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.
The driveshaft tunnel actually had to be raised to accommodate the new ride height supplied by the rebuilt stock Ford suspension with Air Ride Technologies air bags. As you can see from the photos, this Monterey can really get down as a result of these. Work on the body started with pulling the unnecessary body items like the trim below the door and all the various emblems. "We kept the side trim," said Ulrich. "That's the one that adds character to the car. Then, my buddy modified the doorjambs for Bear Claw latches before we took it to his house for paint."
At this point we should mention that Ulrich did the majority of the work on this car himself except for the painting. For this he got help from his good buddy of 20 years Stu Waldron. After they got the body together and finished the first prime at Ulrich's house, they took it to Waldron's to get the '03 VW Passat colors sprayed on. "My wife and I picked out the green, then I saw the gold later," said Ulrich of the titillating two-tone paint scheme.
With Goodguys Kansas fast approaching in December 2004, the race was on to make the debut date. "We spent a lot of late nights together in August," said Ulrich. "And Steve lives all the way across town, so there was a lot of driving involved." The interior is one of the remain-ing chores they finished during these slumber parties. And the cabin is no afterthought. The stock seats have been upholstered in sand-colored Ultraleather with ostrich inserts. One of the most notable aspects of this project is the floral patterned headliner and rear deck. "My wife found the pattern at a fabric store," said Ulrich. "The rear deck was supposed to be leather but the guy made the speaker trays in the wrong place so we had to improvise. The floral cabin and the smoothed dash is one of the aspects that make this mercury Monterey more memorable than most.
Forming a precise plan, then executing that plan to its fullest is a feat that is more often carried out by military personnel or ninjas, rather than car builders. But in the case of this Merc, Tom Ulrich has done just that. Although, we doubt that when he first saw that '62 Merc on sagging springs he envisioned a version with a floral interior.
Tom Ulrich's '62 Mercury Monterey S-55
'93 4.6L Dual Overhead Cam (DOHC) from a Lincoln Mark VIII, Stock Mark VIII radiator and electric fan Custom air intake tube, All engine wiring from The Detail Zone (panel mounted in the trunk)'03 Mustang Cobra radiator coolant tank, Custom engine mounts Modified crossmember, Lincoln Continental front sump oil pan
4R70W electronic overdrive four-speed automaticShift linkage modified to work via cable with the stock console shift selector
'03 Mustang Cobra headers
Front: Rebuilt stock Ford suspension with Air Ride Technologies air bags
Rear: Rebuilt stock Ford suspension with Air Ride Technologies air bags
Front: Baer 14-inch two-piece slotted and drilled rotor, with polished caliper
Rear: Baer 13-inch two-piece slotted and drilled rotor, with polished caliper
Front: Intro Pentia, 18x8 inch
Rear: Intro Pentia, 20x10 inch
Front: Nitto NT-555, P225/40ZR18
Rear: Nitto NT-555, P255/35ZR20
Stock seats upholstered in sand-colored Ultraleather with ostrich inserts, custom door panels, dash smoothed and painted two tone to match the interior, floral headliner and package tray, custom trunk panels (hide battery, air ride, CD changer, wiring, engine control modules), Secret Audio hidden stereo system with two amplifiers, 10 inch subwoofer, Infinity speakers, custom-made front speaker pods and custom-made rear speaker and subwoofer grilles, carpet from Auto Custom Carpet, upholstery work by Crusin' Comfort
Fresco Green pearl and Mojave Storm beige ('03 VW colors) Standox base/clear, paint and body by Stu Waldron, shaved door handles, removal of most side trim, Bear Claw latches, outside mirrors removed