XM-Turnpike Cruiser restoration part 3

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Phase 3 of the Mercury concept car’s restoration

Story and Photos by Tom Maruska

Ford Motor Co. commissioned Italian coachbuilder Ghia to build the 1956 XM-Turnpike Cruiser concept car, and even though Ford sent drawings and a scale model, not all of Ford’s better ideas from the model and drawings were implemented by Ghia in the final concept car. More often than not, Ford was not happy with the changes.

 The XM-Turnpike Cruiser clay model that Ford sent to Ghia has the vent window notched into the windshield.

The XM-Turnpike Cruiser clay model that Ford sent to Ghia has the vent window notched into the windshield.

The dream versus reality

This update of the XM-Turnpike Cruiser’s restoration will highlight some of the differences in the actual construction of the car built by Ghia compared to how Ford actually wanted the car built.

The clay model that Ford sent to Ghia features a vent window notched into the windshield. To Ford’s dismay, Ghia ignored that detail and eliminated the vent window altogether! Ghia actually continued the windshield straight down the A pillar, as can be seen in photos of the actual car.

 Ghia ignored that detail and eliminated the vent window and continued the windshield down the A pillar

Ghia ignored that detail and eliminated the vent window and continued the windshield down the A pillar

Ford also planned the fender “gills” to be chrome-plated, but instead, Ghia painted them.

The front bumper was also changed from Ford’s original plans. Ghia built the XM-Turnpike Cruiser in a traditional fashion. That is, the front bumperwrapped around the side to return at the wheel opening. However,Ford wanted thin bumper ends at each front corner to float beneath the headlamps. Each front bumper piece looked like an upside-down U and would have allowed for a painted area between the bumper and the front wheel opening. Also, a small chrome trim piece would have adorned the body side between the bumper and wheel opening.

 Ghia built the front bumper of the XM-Turnpike Cruiser to wrap around to the side (above) — not what Ford intended

Ghia built the front bumper of the XM-Turnpike Cruiser to wrap around to the side (above) — not what Ford intended

Another difference I’ve noted is that the slats in the grille inserts are actually horizontal and in the model they are shown vertical.

As written by Jim Farrel in his book “Ford Design Department Concept & Showcars,” “V.Z. Brink who was the Ford Styling Center Administrator wrote a report regarding the unauthorized changes Ghia made stating that, ‘when future cars were built at Ghia, two and possibly three visits be made to make sure what Ghia was building was being done the way the Styling Center wanted.’”

 Ghia built the slats in the grille to be horizontal (above), but Ford's model incorporated vertical grille slats.

Ghia built the slats in the grille to be horizontal (above), but Ford's model incorporated vertical grille slats.

Trimming the details

When the XM-Turnpike Cruiser first arrived in the United States, it was devoid of any identifying emblems. Ford tried a couple different ideas on how they wanted it presented and photographed its experimentation process. Early photos show quite large “MERCURY” letters in the coves of the quarter panels, but eventually Ford staff settled on the much smaller letters that I’ll eventually re-install.

 Originally, there was a large “XM” preceding the “Turnpike Cruiser” script on the front fenders. The “XM” was later removed, leaving only the “Turnpike Cruiser” script.

Originally, there was a large “XM” preceding the “Turnpike Cruiser” script on the front fenders. The “XM” was later removed, leaving only the “Turnpike Cruiser” script.

Ford also experimented with a large “XM” preceding the “Turnpike Cruiser” script on each front fender. The “XM” was later removed leaving only the “Turnpike Cruiser” script.

I’ve been trying to decide if I should fabricate the “XM” letters and put them back on the car — what do you think?

Interior anew

Original photos of the interior show it was all leather, including the headliner. There was also a fair amount of chrome-plated metal components, such as a metal grab bar and ashtrays with lighters. Unfortunately, the condition of the interior was much like the rest of the car — rough.

 An image of the interior when the car was new.

An image of the interior when the car was new.

 A current image that provides an idea of the condition of the interior (and car) as it was found.

A current image that provides an idea of the condition of the interior (and car) as it was found.

 The seat backs did not look any better.

The seat backs did not look any better.

I like to plan ahead so when I need a break from one part of the restoration, I can do something different for a few days as a change of pace. It all has to get done, so why not mix it up to break the monotony? I purchased new leather for the entire interior as well as piping to trim the seats. (There is white piping around the white seat inserts and gold piping between the orange panels.) One day I’ll sandblast and paint the seat frames and build new foam and sew up new seat covers.It’s fun to see what different parts of the car will look like as it comes together.

Switching gears

The other day I took a break from cutting and patching rusty steel for a couple days and sandblasted, primed and painted the wheels and then mounted the new tires. They turned out beautiful so I knocked one of the old hubcaps on and took a picture for your viewing pleasure.I have a set of NOS wheel covers and spinners for the finished product. The tires are 760x15 bias ply wide whites from Coker Classic Tires.

 The sandblasted and primed wheels ready to be finished.

The sandblasted and primed wheels ready to be finished.

 The wheels with a fresh coat of paint.

The wheels with a fresh coat of paint.

 The finished product looks great with NOS wheel covers and spinners and new Coker Classic tires installed.

The finished product looks great with NOS wheel covers and spinners and new Coker Classic tires installed.

I also recently ordered and received all of the new suspension parts for the car from Concours Parts. The parts include brake cylinders, brake hoses, U bolts for the leaf springs, different body bumpers, ball joints and tie rod ends and rebuild kits for the transmission, steering gear box, power steering pump and everything else I could think that I would need as the restoration progresses.

 New parts to update deteriorated parts form the '50s.

New parts to update deteriorated parts form the '50s.

Body repair

And, yes, I have been working on the body of the car and it’s progressing nicely. I have the rear of the body rebuilt from about 1 inch above the license plate recess downward. All of the associated trim and the rear bumper has been test-fitted to make sure these parts fit the body properly.

 Test fitting trim with the body lines as well as new metal in the lower quarters.

Test fitting trim with the body lines as well as new metal in the lower quarters.

The lower part of the rear quarters were also pretty rusty and they are rebuilt as well. I also test-fitted the newly plated exhaust outlet. There is one exhaust outlet on each side of the car and yes, they are functional.

The repair work is complete on the rear of the car as well as both sides with the exception of the passenger door opening. AIH Chrome just finished plating lot of the parts including the main part of the front bumpers. I rebuilt the lower part of the front roll pan between the bumpers and hung the bumper pods on to verify their fit.

The car was flipped upside-down for easier access to repairing the roll pan.I braced the body at the spring towers and removed the rotisserie brackets so I could hang the bumpers in place. The new sheet metal on the roll pan between the bumpers can be seen in pictures.

 The lower A pillar was thoroughly rusted and the old metal had to be cut out and replaced on this complicated area.

The lower A pillar was thoroughly rusted and the old metal had to be cut out and replaced on this complicated area.

 The substructure was replaced first.

The substructure was replaced first.

 Then came the exterior fabricated patch.

Then came the exterior fabricated patch.

I had to perform extensive reconstruction to rebuild the “A” and “B” pillars on the driver’s side and still have to do about the same on the passenger side. These areas were severely rusted inside.

Now that you’re all caught up on the rebuild of the XM-Turnpike Cruiser, I will get back to work so I can show some progress for the next update.

More info tommaruskacars.us

Click here for part 2 of the XM-Turnpike Cruiser's restoration

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