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XM-Turnpike Cruiser: Assembly begins

Tom Maruska takes us along the restoration process of the 1956 Mercury XM-Turnpike Cruiser concept car. This is part 9 of the restoration process.

Story and photos By Tom Maruska

XM Turnpike Logo Header

The 1956 Mercury XM-Turnpike Cruiser concept car is getting more colorful as the restoration progresses. Here’s what I’ve been up to the past few months:

After years of work the ‘56 Mercury XM-Turnpike Cruiser is on the final stretch and has begun the “putting the pieces together “stage.

After years of work the ‘56 Mercury XM-Turnpike Cruiser is on the final stretch and has begun the “putting the pieces together “stage.

After getting the car back on its wheels, the next thing I did was hang the doors and install the hinge opening covers. There are small, round, tubular parts that serve as wire conduits to protect the power window wiring as it goes into the doors, and I had to be mindful of these during the installation process.

Then, I put the car back on jack stands and removed the wheels so I could assemble the front end and finish the brake and fuel line connections underneath.

With the wheels back on, the next order of business was to install the engine and transmission. I also placed the choke housing that I made (featured in the last update) on the carburetor to show how nice it looks now that it’s chrome-plated. Everyone thinks it’s an air cleaner, but it’s actually a choke. There is a flap in the choke’s snout that’s operated by a cable to the instrument panel that opens and closes it. There will be a 3-inch plastic tube from the choke snout to the bottom of the air cleaner, which sits in the right front of the engine bay, alongside the radiator. You’ll see that in the future.

Playing dress up

The brake and taillamp lenses above the rear window were in very good, original condition without cracks or crazing, so they were relatively easy to restore and look great back in place.

The exhaust outlet on the left lower quarter panel isn’t connected to anything yet, but it will be a functional outlet when the pipes below are complete. There is a matching outlet on the right quarter panel.

The finished product is beginning to take shape.

The finished product is beginning to take shape.

For some unknown reason, the rear quarter panel inserts were full of small dents and dings. They, of course, had to be filled and smoothed before they could be painted pearl white, as original. The edges of these long inserts are chrome plated. They, along with all the other chromed pieces on this car, were re-chromed by AIH Chrome Plating in Dubuque, Iowa.

Drama with the new windshield

When an article on the restoration appeared on Hemmings’ blog, it caught the eye of a custom glass fabricator in British Columbia, Canada. The owner contacted me and said he could make a windshield for the XM-Turnpike Cruiser. After a few emails and a quote, I agreed to have him fabricate the windshield. It turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes of my life! Let’s just say the windshield didn’t fit, and I found his business practices to be sketchy, at best. You can read all about it at on the “2-10-22 Update.”

After that fiasco, I found another fabricator in the good, ol’ U.S.A. and had them make the glass. This windshield turned out nice and is pictured in place within this article. The windshield will remain on the car until the car is nearly complete.

Interior motives, and more dress up

I started making the new leather dash covering, but didn’t get too far before getting sidetracked with refinishing the steering wheel and installing the inserts on the rear quarter panels. However, I did get all four seats reupholstered.

The steering wheel had quite a few cracks in it, which I filled with the epoxy material from Eastwood’s steering wheel repair kit. I’ve successfully used this product on a number of steering wheels in the past.

The quarter inserts really make the car look spectacular, and after I had them in place, I was able to install the taillamps. One of the previous owners had the new lenses made for the taillamps and back-up lamps, which saved me some work.

Tangle of wires

While I wasn’t working on the previously mentioned parts of the car, I would pick away at the wiring on an on-and-off basis. It’s coming along pretty well, but the next task to complete will be the dash pad so I can install the instrument panel in the car, as there is a lot of wiring to do under it. We’ll save that for next time.

Thanks for your interest in this restoration!

Learn more at www.tommaruskacars.us.

After getting the car back on its wheels the next thing I did was hang the doors and install the hinge opening covers. The small round tubular things you see in the pictures are the wire conduits to protect the wires that go into the doors for the power windows.

After getting the car back on its wheels the next thing I did was hang the doors and install the hinge opening covers. The small round tubular things you see in the pictures are the wire conduits to protect the wires that go into the doors for the power windows.

This picture is a little later after I had the wiring through the conduits into the doors. Here they are in place

This picture is a little later after I had the wiring through the conduits into the doors. Here they are in place

I started making the new leather dash covering but didn't get too far before getting sidetracked refinishing the steering wheel and installing the inserts on the  quarters.

I started making the new leather dash covering but didn't get too far before getting sidetracked refinishing the steering wheel and installing the inserts on the
quarters.

Here are a couple pictures of the beginning of the dash pad and all 4 seats completed.

Here are a couple pictures of the beginning of the dash pad and all 4 seats completed.

As long as I jumped ahead a bit I'll show you the inside of the door and quarter with the window mechanism in place.

As long as I jumped ahead a bit I'll show you the inside of the door and quarter with the window mechanism in place.

 These mechanisms seem a little hoky to me, but they do raise and lower the windows like they should.

These mechanisms seem a little hoky to me, but they do raise and lower the windows like they should.

I put the car back up on jack stands and removed the wheels so I could assemble the front end and finish brake and fuel line connections underneath. Here’s the front end all together. I love it

I put the car back up on jack stands and removed the wheels so I could assemble the front end and finish brake and fuel line connections underneath. Here’s the front end all together. I love it

People have asked where the front turn signals are. They are behind the grill below each headlight

People have asked where the front turn signals are. They are behind the grill below each headlight

With the wheels back on the next order of business was to install the engine and transmission. I also placed the choke housing that I made (last update) on the carburetor to show how nice it looks now that it’s chrome plated. Everyone thinks it an air cleaner but it’s actually a choke. There is a flap in the snout operated by a cable to the dash to open and close it. There will be a 3” plastic tube from the choke snout to the bottom of the air cleaner which sits in the right front of the engine bay alongside the radiator. You’ll see that in the future. Also pictured is an original picture of the engine bay for comparison.

With the wheels back on the next order of business was to install the engine and transmission. I also placed the choke housing that I made (last update) on the carburetor to show how nice it looks now that it’s chrome plated. Everyone thinks it an air cleaner but it’s actually a choke. There is a flap in the snout operated by a cable to the dash to open and close it. There will be a 3” plastic tube from the choke snout to the bottom of the air cleaner which sits in the right front of the engine bay alongside the radiator. You’ll see that in the future. Also pictured is an original picture of the engine bay for comparison.

For comparison - Original picture of engine bay as it originally appeared in 1956.

For comparison - Original picture of engine bay as it originally appeared in 1956.

The brake/tail light lenses above the rear window were in very good original condition ie no cracks or crazing so they were relatively easy to restore and look great back in place.

The brake/tail light lenses above the rear window were in very good original condition ie no cracks or crazing so they were relatively easy to restore and look great back in place.

Brake/tail light installed

Brake/tail light installed

The exhaust outlet on the left lower quarter panel isn't connected to anything yet, but it will be a functional outlet when the pipes are complete below. There is a matching outlet on the right quarter.

The exhaust outlet on the left lower quarter panel isn't connected to anything yet, but it will be a functional outlet when the pipes are complete below. There is a matching outlet on the right quarter.

For some unknown reason these inserts were full of small dents and dings. They of course had to be filled and smoothed before they could be painted pearl white as original. These next pictures show the process of refinishing them. Both of the edges on these long inserts are chrome plated. They were chromed by AIH Chrome plating in Dubuque Iowa along with all the other chromed pieces on this car.

For some unknown reason these inserts were full of small dents and dings. They of course had to be filled and smoothed before they could be painted pearl white as original. These next pictures show the process of refinishing them. Both of the edges on these long inserts are chrome plated. They were chromed by AIH Chrome plating in Dubuque Iowa along with all the other chromed pieces on this car.

Some of the smoothing work done

Some of the smoothing work done

After a first attempt to get a windshield made (see www.tommaruskacars.us to learn about the fiasco), I found another fabricator in the good ole U S of A and had them make the glass. It turned out nice and is pictured below with the protective film still on. That will remain until the car is nearly complete.

After a first attempt to get a windshield made (see www.tommaruskacars.us to learn about the fiasco), I found another fabricator in the good ole U S of A and had them make the glass. It turned out nice and is pictured below with the protective film still on. That will remain until the car is nearly complete.

The steering wheel had quite a few cracks in it which I filled with the epoxy steering wheel repair from Eastwood which I've used on a number of steering wheels in the past. 

The steering wheel had quite a few cracks in it which I filled with the epoxy steering wheel repair from Eastwood which I've used on a number of steering wheels in the past. 

These quarter inserts really make the car look spectacular, and after I had them in place I could install the tail lights.

These quarter inserts really make the car look spectacular, and after I had them in place I could install the tail lights.

One of the previous owners had the new lenses made for the tail lights and back up lights. On and off while working on all of the above would pick away at the wiring.

One of the previous owners had the new lenses made for the tail lights and back up lights. On and off while working on all of the above would pick away at the wiring.

It’s coming along pretty good but the next task to complete will be the dash pad so I can install the dash in the car as there is a lot of wiring to do under it.

It’s coming along pretty good but the next task to complete will be the dash pad so I can install the dash in the car as there is a lot of wiring to do under it.

Click Here for Part 8 of the XM-Turnpike Cruiser project

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