John Serpa's 1951 Mercury

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Joe Wilhelm working on an early iteration of John's Mercury. This photo was published in a story about custom cars that the San Jose News ran August 19, 1957. Photo courtesy of the San Jose News.
John's Mercury as it appeared when it was shown at the 1960 National Roadster Show Photo courtesy of John Serpa.
In 1984 the current owner of the car wrote into the KKOA Newsletter thinking he had found the Hirohata Merc. Custom car historian Anthony White, who was 11 years old at the time, wrote the owner a letter, explaining that it wasn't the Hirohata Merc, as the late Harold Olsen had shown him some pictures of the Hirohata Merc and its whereabouts then. The current owner then sent Anthony this photo of the Merc. Photo courtesy of Anthony White.
A photo of the Merc at the 2009 Billetpproof car show at the Don Garlits Museum in Ocala, Florida. Photo courtesy of Eric.
The Merc as it sat in 2014 when it was advertised for sale on www.cars-on-line.com. Photo courtesy of www.cars-on-line.com.
Photo courtesy of www.cars-on-line.com.
Photo courtesy of www.cars-on-line.com.
Photo courtesy of www.cars-on-line.com.

1951 Mercury restyled by Joe Wilhelm of Wilhelm's Custom Shop for John Serpa of San Jose, California. John's Merc was restyled by adding dual headlights from a 1958 Chevrolet, a 1957 DeSoto grille and bumper, and 1956 Buick quarter panels. The top was chopped, and converted into a hardtop before the door handles and most of the chrome was shaved. Other modifications included rounded hood corners. The build was finished off in Pearl Pink. An early construction photo of John's Mercury was published in a story about custom cars that the San Jose News ran August 19, 1957.[1]


In 1960 John entered the Merc at the National Roadster Show. The interior was not completed for the show, so John blocked out the windows using vaseline and salt crystals. Even though the interior was unfinished, John won an award at the show. [1]


In the early 1960s John traded off the car to a used car lot in San Jose, California. After selling the Merc, John lost track of it. In 1984 the current owner of the Merc wrote into the KKOA Newsletter thinking he had found the Hirohata Merc. Custom car historian Anthony White, who was 11 years old at the time, wrote the owner a letter, explaining that it wasn't the Hirohata Merc, as the late Harold Olsen had shown him some pictures of the Hirohata Merc and its whereabouts then. The current owner, who was from Alabama or Louisiana, answered Anthony, and in the letter he enclosed two color photos of the Merc.[2]


In April of 2014, original owner John Serpa wrote Kustomrama, asking if we could run the Merc in our Lost and Found section as he was interested in finding out what happened to it, and maybe buy it back if it was still around. John sent the only photo he had of the Merc, and we started working on the story. We posted a sneak peek on Intagram, asking if anyone had any information on John's old custom. A few minutes later Anthony White came to the rescue again. Anthony shared his story and forwarded a link to a listing of the car on www.cars-on-line.com. At the time, the car was located in Greenwood, South Carolina. The current owner had owned the Merc for 13 years. Iy had been restored in the mid 1990s, and the Joe Wilhelm restyled nose had been swapped for a more traditional looking one. That version of the Merc did also feature 1957 Cadillac hubcaps, fenderskirts, modern mirrors and a modern looking interrior. The car had been repainted in a Blackberry color in 2013, and the owner was asking $39,900 for the old survivor.[3]


References



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