Sled Starter: 1949 Mercury Eight Sports Sedan – SOLD!
February 3, 2022 Update – We confirmed the seller of this “Classifind” deleted their listing, so we’re now able to call this one “SOLD!” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call us directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.
Some classic cars became such favorites of Hot Rodders over the years that it’s hard to come across a stock example to remember what the original cars looked like. Arguably the first example that comes to mind is the ’32 Ford. The second is the ’49 Mercury. Following the hype of the Baris Brothers chopped and channeled “Hirohata” ’49 Mercury won Peterson’s Motorama award in 1953, it formed the entire “Lead Sled movement of Hot Rodders who set about chopping the roofs of just about every ’49-’51 Mercury and Ford made. Consequently, it’s rare to come across a stock example like this 1949 Mercury Eight Sports Sedan originally listed in January 2022 on Craigslist in Belchertown, Massachusetts (Boston). In addition to the factory-installed suicide doors, this example features several minor vintage custom touches such as a factory accessory sun visor, rare glass(!) blue dot taillights, and rear side skirts.
Featuring an older single-stage repaint and a preserved interior, the current caretaker is asking $12,900 for their 1949 Mercury Sports Sedan. Comparing that price against the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool confirms the private seller has their Merc priced between this guide’s #4 “Fair” (Daily Driver) estimate of $9,800 and its #3 “Good” appraisal of $16,000. Similarly, the Collector Car Market Review Online Tool reveals the seller’s ask is one hundred dollars less than this guide’s #3 “Good” appraisal of $13,000.
Mercury, in step with big brother Ford, introduced the first post-war redesign for the 1949 model year. Powering the new car was a flathead V8 producing slightly more power than the then also newly designed 1949 Ford. A new overdrive system was optional, activated by a handle under the dash. The styling of the Mercury Eight, when it was released in 1949, adopted the “ponton” appearance, and was successful in both ending the monotony of warmed-over pre-war style, and differentiating Mercury from its comparable Ford cousin, a trick that spelled sales success. Sales figures for both Ford and Mercury broke records in 1949. The new approach to styling was also evident on the completely redesigned Lincoln and the all-new Lincoln Cosmopolitan. The Mercury Eight used full instrumentation. An eight-tube AM radio was available as an option.
Within its era and beyond, the Mercury Eight was popular with customizers. In 1949, Sam Barris built the first lead sled from a 1949 Mercury Eight; the Eight became the definitive “lead sled”, much as the Ford V-8 “Deuce” was becoming the definitive hot rod. The Eights were among the first models to receive an aftermarket OHV engine swap, since Oldsmobile and Cadillac developed the first high-compression OHV V8 engines in 1949, whereas Ford was still using a side-valve engine. Sam and George Barris also used the 1949 body style to build “the most famous custom car ever”, the Hirohata Merc, for customer Bob Hirohata in 1953. Setting a style and an attitude, it had a “momentous effect” on custom car builders, appeared in several magazines at the time, and reappeared numerous times since, earning an honorable mention on Rod & Custom‘s “Twenty Best of All Time” list in 1991. The Eight remains a very popular subject for car modelers. Most recently, the restored Hirohata Merc crossed the Mecum Kissimmee auction block for a cool two million dollars.
The Mecum Auctions YouTube Channel features Wayne Carini explaining the history of the Baris Brothers early creation based on a ’49 Mercury that inspired the “Lead Sled” trend in Hot Rods:
In addition to the very good set of pictures, the seller provides a thorough description of their car we’ve included below.
Here’s the seller’s description:
“A very fun and first year of Mercury’s popular body redesign for 1949, created with more streamlined and sloped body accents.
Considered iconic, many of these “Lead Sled” Mercury’s, 1949-1951, have been featured in films representing the decade to which they were built, or customized and Hot Rodded, such as American Graffiti, (remember the “chopped” Pharaoh’s car club Mercury?), Grease, Rebel Without A Cause, and The Last Picture Show. Additionally, Southern California’s Hot Rod customizer Sam Barris immortalized a 49 Mercury called the “Hirohata Merc” recently featured on Wayne Carini’s show.
This is a gorgeous, very original car, nicely complemented with factory accessory exterior sun visor, (rare) blue dot glass tail lamps, and rear-wheel “skirts”.
Originally owned for decades by a woman in Connecticut where is subsequently went to a collector in Massachusetts in 2003 and was stored in a dry warehouse for 17 years among his 200+ other classic cars.
Recently personally recommissioned after its long sleep with many mechanical and cosmetic detailing refreshments, where every effort was made to retain its originality.
Refinished decades ago in its original Berwick green single stage finish, it represents a rust-free car with nice original chrome, stainless trim, and glass. There is no evidence of previous body or rust repair. The 1949 Mercury’s dashboard and instruments (most preferred for 1949) are gorgeous with fully functional gauges, including its AM radio. Unfortunately, the clock is inoperative and the front park lamps are missing their bezels which I am pursuing the acquisition of.
The Mercury’s interior is very much original with a very nice headliner, and illustrates some random staining and wear on its seats and door panels, very acceptable and normal for its vintage. The carpet is original and illustrates minor wear.
Powered by a 255 cubic inch Mercury flathead V8 with forged steel crankshaft producing 115 h/p with lots of torque, and coupled to a three-speed manual transmission with overdrive, it’s fun to drive.
Indicated mileage is approximately 19K and we can assume the odometer has rolled over.
Personal inspection is suggested, and any reasonable offers will be considered only thereafter.
The 1949 Mercury Sports Sedan will be sold with a Bill of Sale, and official original Connecticut RMV correspondence noting vehicles of this vintage are not titled and the Mercury can be sold on a Bill of Sale.
Please… NO TEXTS appreciated.
Enjoy the photos and thank you for the interest.”
Show or go: what would you do with this survivor 1949 Mercury Eight Sports Sedan? Comment below and let us know!