Highland Auto Body

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Tom Piantkoski's 1941 Mercury Convertible was supposedly Jim's first major custom job at Highland Auto Body. Modifications included a 4 ½ inch chopped and a functional folding top, "which wasn't an easy task back then," according to Ray. We have no info about this in-progress custom from Jim's personal photo album, but it seems to have started out as a 1941 Mercury, so for all we know, his might be the one. Photo from The Ray Soff Photo Collection.
Could this be a rear-end shot of Tom Piantkoski's 1941 Mercury Convertible? After completing the build, Tom hit the road for California with the car. Unfortunately, the trip, which was simply a pleasure trip, ended in Zanesville, Ohio, where he was involved in an accident. Tom survived, but the Merc got totaled. Photo from The Ray Soff Photo Collection.

Vincent Robert "Jim" Manfredi's Highland Auto Body was located at 6 Highland Terrace, in Irvington, New Jersey. Known as the Lead Man, Jim was a WWII veteran. He started out running Highland Auto Body Shop as an ordinary body and fender shop. After WWII, as the custom car craze spread across the nation, local kids started approaching Manfredi about taking on custom jobs. Nosing, decking, lowering, and chopping - All the tricks they had seen and admired in the West Coast magazines. Tom Piantkoski was one of these local kids. Piantkoski had a 1941 Mercury Convertible that he wanted to turn into a real California-styled custom. He approached Manfredi, who agreed to take on the task, and rumor has it that Tom's Merc became the Lead Man's first major custom job. Modifications included a 4 ½ inch chopped top and a functional folding top, "which wasn't an easy task back then," Ray Soff told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama in 2020.[1]

Jim decided that he would branch out from his usual daily repairing routine and try to do some custom work. This was in late 1950, and by 1956, there were two cars that really set the highlights for the shop, Tom Piantkoski's 1948 Mercury Convertible and a 1950 Ford ragtop.[2]


Dave Weber
Sidney Osiecki
Tom Piantkoski
Vince Manfred

Cars Restyled by Highland Auto Body

Tom Piantkoski's 1941 Mercury Convertible
Tom Piantkoski's 1948 Mercury Convertible



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