George Mizzi Jr.'s 1950 Mercury

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The Purple Bug as it appeared in 1959 when it was featured in Car Craft magazine and Car Speed and Style. Photo from The Ray Soff Photo Collection.
According to Ken Werger of Car Speed and Style magazine, the 23-coat specially mixed metallic purple lacquer finish was the most eye-catching of all modifications performed on the car, and Mizzi had to go to three paint factories before he found four gallons of the right-shade paint. Purple was Mizzi's favorite color, and he wouldn't settle for anything else. Photo from The Ray Soff Photo Collection.
The distinctive side body dip was filled in for a full fadeway effect before the door handles were replaced with Lincoln push-button door poppers and 1953 Buick side trim was installed. Photo from The Ray Soff Photo Collection.
In addition to the Mercury, Mizzi also had a 1958 Chevrolet Corvette and a 1959 Cadillac Convertible. He would take the grille out of the Corvette, and install it in the Mercury before he entered it in a car show. When the show was over, he put the grille back in the Corvette. Photo from The Ray Soff Photo Collection.
The interior of the car, including the trunk compartment, headliner for the padded top, seats, and door panels, was upholstered in black and white, rolled and pleated Naugahyde by A&Z Auto Top of Hackensack, New Jersey. Photo from The Ray Soff Photo Collection.
The Purple Bug was featured on the cover of Car Speed and Style May 1959. The quad headlights were handmade by Monego's Body Shop from Mizzi's own design. Photo from The Ray Soff Photo Collection.
The same month as the Purple Bug was featured on the cover of Car Speed and Style, it was also featured in Car Craft Magazine.
In 2017 Ray Soff and Luke Karosi did a story on the Purple Bug for Kustoms Illustrated Issue 50.

1950 Mercury convertible owned by George Mizzi Jr. of Lyndhurst, New Jersey. According to East Coast Custom Historian Ray Soff, Mizzi bought the car from a friend in 1956. The friend was a member of the Drivin Deuces car club, and he used to play double bass in a band, so rumor has it that he always drove around with the top down so he could fit the bass in the car, even in the winter.[1]


Drivin Deuces

The Merc was stock when Mizzi bought it from his friend. Around 1958 - 1959 Mizzi told Ken Werger of Car Speed and Style magazine that it all started over three years ago when a customizing magazine happened to fall into his hands. He soon bought the Merc and started making a few changes to it. Two months after George had bought the car he joined the Drivin Deuces car club. After joining the club, new coils were cut and installed up front. Heavy duty shocks were also installed before the rear end was lowered by removing one leaf from each rear-spring and installing 3-inch lowering blocks.[2]


Restyled by Monego's Body Shop

Mizzi took the Merc to Joe Monego at Monego's Body Shop to have it restyled. Joe chopped the top 3-inches, putting the Merc in the radical custom class. Monego's Body Shop was the shop that most of the Drivin Deuces brought their cars to for restyling, and at the shop, the front of the car was fitted with quad headlights handmade from Mizzi's own design. The shades formed a slight peak in the center. The hood corners were rounded before the hood received scoops that were dressed up with chromed teeth. The grille shell was molded in and dressed up with a Corvette grille. Mizzi's Merc was nosed and decked, and the trunk was operated by an electronic solenoid. 1941 Chevrolet taillights were frenched into the rear quarter panels, and the rear bumper was fitted with a Pontiac bar. The exhaust was routed through the bumper. The distinctive side body dip was filled in for a full fadeway effect before the door handles were replaced with Lincoln push-button door poppers and 1953 Buick side trim was installed. All body seams, including front and rear pans, were filled and smoothed before the car was dressed up with fenderskirts and spotlights. The leading edge of the skirts were lengthened and scooped.[3] The padded top was made by a company in Patterson, and George Egan told Ray Soff that Mizzi made it about the same time as he did the top for his 1950 Ford convertible. At the shop, Mizzi asked Egan if he could get his top done before his, as he wanted to get the car done so he could use it. "Egan then told Mizzi, yeah, sure, take your car, get it done first. " It took about a month to get the top done, and Egan went in after that to get his top done.[1]


Paint by Valley Body Shop

Valley Body Shop in Lyndhurst, New Jersey gave Mizzi's Merc a purple paint job. According to Ken Werger of Car Speed and Style magazine, the 23-coat specially mixed metallic purple lacquer finish was the most eye-catching of all modification performed on the car, and Mizzi had to go to three paint factories before he found four gallons of the right-shade paint. Purple was Mizzi's favorite color, and he wouldn't settle for anything else.[2]


Interior by A&Z Auto Top

The interior of the car, including the trunk compartment, headliner for the padded top, seats, and door panels, was upholstered in black and white, rolled and pleated Naugahyde by A&Z Auto Top of Hackensack, New Jersey.[2] Power came from a 1952 Oldsmobile mill with Mallory ignition.[4]


The Purple Bug - A Touch of the New

Once completed, Mizzi's Merc was named the "Purple Bug." In 1959 the Purple Bug gained national recognition when it was featured in Car Craft May 1959. Titled "Touch of the New," the story featured photos by Woody Higgins. The same month it was also featured on the cover of Car Speed and Style May 1959. Named "The Purple Bug," the story in Car Speed and Style featured words and photos by Ken Werger.[1]


Show Car

Harry Bradley knew Mizzi well, and he told Ray Soff that Mizzi was a cool guy. "He was a little, short, heavy guy. Always had a cigar, and he looked like a used car salesman. In addition to the Mercury, he had a 1958 Chevrolet Corvette and a 1959 Cadillac Convertible." Every time Harry saw him, he had a new beautiful girlfriend that was taller than him. "George would take the grille out of the Corvette, and install it in the Mercury before he entered it in a car show. When the show was over, he put the grille back in the Corvette. He didn't want to spend the money on buying an extra Corvette grille."[1]


Sold to Stiegler

Mizzi eventually sold the Mercury to a fellow in Lyndhurst named Stiegler. Stiegler drove the car as his everyday car.[1]


Destroyed

In 1965 Ray Soff could have bought the car. "I was 16 years old, and me and my buddy went to Keraney, New Jersey where a guy was gonna sell us the car for fifty bucks." Ray told him OK, and asked if he could come back the next week with the money. He said OK, but when Ray showed up with the money, the owner had changed his mind. The owner also had a customized 1953 Ford that Ray and his buddy bought instead. "To this day I wish I had bought that Mercury," Ray told Sondre Kvipt in 2018. Ray remembers that the headlights were out of it back then, and the top was coming apart. The motor was also in pieces. In the early 1970s Ray bumped into the old owner at a car show, and he told him that he ended up selling the Merc. Later on, he heard that it had caught on fire and that it had been junked. In 2017 Ray and Luke Karosi did a story on the car for Kustoms Illustrated Issue 50.[1]


Magazine Features and Appearances

Car Craft May 1959
Car Speed and Style May 1959
Kustoms Illustrated Issue 50


References



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