Mercury: Once is not enough
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For every owner of a single loved classic, there’s a handful who can’t stop at just the one, and often it’s only garage space that calls a halt. Bank balance? There’s often a way around that ...
Which perhaps is why, when chatting Trekka with Peter Lloyd, we spotted this handsome 1946 Mercury parked beside it.
“They were branded Lincoln Mercury or Ford Mercury — Ford marketed them in New Zealand.” He says the Ford factory in Wellington built 280 a year.
“The parts were built in Canada, which did all the RHD cars. This is Canadian-built — an American one of this year has two round dials for the speedo — and it was sold new here.”
Peter clearly likes a personal connection to his cars — that Trekka recalled the work vehicles of his youth — and this Mercury has been his for 38 years.
“I’d owned one when I was an apprentice and wished I’d never sold it — I only had it three years, and sold it to buy a newer car.”
His first impulse was to search for it, but when he discovered it, it was, “In a wrecking yard in Rosebank Road, it had hit a power pole head on and was too damaged to repair.”
Then a mate rang him a year later. “He worked at Schofield and was on trade-ins, it had been owned by a pathology professor at Auckland hospital who’d traded it in for a new Holden.”
It was being sold on behalf. “And we had to wait for him to vet me as a suitable owner. He came to see me at home, he didn’t want just any silly beggar to own it!
He’d seen my Mercury in Rosebank Road and bought the diff and some bits and pieces, and he gave them to me.” The diff went in this one when the original played up.
There were other changes from new when he got it.
“It had been painted, the upholstery had been mucked around with. It’s not been repainted since I’ve owned it.”
The roof lining is the correct material. “It was brought in from the US before I bought it.”
The upholstery is now velour, rather than the original wool-type cloth.
He replaced the upholstery two years ago.
“When we pulled the upholstery off the back, we found the original pattern, so it’s been done identical now, by Scott Wood at Coatesville. He’s that good, he doesn’t need extra work. I think he worked as a furniture upholsterer in England.”
The 82kW sidevalve V8 engine isn’t the one it sold with. “It’s a 49, a later model, the same but with the distributor above the engine, not down behind the fan. They were a blooming nuisance, they’d get covered in water and play up.”
Climb in and you find the seating position is high. And it’s spacious. “Even with four in it, it’s not cramped, though the boot isn’t especially big,”
It’s comfy, and well specced for the year. It even has reading lights.
There’s a relaxed burble from the engine, and it’s an easy car to drive, he says, unless you’re parking.
“You can drive just about everywhere in top gear, you don’t have to change often.”
There’s no power steer, no power assist. There are drum brakes, a three-speed column change with no synchro on low gear.
That means that to change gear, you “treat it like a little old lady crossing the road, don’t rush it or it’ll fall over”.
Lloyd may not rush the car, but clearly he doesn’t baby it, either. He and his wife toured the South Island, doing 6437km after an international vintage car rally in Dunedin.
“It never missed a beat.” They’ve also taken two friends touring to Gisborne and round the East Cape, from their home north of Auckland, for five days.
Mind you, he’s capable of addressing any problems that crop up. “I always carry a spring spreader and rear axle, that was their weakness, the old Fords, the Ford 10s and early V8s. I’ve never had to use it, touch wood.
“And I have a handful of spanners, and a pair of overalls. The boot always has spare radiator hoses and a toolbox.”
He jokes that he told his wife she would have “to be prepared to take her knickers off and use them for a fan belt. Nylon stockings it used to be, but no one wears them now. Anything that will stretch and you can tie a knot in will do”.
Why not his own knickers? “It’s just a saying.”
Because he drives his Mercury so much, he’s lost track of the distance it has done. “It will have been around the clock, but mileage is irrelevant at this age, it’s the condition the car is in.”
We issue a challenge: if it’s so reliable, would he drive it round the world?
“If someone else paid for the petrol, I would!”