Rulon McGregor's 1939 Mercury

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1939 Mercury Convertible owned and restyled by SCTA Road Runners member Rulon McGregor of Monterey Park, California. Rulon's Mercury was chopped, mildly dechromed and fit with a padded top from Carson Top Shop. In addition to this, the car was further restyled by shortening the side trim and by installing DeSoto ripple bumpers. The car was fit with a dropped axle in front, and it was lowered slightly in the rear. At one time, the Mercury had a hopped-up engine, put this was supposedly put in Rulon's lakester.[1]

May 22, 1949, 21 years old, Rulon was killed in an accident at the El Mirage Dry Lake. His father, Orel T. McGregor, kept his son's Mercury after the accident, and for more than 30 years the Mercury was stored in an old garage next to a 1934 Auburn Salon coupe. Orel never drove the car. As time went by several people tried to buy the low-mileage custom, but Orel refused to sell the Mercury. In the early 1980s Jim Fuller of Santa Barbra talks to a man about old custom cars, and the man tells Jim about the old Mercury stored away in Monterey Park. Jim pays $300 for a tip to learn where the chopped Merc is located. Jim was allowed to see the car, but Orel refused to sell it to him. Jim hired Robert Morris, a professional, to come with him. They brought money in a paper bag that they handed over to Mrs. McGregor. They told her to count the money. Orel still didn't want to sell the car, but Mrs. McGregor told Jim that she had been signing things for Orel for years. She gave Jim the pink slip, and a deal was done.[1]

When Jim got the Mercury, it was powered by a stock engine with dual exhaust. The original interior was stock maroon leather, worn and dried out from years of storage. The paint was in a rough shape, and the Carson Top needed to be refurbished. Fran Busey was hired to recover the padded top with correct pebbled grain white fabric, before the car was repainted in a similar shade of dark red.Fuller also installed a Mecury engine with a four-inch crank, a Winfield SU-1A camshaft, twin carbs and high compression heads.[1]

After owning the car for about 15 years, Jim sold the Mercury to Walter F. Larsen in 1999. Walter had known about the car since the 1980s, and had tried to buy it from Jim on several occasions. When the old custom arrived in Texas, Walter was disappointed about what he saw. He thought he had bought a show car, so shortly after he received the car he decided to advertise it for sale in Hemmings Motor News. Ken Gross, who was the Executive Director of the Petersen Automotive Museum, saw the ad and convinced the museum to buy the old California custom back from Texas. A deal was struck in September 1999, and the Mercury became the property of Robert E. Petersen and an important piece in the museum collection.[1]

In 2011, Rulon's old Mercury was shown at the Customs Then & Now exhibit at the Grand National Roadster Show.

Magazine Features

The Rodder's Journal 21


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