The story of this green 1950 Mercury coupe began over 45 years ago in the shop of legendary car customizer Dick Dean.Known as the “Sultan of Chop,” Dean worked alongside King of Kustomizers George Barris on many television and movie cars and was a hall-of-fame custom car builder in his own right. Dean customized the Mercury back in the 1970s for its original owner, who held onto the car for over 30 years.
In 2005, the car arrived at Hi-Speed for a complete show-quality restoration for its new owner. The car was stripped to bare metal and was found to be in surprisingly good shape. The team worked for almost two years, putting in over 2,000 man hours on the Mercury.
Under the hood seat a 383ci stroker backed by a 700R4 automatic overdrive transmission. Modern conveniences such as power steering, power disc brakes, a state-of-the-art sound system, navigation and a backup camera were also added to the car.While many parts of the car were upgraded, Hi-Speed decided to leave all of Dean’s original modifications intact. However, one thing that wasn’t staying was the original maroon exterior color. The once-maroon-colored interior was redone in a custom pearl white. “The client wanted something monotone but I really wanted to spray a wild color,” said builder Johnny Vegas. “I finally convinced him to let me do it.” Vegas custom-mixed a pearlized light-green color especially for the Mercury using PPG’s five-stage candy paint. Vegas called the color he created “Wasabi.”
“The hardest part of the build was the paint,” said Vegas. “It’s a really hard color to spray and I think I spent about 13 hours painting that car.”
Vegas’ hard work paid off. When the owner saw the finished Mercury for the first time at a car show in Pleasanton, he was speechless. “He was star-struck,” said Vegas. “I took it to the show and he walked up and wouldn’t even sit in the car. He liked it so much that he said he just wanted to stand back and stare at it.” The owner wasn’t the only person to fall in love with the car. “Everyone freaks out when they see it,” said Vegas. “When I bring it to a car show, everyone just flocks to it.”
In fact, Vegas was so pleased with how the car turned out that he ended up purchasing it from his customer in 2008. After Meguiar’s used the car as the centerpiece of its 2008 SEMA Show booth, Vegas took it on the show circuit and ended up winning a slew of awards, including the PPG Dream Car award at the 2010 Goodguys Southwest Nationals.When he decided to put the Mercury up for auction in January 2011, interest in the car was high. In fact, it was placed in a tent with some of the auction’s most-coveted cars.
While the auction featured a variety of top-notch vehicles, there was something about this Mercury that caught the crowd’s attention. Ten seconds into the auction, the bid price had reached over $100,000. It went on to sell for a staggering $330,000, which was one of the highest sale prices of the auction. The new owner, auto collector Tammy Allen, purchased the car to include in the new auto museum she was opening in Grand Junction, Colorado. After the car was sold, Vegas gave the car’s new owner, Tammy Allen, a pair of high heels that he painted and customized to match “Wasabi.” He presented the shoes to Allen at the grand opening of the museum at Allen Unique Autos. The shoes were such a hit that Carolyn Jackson, wife of Barrett-Jackson CEO and Chairman Craig Jackson, commissioned Vegas to make her a pair of shoes to match a Bugatti Xenon.
“After that, it kind of took off and I started making one-off shoes,” said Vegas, who’s created a handful of shoes. “I guess I’m a Jack of all trades.”