Jim Kierstead's 1939 Mercury

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A friend of Jim with an early version of the Merc. Custom work at the time includes removal of trim, spotlights and Flipper hubcaps, so we believe the photo was taken in 1945. Photo courtesy of Helen Johnson.
A photo of Jim with the Merc. Photo courtesy of Helen Johnson.
The Mercury next to Jim Kierstead's 1929 Ford.
Jim along with the Mercury.
James Sr. Here the fender has been repaired, and accessory seal beam units have been installed.
A photo of Jim's Mercury at the 7674 Compton Ave Barris shop. Taken by Don Cox, the photo was taken during the chop. Photo from the Robert Genat Photo Collection.
Another photo of the Merc at Barris Kustoms. If you look closely, you'll see it does not have C-pillars. Photo by George Barris.
Here, the Mercury have been chopped. The rear is still not finished.
The same house, 66 years later.
Jim had a fully chromed dash.
This photo shows George Barris' 1941 Buick next to Jim Kierstead's 1939 Mercury. Notice, this is before any restyling was done to it. Jim's car is in white primer, so this photo is most likely from early 1947.
Jim and his wife Helen Johnson. By now, the Mercury has been primered white.
Jim and his Mercury at the Salt flats in 1947. According to Jim's notes, he and Sam Barris went together. Sam took George Barris' 1941 Buick.
At the dry lakes, 1947.Dick Owens looking over Jim's Custom. Photo by Jim Kirstead, provided by Harold Johnson.
Photo by Jim Kierstead, provided by Harold Johnson.
Photo by Jim Kierstead, provided by Harold Johnson.
From Los Angeles times Article December 7, 1947
From The El Segundo Herald, Thursday, December 11, 1947.
Jim's grave, at Inglewood Park Cemetery. Photo by Olav Kvipt.
The Kierstead residence at 909W 85th Street, Inglewood. Photo by Olav Kvipt.
Driving down Sepulveda Boulevard, where Jim crashed, between El Segundo Blvd and Rosecrans Ave. Photo by Olav Kvipt.
Olav Kvipt's 1939 Mercury Coupe is built as a tribute to the Kierstead Merc. Photo by Sondre Kvipt - Kustomrama.

1939 Mercury coupe restyled by Barris Kustoms for Jim Kierstead of Inglewood, California. Jim served on a submarine during World War II, and he bought the Merc after he got out of the Navy in 1945. In 2012 Jim's brother in law, Harold Johnson told Kustomrama that he sat in the back seat when they picked up the Merc. At the time, Jim was 22 years old. Harold was 15. The car was Dark Green, and Harold remembered that Jim paid the car with $1000 bills, and a couple of $500's. He had a gorgeous new wife, Helen Johnson, and he was making pretty good money as a lather in post war Los Angeles. Jim was a good friend of Sam Barris. Impressed by the work Sam and his brother did in their shop, he decided to have his Merc restyled. Harold Johnson used to go down to their little shop and watch them work; "Sam did most of the work, while George was more of a salesman. Jim spent a lot of time with the Barris Brothers, and he would spend hours with Sam explaining just what he wanted. He then stayed around to make sure it came out that way."[1]

Jim's Mercury is rumored to be the first 1939 - 1940 Mercury coupe that the Barris Brothers chopped. The car was done as smooth as possible. It was nosed, decked and shaved for door handles. The fenders were leaded-in and the side trim was removed. The running boards were removed, and another set of rocker panels were installed. A treatment similar to the one on Bill Spurgeon's 1939 Mercury. When the in-progress custom wasn't in pieces, Jim would drive it home. It ran aftermarket headlights, a typical custom accessory in the mid-1940s, along with fender skirts, spotlights and Flipper hubcaps on blackwall tires. White primer was applied, and Jim drove around with the car for a couple of months to clear out bugs for safety's sake. The engine was bone stock, and was left untouched. In December of 1947, the car was finally painted in black lacquer.[1]

A couple of days after it was completed, Friday, December 5th 1947, Jim was just finished cutting and buffing the black lacquer paint job. It was raining hard, and he was on his way to Dick Owens in Redondo Beach to pick up his brother in law, Harold. They were going to Reno to have some fun, debuting the car for its first long trip after it was completed. Unfortunately, Jim never reached Dick's place. He was t-boned by a Duesenburg On Sepulveda boulevard, between El Segundo boulevards and Rosecrans avenue, hitting him at the left front fender. Jim was pronounced dead on arrival at Centinela hospital that tragic Friday night. The car was totaled, but the Duesenberg got away with some minor damage. The remains of the Mercury was then towed to the Barris shop, where it stood outside for a while. It was smashed really bad, and was probably not fixed up again, or someone might have bought it and repaired it. The car is rarely mentioned in any of the bios because the police determined the cause of the accident to be the 4" windshield.[1]



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