1954 Mercury Monterey El Sueno The Dream

1954 Mercury Monterey “El Sueno”, the Dream

1954 was a banner year for the Ford Motor Company. Though Chevrolet outsold Ford that year by only a few thousand vehicles, Ford Motor Company debuted its seminal overhead valve Y-Block engine, replacing the outdated flathead engine. The times were changing quickly; America was in the midst of the jet age and the space age (ironically named project Mercury) was a scant few years away. This customized Mercury Monterey, owned by Scott and Holly Roberts, stylistically takes its cues and attention to detail from custom cars of America’s Jet Age era.

Intentions, whether they are good or bad, can take us in directions never before believed, and that is precisely the story of this Mercury. Scott Roberts had purchased the car for his wife Holly in its natural born stock condition. It was to be her daily driver, used to haul around their pet dogs. It goes without saying that the Roberts now have a “No Dogs Allowed” policy concerning their newly minted custom named “El Sueno”, which translates to The Dream.

1954 Mercury Monterey El Sueno The Dream

In 1954, when the Mercury was new, the handling and braking were top of the line technology for its time. Stopping and steering a 62-year-old vehicle in today’s traffic conditions, especially on the relentless southern California roads, may require a bit more than the old girl is capable of giving. The Roberts brought the Mercury to Matt Noble of Noble Fabrication, where they believe “chop em’ and drop em’” is the order of the day.

It was here that the chassis of the Mercury underwent some surgical upgrades. The rear end was C-notched and Noble custom fabbed a 3-link rear end suspension. 2 ½ inch drop spindles were installed in the front with a drum to disk swap as well. Noble also installed a fully automated air suspension system, as well as installing a new Ford automatic overdrive transmission mated to the 292 Y-Block engine with a Bendtsen transmission adaptor. The chassis brake lines and fuel lines were also completely replumbed by Noble. Now the modernized cruiser was ready to ride the California rough roads.

With all the important foundation work done to the Mercury, the Roberts still had it in their heads this would be a daily driver to haul the dogs around. Little did they know that a journey had already started to a full-fledged custom car. They had designer Eric Black do a rendering and the rest, as they say, is history. The next step for the Merc was a trip up to the Napa wine country where Altissimo Restorations took the car to its crowning glory.

Brandon Penserini — the owner of Altissimo Restorations — took delivery of the car and gave it the traditional custom car treatment he is known for. The hood and door corners have all been rounded off, and the gas filler door was removed and relocated for a much smoother appearance. The Mercury front emblem, which sat just above the grill on the hood, has been removed. The trim surrounding the grill now has a smooth look with no protrusions. Even the signature-chromed scoop on the hood has been removed and completely smoothed out.

1954 Mercury Monterey El Sueno The Dream

The headlights have been frenched into the front fenders eliminating the headlight rings that used to exist. The front bumper has been smoothed of all bumper bolts, and the front license plate frame removed. It has then been chromed and polished to perfection. The rear bumper of the Mercury has received the same custom treatment— smoothed and sectioned for a closer tighter fit. The taillights also have been altered as well; the backup lights that used to be part of the lens and bezels have been completely eliminated. The rear quarter panel peak has been accentuated by giving it more definition. All of which are subtle nips and tucks that only the refined eye can see.

The high-water benchmark, which sets this Mercury apart from others, is the magnificently executed 3-inch chop of the roof. Typically you don’t see many mid-fifties cars with chopped tops. The reasons are many. On some models, it throws the proportion of the car off kilter. Plus, the large curved glass and an abundance of stainless trim make the job exceedingly difficult. With that said, John Aiello performed excellent proportional work here with this daunting chop. And finally, a new spicy color, “Chili Verde” from Spies Heckler adorns the Mercury as its new skin color.

1954 Mercury Monterey El Sueno The Dream

The office space has just as much subtle artistry as the exterior. Chris Plante handled the custom work on the leather upholstery. The metallic fabric inserts in the seats give this custom a truly period-perfect look. The dash has been smoothed and color matched to the 292 Y-block sitting under the hood.

The Roberts main idea behind this custom was to make it look as if it could have been a factory concept car that came from designers at FoMoCo. Nothing radical in appearance, but well-executed ideas and concepts put into practice make this an ideal custom car. And the Roberts…they drive the Mercury! It doesn’t see the back of a trailer, the wheels are round and it rolls down the road just like it is supposed to, minus the dogs of course.

Without question, Mike is a brilliant photographer who has a keen eye for composition and color. Having nearly two decades of experience in the magazine business, Mike has spent the better part of his adult file photographing cars and the people connected to them. Sealing his fate as a gearhead, Mike's first car was a '73 Camaro. Currently, he is working on bringing a '62 Ford Galaxie and '58 Chevy Apache back to life.