Tom Ulrich has built a few cars in his day, most notably a '53 Suburban that he traveled more than 1,000 miles to retrieve. That truck has since been sold to pay for the stunning Mercury you see before you. But this rare Monterey required the same leap of faith. Although a Monterey with its accompanying headlights and trim had caught Ulrich's attention before this purchase it wasn't until a few years later that he found the model he wanted.
"A while back, I saw a '62 four-door with sagging springs in 1998 in Springfield, Missouri, and kind of forgot about it for a few years. Then I found an S-55 with the bucket seats and center console up in the San Francisco area," said Ulrich. "I had my niece drive over to give a cursory inspection based on a few things I had told her. The seller hemmed and hawed for several weeks until he finally agreed to let the car go." With the purchase secured and the condition approved. Ulrich could now finally go fetch his prize.
"I flew out to San Francisco, had the oil changed and the front suspension lubed at Grease Monkey and drove it back to Denver," said Ulrich. "The guy told me there might be a problem with the lights and when it got dark I found out the problem.
They didn't work." From dawn 'til dusk became the theme of the trip back as Ulrich limped home to his hometown of Aurora, Colorado, just outside of Denver. With a shot tranny and sketchy alignment, speeds didn't top 65. "It took me four days and two sets of front tires to get home," said Ulrich. He also mentioned that the interior was so shot he had to stuff a towel in the center of the seat. Nonetheless, the body was in quite good condition with only a bit of trim missing on the rear quarter-panel.
While the body was bangin', the gas gauge wasn't movin' at all. It broke after Reno, leaving Ulrich to try to find gas in the middle of Nevada. Once safely home to Denver, Ulrich lowered the car 2 inches then drove it for two years. This is known as pulling a deuce-deuce in Denver. After two years of rolling rat-rod, Ulrich decided to sell his '53 Suburban to finance the Monterey's resto-mod-ation. For the record, this author just made "resto-mod-ation" up and it will officially become a word among car guys. If you're reading this magazine then you don't even need a definition.
It was around November 2003 that Ulrich completely disassembled the car and pulled the body off of the frame. "I cleaned it up and changed some of the weird Merc bushings," he said. "Then we had to find parts for the brake conversion." While tattered old drums might work for Keith Moon, they wouldn't do for this project. So he set about adapting Baer brakes with 14-inch two-piece slotted and drilled rotors and polished calipers. To accomplish this, Ulrich combined spindles from a '75 Granada with a '65 Mustang brake kit. Fatman fabrications machined the spindles for the different tie rods. "I was a little worried. But after a little finagling we got it to work," said Ulrich.
Next, he had the frame powdercoated and started putting the 4.6L DOHC motor together that had been donated from a sick and dying '93 Lincoln Mark VIII. Upgrades to this already more potent than stock motor include '03 Cobra Mustang headers, a custom intake tube, and a front sump oil pan from a Lincoln Continental to name a few.
Once the motor was assembled it was like Urkel at Hollywood High, it didn't exactly fit right in. Ulrich had to modify the crossmember and fabricate custom engine mounts. Remembering his tricks from the drive-in, Ulrich hid all the wiring in the trunk. The result is a tidy motor swap with around a third more power than the original. The motor supplies power to the 20x10-inch Intro Pentia wheels shod in P225/40ZR18 NT-555 tires through a 4R70W w/elec-tronic overdrive and a Ford 9-inch with 3.89 gears. The front wheels are a little more manageable at 18x8.