“BADD 51” – Randy McDaniel’s Custom ’51 Mercury
Randy McDaniel can teach a lot of car enthusiasts a couple practical lessons. We’ll start by learning how to buy a project car when your significant other kind of shoots down the idea. “I told my wife Coleen that I was looking for a ’51 Mercury to build into a custom when she mentioned that I had enough cars and really didn’t need another one,” Randy says. “I agreed, so I bought the car then gave it to her as a birthday gift a few weeks later!”
You have to admire how Randy read between the lines on that one. For the record, they’re still married after 55 years, and Coleen occasionally reminds him that the Merc is actually her car.
The second lesson is that hot rods are never truly done. We’ve all heard that saying, but Randy’s custom is a perfect example. His ’51 Mercury has been on the road for nearly 10 years, but it was initially “powered” with an underwhelming 305c.i. Chevy and three-speed automatic drivetrain (they were part of the doner Camaro front clip). He finally had enough and enlisted Lakeman Chassis to install a new 5.0-liter Coyote with a 6R80 trans. Not surprisingly, Randy says the Merc now feels like an entirely new car.
The modern drivetrain required a serious amount of front end work along with an all new tunnel to fit the larger transmission – quite a challenge on a custom car that’s already done. The vintage Thunderbird seats and leather work were left as stitched by Mission Upholstery, but the custom console was modified to accommodate the new shifter and air ride controls. A classic Cadillac steering wheel looks just right and gives Randy a great view of the stock instruments.
As for the body, there are oodles of classic custom touches throughout and the finish still looks amazing 10 years later. Cypress Auto Body chopped the top, frenched the cut-down ’54 Merc taillights, fitted ’56 Olds headlights into the front fenders, fabricated front fender lips, radiused the doors and hood, crafted side scoops, built flush-fit fender skirts, and so many more traditional custom touches. The grille is from a DeSoto and the modified side trim from a ’53 Buick. Tom Rodriguez laid on the House of Kolor Candy Brandywine over red to finish the Merc with a sparkle and glow.
The new drivetrain has given new life to the ’51 Mercury – as expected when you add twice as many gears and a few hundred horsepower! The car finally drives as good as it looks, so we congratulate Randy for being named a Goodguys 2023 Fuel Curve Custom of the Year Finalist and thank him for the car guy tips!
Photos by Todd Ryden