Bill Ganahl is familiar to these pages. The founder and head man at Hayward’s South City Rod & Custom has firmly established his niche of being the San Francisco Bay Area’s go-to guy when it comes to preserving and restoring rods, customs and street machines with history. The Lepesh ‘41 Ford pickup, the Bill Breece clone coupe, the Pierson Bros coupe, and other historics from decades past have been brought back to life by the skilled hands of Ganahl and his ‘South City wingman Donny Welch.
In that vein, medical doctor and Mercury enthusiast Ryan Finlayson absolutely picked the right men for the job of restoring and mildly customizing the family’s ’50 Merc. Scored as a “barn find” from a Kansas farmer in 1993, Ryan’s father and brother originally purchased the family-sized Merc as a simple cruiser. And cruise they did. After a basic freshening, the Finlayson family put it on the road for a number of years mostly driving to local events around their hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska. Come 1997, the Merc got mothballed again where it sat until 2010. Now living in California, where custom car culture thrives like few other places, Ryan realized he wanted to jump into the custom scene both feet first. He bought the Merc from his brother with the aim of giving it a serious makeover. Having been a close follower of Ganahl, Ryan had zero doubts as to who was to unleash the stately coupe’s full potential.
And so it began in the winter of 2013. Ryan and Ganahl plotted the customization course, with the idea that subtle styling and a low-slung stance would suit the project best. With factory suicide doors, the top was left unchopped. Ganahl and Welch re-gapped the doors, sanded and smoothed it all out then modified the stock trim for a smoother, more uniform profile. All bright work was chromed by Sherm’s Custom Plating in Sacramento. Ganahl’s next door neighbor and exclusive painter Joe Compani of Compani Color then shot the Merc with House of Kolor black – the perfect hue for this fabulous four door sedan.
One of Finlayson’s top priorities was to refresh and retain as much of the factory essentials as possible. Ganahl agreed. The original flathead V8 was completely rebuilt and freshened to factory specs by Center Auto Machine in Oakland. While that was happening, Pete’s Gear Shop in Hayward rebuilt the car’s original 3-speed column shifter. With those chores underway, Ganahl and Welch got to work on the chassis, notching the rear then adding drop spindles in front. AccuAir air suspension was installed dialing in the perfect ground-kissing stance. Front disc brakes were massaged into place for improved stability while the original rear drums were cleaned up and made ready for road trips. Perfectly polished Mercury hubcaps, with contrasting gold trim rings spin inside Coker Classic bias ply whitewalls.
Under the hood, the flathead was fully dressed, polished and prepped for the road with new hoses, spark plug wires and other dressing atop finned aluminum Offy cylinder heads. For that extra bitchin’, era-appropriate coup de grace – three Stromberg 97 carburetors with yummy flat gold air scoops were bolted on. The engine bay was cleaned up, chromed up and made into a shrine of speed and performance you might say. That Stromberg-fed flathead runs cool and starts up every time as we can attest. During the photo shoot for this feature, Ryan must have started the car 15 times repositioning it for lighting and different angles. It purred like a kitten and never got warm.
With the emphasis on fun, family road trips, the interior aesthetics had to match the elite exterior. Hitting the nail on the head yet again, the factory wool upholstery was recreated with original materials by Cartouche. DJ Designs stitched it all up then added modern road trip amenities such as a Bluetooth radio unit with iPhone pairing capabilities. Gold accents were added to the original dash with tasteful pin striping by Tony Parker. Redline Gauge Works rebuilt the original instruments to appear just as they did in the showroom.
The project came to fruition in the fall of 2015. Naming the car was easy. Ganahl, who had designs on being an English professor, coined the perfect name…The “Moredoor” Mercury. Since finished, it has been driven weekly including comfy family road trips to the Sacramento AutoRama, and of course, its share of Goodguys events in Pleasanton as Ryan lives just 5 miles from the fairgrounds in Livermore. Not surprisingly, the Moredoor has racked up its share of accolades on the show circuit. First in class at several ISCA events (including the Sac AutoRama) as well as magazine spreads have given the black Mercury well deserved attention. But it really wasn’t built to win awards. It was built to strengthen a decades-old family bond, create new memories and take Ryan’s mind off the high-pressure world of emergency medicine. In fact, this custom car has healing qualities of its own. It also has plenty of room for guests. With a new baby on the way, those four doors are going to come in handy.