Iconic Steel: The Dave Bugarin Merc

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The ’49-’51 Mercury Coupe is and always will be the quintessential Kustom car. The Bugarin Merc is one of the reasons why. Inspired by Bob Hirohata’s Barris built masterpiece, Dave Bugarin of San Pedro, California took his mild custom ’51 to see the Barris Bros in 1953. Though very much inspired by the now-famous Hirohata Merc, Dave in no way wanted to clone or recreate the car, but instead do something very different and unique while still keeping that inspiration apparent.

Dave-Burgarin-1951-MercuryOver at Barrris Kustoms in Lynwood, the legendary Sam Barris chopped the roof 3″ up front and 5″ in back, creating a hardtop roof-line while he was at it. The rear window was then leaned forward and the roof reshaped to match the new contours of the re-positioned glass.

Up front, a pair of ’53 Buick headlight rings were frenched into the fenders and a custom grill bar flanked by ’54 Ford parking lights was mounted beneath the lengthened and reshaped hood and above a ’52 Chrysler bumper. Out back, a ’54 Lincoln bumper was modified with custom exhaust outlets and a pair of ’54 Packard taillights had been frenched into the tops of the extended rear fenders. 

Dave-Burgarin-1951-Mercury-2Meanwhile, custom built skirts had been mounted with three ’53 Chevy trim spears per side and the ever popular ’54 Buick side trim had been added to the sides of the car, adding a natural break for the two-tone paint scheme. The colors of which had been described by George Barris as “Organic and Blue Fog Metallic”. The car was then striped in a high contrast white. Appleton spotlights and Olds Fiesta wheel covers completed the look of this stunning car.

Because Dave had such a tight budget, the work was done one job at a time. Slowly but surely creating the stunning Kustom you see here over a two year period. Dave’s patience paid off, because not only was the car a sensation when it hit the show circuit in 1955, but it remains forever in the history books as one of the legendary builds from the Golden Age of customizing. 

Dave’s Merc evolved over time as was common of show cars of that era, eventually receiving a set of quad headlights, new skirts and a fresh paint job. After a couple years, the car changed ownership and began fading into obscurity, another common event in the life of a custom in those days. The last anyone saw of it was in 1968. With any luck, it’s stashed away in a garage somewhere, just waiting to be rediscovered!c4c605d0-69fe-4114-bd11-8e11a23d9f27_zps518f0f69

About the author

Bob Helfrich

I'm in love with all things mechanical and have been for as long as I can remember. I love writing about these machines as much as I love wrenching on them.
Read My Articles

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