Unveiling the Legacy: Dick Dean’s 1951 Mercury Custom Masterpieces


In the realm of automotive history, the years 1949-1951 marked the inception of the custom car movement, a phenomenon that has since enthralled car enthusiasts worldwide. Amidst this epoch, HOT ROD has consistently asserted that the iconic 1949-1951 Mercurys served as the bedrock for this burgeoning trend. Few have validated this assertion more profoundly than the celebrated customizer, Dick Dean, whose illustrious career saw the creation of an astounding 300 to 400 personalized Mercury vehicles.

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A Glimpse into Auction Excellence

The upcoming Mecum Auctions event in Monterey, California, from August 17 to August 20, is poised to showcase the extraordinary craftsmanship of Dick Dean through two meticulously crafted 1951 Mercury customs. These exceptional vehicles, constructed in the late ’80s, have remained under the ownership of a single individual since their inception. Let’s delve into the remarkable journey of these cars as they grace the auction block. (Mecum Auctions profiles: Lot F140 / Lot F141.)

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A Creative Kinship: Noel Blanc and Dick Dean

Noel Blanc, a Hollywood voice actor who shared his remarkable talent with his father, the late Mel Blanc, holds a unique bond with Dick Dean’s creations. Mel Blanc, the ingenious voice behind Warner Bros. cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, was not only an artist of sound but also a connoisseur of automobiles. Their expansive collection boasted several Ferraris, yet it’s the pair of ’51 Merc customs that captures Noel’s heart as personal favorites.

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Unveiling the Legacy: Dick Dean’s Profound Influence

If a Mount Rushmore were dedicated to car customizers, Dick Dean would assuredly stand alongside luminaries such as the Barris brothers, Gene Winfield, Dean Jeffries, and Larry Watson. Originating in the Detroit area, Dean’s journey led him to Los Angeles in 1959, where he joined forces with George Barris after the latter was captivated by Dean’s ’48 Merc at the Detroit Autorama. Dean’s association with Barris culminated in the creation of iconic vehicles like “Ala Kart” and “Golden Sahara.” Beyond Barris, Dean collaborated with another renowned customizer, Dean Jeffries. His legacy resonates through his eponymous workshop in San Jacinto, California, where he crafted an array of masterpieces, with his Mercury creations earning him unparalleled renown. Dean’s passing in 2008 hasn’t dimmed the radiance of his contributions, epitomized by the remarkable ’51 Merc customs on display.

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A Fiery Presence: Lot F140’s Captivating Features

One of Dean’s creations, Lot F140, emerged onto the scene in 1988, meticulously designed to embody the quintessential custom aesthetic. The vehicle features an array of classic custom modifications, from shaved body panels and frenched headlights to a ’54 DeSoto grille, fender skirts, and a ’50 Mercury rear window. Notably, a 1978 Oldsmobile chassis serves as the foundation, skillfully modified with air suspension components to achieve a strikingly low stance. The vehicle harmoniously blends vintage charm with modern amenities, boasting power windows, power steering, and power disc brakes.

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Embracing the Outlaw Spirit: Lot F140’s Distinguished Persona

Exuding an outlaw personality, the flamed Mercury (Lot F140) embodies the rebellious spirit synonymous with Merc customs. Cloaked in leather-jacket black paint adorned with traditional flames, the vehicle stands as a testament to Dean’s mastery. The impeccable top-chop, with a four-inch reduction in the front and five inches in the rear, infuses the car with a sense of dynamism and attitude that pays homage to the classic custom ethos.

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Empowering Performance: Lot F140’s Heart of Bow Tie Power

Traditionally, custom vehicles often retained their original engines; however, Lot F140 departs from convention. Beneath the hood, a meticulously crafted engine compartment reveals a Chevrolet 396 big-block engine, expertly balanced and blueprinted. This powerhouse is crowned with a four-barrel carburetor and Edelbrock manifold, paired with an MSD electronic ignition for optimal performance. Transmitting power to a limited-slip rearend is a Turbo 400 automatic transmission, affirming the harmonious fusion of power and control.

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A Luxurious Haven: Crafting Lot F140’s Interior Landscape

Intriguingly, Lot F140’s interior serves as a visual juxtaposition against its exterior, reflecting the allure of classic custom styling. The upholstery, featuring Oldsmobile front seats and ’64 Thunderbird curved rear seats, exudes a bold tomato-red tuck ‘n’ roll pattern, seamlessly extending to the custom door panels.

Fusion of Form and Function: Lot F140’s Ergonomic Panache

Lot F140 masterfully marries form and function through its interior design. A four-spoke steering wheel, mounted on a tilt column, commands attention against an aluminum instrument panel embellished with VDO gauges. Amidst pinstriped accents, an air of sophistication permeates, enhanced by the Keith Collins-designed flamed carpeting. The inclusion of air conditioning ensures comfort even amidst the vehicle’s fiery disposition.

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Excellence Across Dimensions: Lot F140’s Flawlessly Finished Trunk

Complementing its meticulously crafted interior, Lot F140’s trunk and decklid underside mirror the vehicle’s exceptional attention to detail. The trunk is an embodiment of artistry, reflecting the dedication invested in every facet of this captivating creation.

The Pearl-and-Gold Marvel: Lot F141’s Enchanting Tale

Another jewel in Dick Dean’s crown, Lot F141, was acquired by Noel Blanc in 1989, shortly after the passing of his father, Mel Blanc. A year later, the vehicle achieved acclaim by securing the Outstanding Radical Custom award at the Grand National Roadster Show. The pearl-white-and-gold hardtop, a converted post car, drew inspiration from one of Blanc’s favorite customs, the iconic Hirohata Merc.

Resonating with Hirohata’s Spirit: Lot F141’s Unique Allure

The distinctive charm of Lot F141 lies in its homage to the Hirohata Merc, evident in its pearl-white version adorned with Buick side trim. The creation’s affinity to the Hirohata Merc, as well as its provenance under Dick Dean’s creative genius, solidified Blanc’s decision to acquire the masterpiece. Personalized with the words “Blanc’s Buggy” on the door sill plates, this vehicle stands as a testament to Dean’s legacy and the artistry he infused into his creations.

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Elegance and Innovation: Lot F141’s Aesthetic Flourish

Lot F141 emanates elegance through its design and features, embodying Dean’s mastery in every curve. The legendary Dick Dean chop, boasting a reduction of 4½ inches, accentuates the vehicle’s allure. Additionally, the presence of a DeSoto grille, custom end pieces, and meticulously frenched headlights further underscore Dean’s meticulous attention to detail. Lot F141 also showcases Hirohata-inspired rear quarters, side scoops, and 1954 taillight lenses, each contributing to the vehicle’s distinguished persona. The integration of a 1977 Oldsmobile 88 chassis, coupled with custom air suspension, cements Lot F141’s poised stance.

Unleashing Muscle: Lot F141’s Powertrain Prowess

Lot F141’s powertrain is a tribute to Oldsmobile’s might, with an Olds 455 engine at its core. Enhanced with a Holley carburetor and Edelbrock intake, the engine is adorned with striking chrome elements, including engine accessories and brackets. A Turbo 350 automatic transmission harmoniously complements the 455 engine, while an aluminum radiator ensures optimal performance.

Fusion of Aesthetics: Lot F141’s Interior Splendor

Lot F141’s interior gracefully harmonizes with its exterior palette, featuring gold-and-white upholstery that extends to the T-bird buckets and rear seats. A center console, spanning from the front to the rear seats, provides both functionality and aesthetics. The instrument panel showcases VDO gauges, while a tilt steering column crowned with a Grant banjo wheel enhances the driving experience. The inclusion of air conditioning and a radio/cassette sound system with an equalizer reaffirms Lot F141’s seamless blend of classic and contemporary elements.

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A Tale of Whimsy: Lot F141’s Whimsical Trunk Decor

Lot F141’s beautifully finished trunk not only represents meticulous craftsmanship but also pays tribute to Noel and Mel Blanc’s unique connection to the world of voice acting, with whimsical rabbits adorning its interior.

Conclusion

In the tapestry of automotive history, the name Dick Dean shines as a luminary, leaving an indelible mark through his meticulously crafted custom creations. The legacy of his masterpieces endures, encapsulated in the awe-inspiring ’51 Merc customs – Lot F140 and Lot F141. As they take center stage at the Mecum Auctions event, these vehicles serve as a testament to Dean’s ingenuity and the timeless allure of custom car craftsmanship.






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