed up with red paint and Merc wheel covers with beauty rings. Brakes are 11-inch Ford drums in the rear with 11-inch Magnum finned aluminum discs up front.
Steve Doty from Mukilteo, Washington, is a longtime hot rodder and a former Pyramid customer when he dropped by the shop to pay a visit. As soon as he saw the in-progress roadster pickup he fell in love with it. Steve then made an offer that convinced Barbero that building this hot rod for a customer might be better than building it for himself. For one thing, it motivated him to finish the build. “I would have been working on it for another decade,” he admits.
Steve has owned a lot of hot rods, but says that this is his all-time favorite. In addition to driving the one-of-a-kind hybrid RPU, he enjoys showing it off at car shows, where the crowd reaction is always enthusiastic. We’re told that the most commonly asked question is not “Is it really a Mercury roadster pickup?” but “Is it for sale?” The answer to both questions is the same.