Story and photos By Tom Maruska
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 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.
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.
Click Here for Part 8 of the XM-Turnpike Cruiser project
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