Car of the Week: 1942 Mercury convertible

1942 Merc Side View

Story and photos by Brian Earnest

Ed Suchorski didn’t set out to corner the market on 1942 Mercurys, even if it appears that way.

The Muskego, Wis., resident had even washed his hands of the old car hobby for quite a spell. “I was out of the hobby for about 25 year and just got back in the last two years again,” Suchorski chuckles.

And when he returned, he jumped in with both feet. The affable Suchorski now has the keys to six 1942 Mercs and a slew of other Mercurys. “I own quite a few,” he laughs. “My nickname is ‘Mercury Ed.’ I’ve been in all the Ford clubs, but I never owned a Ford. I just had Mercurys and Lincoln-Zephyrs.

“I have the six ’42 Mercurys now, and a guy said to me, ‘‘No wonder we can’t find any ’42s. The few guys that have the ’42s hoard them all!’”

The flagship of Suchorski’s fleet is a splendid, and rare, 1942 Type 76 Club Convertible that he actually helped the previous owner restore back in the 1980s. “I was instrumental in getting some parts and information to him,” Suchorski recalled. “Since people know me as a Mercury guy, they are always calling me when they are doing something.”

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Suchorski eventually got an unplanned chance to buy the convertible himself when he saw it for sale online. The ad had only been posted for two days when Suchorski saw it. “I got in on top,” he jokes.

The previous owner had completely redone the car, mostly for sentimental reasons, then parked it for many years and left it largely untouched. The car had undergone a lengthy and expensive restoration that had been well documented with paperwork and several hundred photographs, so Suchorski had few reservations about the car’s quality. “Back in the early ’80s he spent 70 grand restoring it [laughs]. That was kind of an unheard of price for a restoration. Most of them were 20, 25 grand … but he needed to get it done. His dad grew up with a ’42 Mercury convertible, that’s why he had to have one.

“I talked to them, and it was like, ‘Yeah we want you to have it.’ And I’ve been enjoying it the past two years.”

1942 Merc Head On

The Mercurys were completely face lifted for 1941, with several new models added to the lineup
and all riding on two-inch-longer wheelbases. The convertible sedan was dropped for 1940, but a new woodie wagon and two more coupe models, one a two-passenger business coupe, were added for ’41.

The 1942 Mercurys were the last prewar Mercs and had a distinctive two-tier horizontal grille heavy on bright work in place of the split vertical look of 1941s, which made the ’42 front ends more bulky looking. The bodies were largely unchanged from 1941-’48, and only a few trim details of the cars were changed during that time. Rectangular parking lamps were between the headlights and high on the 1942 fenders. Running boards were tucked under the door bottoms.

1942 Merc engine

A 239-cid V-8 rated at 100 hp was beneath all 1942 Mercury hoods. Prices ranged from $910 to $1,260.

By 1941, company PR men claimed Mercury had “made 150,000 owners change cars!” — and that year another 80,000 Mercurys were produced, plus a total of 24,704 more worldwide in 1942 before production shutdown on Feb. 10, 1942, for the duration of World War II. Although its prewar history was short, the Mercury had already earned a reputation for being a fine machine with excellent fuel economy. Edsel Ford had named it after the fleet-footed messenger of the gods of Roman mythology. The Mercury was strongly identified as an upmarket Ford during this period; in 1945, the Lincoln-Mercury Division would be established and Mercury began establishing more of its own identity.

With so few Mercurys built for 1942, convertibles such as Suchorski’s are a rare prize today. “Most people have never seen a ’42, so that’s why I want to bring ’em out,” he says. “This is one of three ’42 convertibles in existence that is restored. There are three clones (based on similar 1946-’48 models) and three that are unrestored. Then there is one street rod, so there are 10 of these altogether … I’ve been doing research on these cars and it’s amazing. I found five people who bought them originally still have them today, and they bought them in ’46 or ’47. They’ve had them 60-some years.”

An Art Deco interior heavy on woodgraining and brightwork is just one of the many reasons Ed Suchorski loves his wonderful 1942 Mercury convertible coupe.

An Art Deco interior heavy on woodgraining and brightwork is just one of the many reasons Ed Suchorski loves his wonderful 1942 Mercury convertible coupe.

Suchorski’s ’42 Merc convertible is one of about 969 built and was in mothballs for more than two decades, which kept the mileage and wear-and-tear to almost zero, but also caused some of the problems common to cars that sit too long without moving. “I’ve had to get all the bugs out because it was like a museum piece,” he said. “It was sitting for so long. All the rubber goes bad. All of the tires are new. Little things like that.

“I re-chromed the bumpers and put a new top on it. The top has never been down. And there are a couple clips I have to put on yet. It’s so hard to find these parts. One-third of the parts are ’42 Mercury-only … It’s a year all by itself, especially the interior. It’s got an Art Deco interior and it’s a very unique interior, the way they balanced the brown and reds. The paint outside was done in nitrocellulose so it has cracks all over, but this one is probably in the best shape of all [his ’42s].”

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The Merc has only about 1,000 miles on its odometer since it was restored back in the 1980s. Suchorski doesn’t know all the history of the car before that, but it was apparently owned originally by a lawyer who worked for Henry Ford. The car may even have been a gift from Henry. The last owner lived in Virginia and had the car restored in Oklahoma City.  “Then it was at Hershey and it was the only show he ever took it to,” he said.

The handsome Mercury has certainly helped Suchorski enjoy his return to the car hobby. He regularly gets to explain how rare the car is, and often gets to recite brief history lessons on his unusual convertible.

“It seems like the more I talk to people about ’42, the more I find out nobody knows anything about them or has seen them,” he concludes. “So that’s becoming my niche now, I guess.”

International Mercury Owners Association
www.mercuryclub.com

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