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1951 Mercury gets new life after modifications

By Holly Mahaffey

ST. LOUIS, Mich. - Jack Cross had a little luck - and a lot of persistence - when it came to obtaining his 1951 Mercury.

“The car is from San Francisco; a guy drove it to Saginaw and the transmission ran out of it, in the 1960s,” said Cross. “A transmission shop in Saginaw had fixed it, but the guy had flown back to San Francisco. They called and told him how much it was, and the guy sent them the title.”

Jack Cross of St. Louis has owned his 1951 Mercury since the 1960s and recently completed a total restoration of the car, including chopping the top and installing a remote entry system.

“I hounded the guy until he finally sold it to me,” said Cross. “That was in the 60s.”

Cross is originally from Breckenridge and was living there when he obtained the Mercury. He now makes his home in St. Louis. Cross had a body shop in Merrill, and now operates Jack’s Body Shop in St. Louis.

“I’ve had a body shop since 1962. All I do is work on old cars now,” said Cross.

After obtaining the Mercury in the 1960s, Cross began work on it. “I put a Buick motor in it, took all the interior out, was going to chop the top but I quit working on it.” 

“It followed me around everywhere I went and just sat, with many offers to sell – people nagging me all the time,” said Cross.

“About three or four years ago, we put a 32-valve Ford motor back on it, chopped the top, did the entire thing. It was a total restoration,” he said.

Cross said he already had most of the parts needed for the restoration. “Parts were picked up piece by piece at junkyards a long time ago, and most parts were on car anyway,” Cross said. “Been collecting those parts since 1966.”

“The car has a ton of modifications,” said Cross, including a DVD player right in the dashboard. “I saw it one day and thought it would be neat in there. The car has a Mark V111 Lincoln dash. It fits the dash – it fit perfect,” Cross said.

“For the interior, I got most of it out of another car. Everything has changed; the suspension is from a Chrysler. The motor and transmission is Ford. The wheels and tires and stuff we bought from Summit Racing,” said Cross.

“Also has a 1955 DeSoto grill,” said Cross.

The handles of the Mercury are shaved off, and Cross has a remote entry system to open the doors. “I use a remote to get in and out,” said Cross.

Cross “chopped the top” of the Mercury by two inches. “Chopping the top” goes back to the early days of hot rodding and reduces the front profile of a vehicle to increase speed.

“Fast Break (Auto Glass Center, 103 West Washington St.) in St. Louis cut all the glass for it, after I cut it down. We had to make glass smaller,” said Cross.

“The car has cruise control, air conditioning, tilt steering, intermittent wipers – everything a new car would have,” said Cross. 

A woman Cross works with embroidered the Mercury emblem on the steering wheel. Mercury is the Roman god of speed.

The car is painted a shade similar to laurel green, which Cross picked from a color chip book. “I think it’s a truck color; it is painted base coat/clear coat.”

Cross completed the restoration himself, with the help of his friend Mike McGuire, of St. Louis. McGuire was featured in last month’s Auto Trend for his work on his 1929 Ford Convertible. Cross and McGuire helped each other with the restorations of their vehicles.

“Mike was with me every night; he helped me every night,” said Cross. Cross said McGuire is especially handy with the electrical, and assisted him with that aspect.

“A year and nights, for the total time spent on the restoration,” said Cross.

Vicki, Cross’ wife, made him a book full of photos and information about the Mercury, and proudly shows a photo album detailing the progress of work on the car. The album follows the car from the early beginning stages, all torn apart, and continues until the restoration was finished.

“I can tell you it’s the love of his life,” said Vicki. “We have more pictures of this than we do of our firstborn,” she said. Jack and Vicki have two daughters together, and are expecting a grandchild early next year.

“Two days after I got it finished, we went to Branson, Mo., with it. We went on Route 66,” Cross said.

“Started on Route 66 right in downtown Chicago,” said Vicki. “There were a bunch of us, but only two with old cars. The air blew off in Chicago, so we only made it to Branson. Did a couple shows; it was cool. It was good,” said Vicki.

The restoration of the 1951 Mercury has not been Cross’ only project. “We have a ‘68 Pontiac LeMans, an ‘81 Corvette.” said Vicki.

Cross also has passed down his skills and interest to his son.

“My son was 16, helping me and working for me,” said Cross. “I gave him a ‘68 Camaro – he could have it on one condition: he had to do all the work on it. He still has it; he’s almost 50 now.”