Last Sunday one of the world’s most diverse groups of vintage collector automobiles filled the fairway at the Pebble Beach Golf Links for the 65th annual Concours d’Elegance. Although the California-based event is a major destination for antique and classic car aficionados, hot rods and customs have rumbled through the gates every other year. Continuing a program that started in 1997, a small number of carefully selected hot rods and customs are displayed among the lines of meticulously restored Packards, Rolls Royces and Ferraris.
This year, post-war Mercury customs were the invited group. With their sleek silhouettes and low profiles, the historic ’49-’51s were positioned near the start of the 18th fairway. The class included the Sam Barris ’49, the Wally Welch ’50, the Hirohata ’51, the Testa ’50, the Fred Rowe ’51, the Leo Lyons “Ultra Modern” ’50 and the James Dean ’49. It was a diverse field, with customs coming from across the country to battle for top honors.
By early afternoon, the judges had inspected every inch of each car and made their decisions. Over the sound of idling V8s and chattering spectators, the top three Mercuries were announced: Justin Mozart’s Wally Welch Merc took third, John Mumford’s Sam Barris ’49 netted second and Jim McNiel’s Hirohata Merc was awarded Best in Class.
Throughout the day, thousands of spectators poured onto the golf course to check out the gamut of cars under clear skies. The seven Mercs, five of which were chopped, garnered mixed reactions from the general public. Although many scratched their heads, sipped their champagne and walked away confused, those who were familiar with post-war customizing quickly identified these cars as some of the best of the breed. They were right.
These Concours events give us an opportunity to see these cars in a different environment—far from indoor shows or fairgrounds functions. But at the end of the day, we’re happy to see chopped Mercs honored for their historical significance as well as their beauty.