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Mick's 1950 Mercury Custom

4/12/2021
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Mick Rau is a rare kind of hot rodder and car builder. A lifelong enthusiast, Mick has been there and done that. And lucky for us, he still has a lot of the cars that have accompanied him on those adventures. Many of us have to sell our project cars once they’re finished to make room for the next one. Mick, however, just makes more space. After building his shop, he’s added on to it twice to make room for more cars!

When it came time to select a couple cars from his collection to photograph, we went straight to his chopped ’50 Mercury and Model A roadster (see more of the roadster here). These cars are iconic representations of the two schools of thought for early car building; the low, streamlined custom and the cut-down, hopped-up hot rod. That they live together in the same garage only makes the story better.

Another thing about Mick is that he finishes what he starts. This Merc had been taken off the road in the mid-fifties to get the custom treatment, but the original builder stopped after the chop was mostly finished. It passed through several hands but remained a project car for almost a half century. It took Mick’s determination and vision to turn it into the sleek, Hirohata-inspired beauty that you see here.

You might think Mick looked to the Hirohata Merc first, then set out to build his own version. While he was inspired by the legendary Barris masterpiece, the inspiration for this car actually came from a rural ditch many years ago. As a young man, Mick was hunting on his uncle’s property in Iowa. He spotted a ’53 Buick rotting in the ditch and thought “man, that trim would look great on a custom Merc!” At that moment, the concept for this car was born. After popping the trim off the abandoned Buick, Mick held on to it for over 20 years, waiting for the right car to put it on.

After a long pursuit, Mick wasted no time once this Mercury was in his shop. Mick does his own paint and body work, so after finishing the chop, he added a few of his own custom touches. There are brake lights tunneled into the roof. The headlights and taillights were frenched and the antennas were sunk into the fender. Then that Buick trim that started it all was affixed to the sides.

The factory suspension was dropped and a disc brake kit from Speedway Motors was bolted to the front. Mick likes to drive his cars, so a reliable Chevy 350 was dropped in. This isn’t one of those customs that has to sit with the hood closed over an ugly engine. It’s topped with finned valve covers and a 3x2 intake.

The interior is as luxurious as you would expect. Two-tone green leather covers a ’50 Olds seat, favored for its short height. Air conditioning makes the trips comfortable and a ’59 Impala wheel sits in front of the stock dash with some modern gauges snuck behind the factory lenses.

Mick’s hot rod and custom are a perfect pair. Standing in their presence, you can’t help but feel transformed to a time when gas was 30 cents a gallon and cars like this were out prowling the streets every night. Mick gets to relive that history every time he turns the key. And if he gets tired of that experience, there are plenty of other cars in his shop with their own stories to tell!

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