D!: Meet TJ. He’s an every-man’s-man. Sharp-witted, eclectic and a shrewd business owner. TJ and I sat down to talk about his latest love, this sumptuous 1961 Mercury Monterey Convertible. This is not his first foray into the restoration game. But I’ll let him tell his story:
TJ: I had just finished building my 1953 Chevy Bel Air Hardtop and I was ready for a new project. So I put my Bel Air up for sale and ended up selling and shipping it to a rockabilly barber in New Zealand who was looking for daily driver and cool car to park in front of his barber shop.
After the transaction, I suddenly had no car. Not good for a “car guy”. So I began searching to see what was out there. I wasn’t looking for anything specific. Just something old and cool that I thought I could bring back to life.
I came across an ad that was poorly written with fuzzy photos. I could tell the car was long, and a convertible, so I decided to check it out.
…I suddenly had no car. Not good for a “car guy”.
The car was located in Claremont, California. I made the trip and met with the owner. The car was completely run-down and the parts were scattered all around the yard. He was an elderly man in his late 80s. He told me that he was the second owner. The car was purchased brand new at the Mercury Dealer in Montclair, California.
He said he had owned it for 40 years and was planning to restore it some day but never got around to it. So I told him that I would like to make him an offer. He was asking $10,000. I offered him $5,000 – what I felt it was worth based on the condition, and massive amount of work to bring this classic back to life. He told me NO… so I went on my way.
About a week later the owner’s wife called and told me that they would take my offer of $5,000. She also offered to bake me some chocolate chip cookies and the sale would take place under two conditions: #1) I would come pick up the car ASAP, and #2) That I would come back once the car was restored and take them for a ride.
When I returned approximately two years later – with the car completely restored, they both cried and gave me a hug. They were so happy to see “The Merc” come back to life.
D!: That’s a fantastic story of finding a gem in the rough.
So tell our readers more about the two-year restoration project.
TJ: I dragged the “The Merc” home and called my friend and classic car restoration expert Ray Rose to help me with this massive restoration project. Ray has been working on cars since he was 12 years old. The first thing we did was completely dismantle the car and bag and tag all the miscellaneous parts. We then sent the car out to for body and paint and sent all of the bright work, including all of the stainless steel sent to be chromed. Next, we started from the ground-up with the RideTech Suspension and Air Ride System along with new disc brakes, front and rear; provided by “ABS Brakes Inc.” in Orange, California.
“The Merc” is powered with the original numbers-matching big block V8 engine (390 6.4L) The Engine was rebuilt and added an Edelbrock Cam, Edelbrock Intake Manifold, and Edelbrock Carburetor. The Mercury also features an automatic transmission, power steering, new fuel pump, new water pump, new radiator, two brand new batteries with a battery isolator, and the electrical has been completely redone. This Beautiful 1961 Mercury Monterey Convertible also features a brand new top, brilliant metallic paint, and a new interior designed, sewn, and installed by Ray Rose.
This “61 Merc” has spent it’s entire life in sunny Southern California and in addition to the mechanical overhaul, we triple-chrome-plated all the bumpers, body trim, emblems, including all of the stainless steel trim. To top it off, we contacted our friends at “The Candy Shop” in Orange, California and they installed brand new 15” rims with Spider Caps and white wall tires. This is a show-stopper and a gorgeous example of a “True California Cruiser”.
D!: Thank you TJ, for sharing your restoration story.
When TJ and I met at Hillcrest Park in Fullerton for the photo shoot, the Merc gleamed brightly in the afternoon summer sun. His efforts shown just as brightly.
She truly is One Sweet ‘61.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the October 2017 print issue of the Drive Magazine.