Found Mercury idea to obtain a lot wanted TLC

Ben Williams January 7, 2020 26 No Comments

Found Mercury concept to receive much needed TLC

Long-hidden 1956 Mercury XM-Turnpike Cruiser idea lastly receiving overdue restoration (half 1)

Photos by Steve Isola

Tom Maruska of Duluth, Minn., bought 4 superbly restored automobiles on the January 2018 Barrett-Jackson public sale in trade for one rusty, incomplete 1956 Mercury. It’s not simply any previous Mercury, although — it’s the one-of-a-kind XM-Turnpike Cruiser idea automobile. And he nearly walked away from the chance to purchase it over a damaged windshield.

“Back once I was restoring the Mercury XM-800 (idea automobile in 2008), the man who owned the XM-Turnpike Cruiser contacted me and we talked about him promoting it. He didn’t need to promote it again then, however we stored in contact over time and at last once I talked to him final July (2017), I requested him if he was able to promote it and he was.”

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The XM-Turnpike Cruiser idea shortly after it arrived from California to new proprietor Tom Maruska’s Minnesota residence in July 2018. The automobile has only a few miles, however has endured a long time of out of doors storage.


Maruska flew out to California and appeared on the automobile, nevertheless it was a lot rougher in particular person than the 2 20-year-old photos Maruska had seen on-line portrayed it to be. Previous homeowners had stored the automobile hidden and have been reluctant to even share photographs of it. Even although Maruska has introduced many automobiles again from the useless, together with the 1954 Mercury XM-800 and 1963 Ford Thunderbird Italien idea automobiles in addition to a number of manufacturing automobiles, the one-off XM-Turnpike Cruiser’s rust and its distinctive however deteriorated parts clearly made it extra of a problem.

“One of the neat things on the car is the windshield, but it’s [shattered],” Maruska stated.

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The XM-Turnpike Cruiser because it appeared on the 48th annual Chicago Auto Show on the International Amphitheatre throughout February 1956.


“I went on the market in August and I got here residence really considering I didn’t need to do the restoration. I contacted just a few folks that I do know that I assumed may be keen on shopping for it and was going to allow them to go and purchase it. One of them is Dan Brooks; he’s the man who, as a tiny child, first discovered the XM-800 outdoors a barn in Michigan. During the restoration of the XM-800 I turned buddies with him and we be in contact. So I contacted him and despatched him the photographs that I had taken and gave him Ray’s contact data and he was vacillating on the deal for a pair months.”

In the meantime, Maruska went to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas with the XM-Turnpike Cruiser on his thoughts. All the whereas Maruska was strolling the aisles, he was taking a look at instruments which may assist him restore the automobile.

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As you may see from this image, Maruska has an enormous process forward of him.


Broken home windows induced the XM-Turnpike Cruiser’s distinctive four-bucket-seat inside and the whole ground and trunk pan to deteriorate. The decklid is rusty, and somebody eliminated the unique hood and changed it with a closely modified manufacturing hood that’s ill-fitting. Thieves additionally eliminated just a few engine components from the idea automobile throughout its a long time of out of doors storage.

After strolling via the SEMA Show and giving the automobile extra consideration, Maruska referred to as the vendor, Ray Cosh, and sealed a deal to purchase the automobile.

“I didn’t want to be remaking the entire car,” he stated. “I went to SEMA last year and was primarily researching chemical treatments for preserving rusty metal, and after that I decided I could tackle it.”

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The inside of the XM-Turnpike Cruiser is gutted and far of the outside trim has been eliminated, nevertheless it was saved and was a part of new proprietor Tom Maruska’s buy.


It additionally helped {that a} earlier proprietor of the XM-Turnpike Cruiser had made plaster casts of the distinctive wraparound windshield when it was nonetheless intact. At the SEMA Show, Maruska discovered a supply that would use these molds to remake the windshield at a comparatively cheap price.

Even although just a few components had been robbed from the automobile over the a long time, the XM-Turnpike Cruiser is essentially full. Cosh had eliminated a lot of the trim and positioned it in plastic tubs for a future restoration that he was not capable of full. He had additionally sourced a dual-carburetor consumption and four-venturi carburetors to exchange these stolen from the automobile’s 292-cid V-Eight engine, however Maruska must remake the distinctive box-type air cleaner, the one half he thinks is altogether lacking. An proprietor earlier to Cosh had new tail lamp lenses molded for the automobile.

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Mercury stated the XM-Turnpike Cruiser’s roof appeared to drift on air due to all of the glass. Incorporated into the roof have been brake lamps hidden underneath the visored space beneath the roof. The heart again glass was made to look as if it might open, however was really fastened in place.


Once the XM-Turnpike Cruiser lastly arrived at Maruska’s residence in July 2018, he was capable of higher assess its situation and was pleasantly stunned.

“There is still a lot of places where it is rusted through, where metal has to be cut out and replaced, but it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be when I first looked at the car.”

The delivery and decline of a dream automobile

Compared to General Motors and  Chrysler Corp., Ford Motor Co. produced comparatively few full-size ideas automobiles in the course of the 1950s. Those it did construct have been fairly memorable, nevertheless. The man who deserves credit score for a lot of of Ford’s most noteworthy idea automobiles was John Najjar, who was in control of the Lincoln pre-production studio on the time of the XM-Turnpike Cruiser’s inception. Najjar might already declare no less than partial credit score for design of the Lincoln Futura and 1954 Mercury XM-800 when he introduced 5 new idea automobile concepts in 1954.

According to the ebook “Ford Design Department: Concept & Show Cars 1932-1961” by Jim and Cheryl Farrell, Najjar proposed the four-passenger Malibu, notable for “twin bombs high on the rear quarter panels;” the Monte Carlo two-door with sliding doorways; the Mystair with a floating roof; the Montauk, a convertible with “V” aspect trim that appeared on different ’50s Ford ideas and manufacturing automobiles; and, lastly, the Mandalay, a “four-passenger cross-country turnpike cruiser” with tailfins holding “aircraft-type taillights,” amongst different options. The Mandalay on paper advanced into the XM-Turnpike Cruiser in metallic, however solely after a lot enter from different Ford Motor Co. designers and managers.

Najjar was paired with Elwood Engel of the Lincoln-Mercury studio whereas Gene Bordinat, semi-autonomous supervisor of the Lincoln-Mercury studios, and Don De La Rossa, Mercury Studio chief designer, partnered on a competing idea, wrote the Farrells. Francis C. “Jack” Reith, an authentic Ford “Whiz Kid,” took private curiosity within the “turnpike cruiser” undertaking and appeared over the shoulders of Engel and Najjar as they have been hashing out the idea, even including enter regardless of missing formal design coaching.

Other designers supplied themes and concepts for the idea, and even famed designer Larry Shinoda supplied just a few particulars on the ultimate automobile, such because the tail fins, in response to the Farrells.

Once the ultimate Najjar and Engel idea was authorised by administration in late 1954, a 3/8-scale mannequin and drawings have been despatched to Turin, Italy, in order that the full-size, absolutely practical XM-Turnpike Cruiser may very well be long-established out of metallic by the fingers of craftsmen at coachbuilder Ghia. Ford additionally supplied a manufacturing Mercury chassis and engine for the brand new physique to be mounted upon. The value of Ghia’s service to construct the only physique totalled $80,000 — the mixed retail value of 30 new top-of-the-line 1956 Mercurys — when the automobile was delivered to Ford Motor Co. in December 1955.

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The XM -Turnpike Cruiser made the flash circuit within the “Big M Van-O-Rama” in 1956.


The idea hit the 1956 auto flash circuit nearly instantly, and did it in type. Ford Motor Co. constructed a particular tractor and trailer to shuttle the automobile from flash to flash. The tractor was based mostly on a 1956 Ford cab-over-engine mannequin pulling a smooth trailer with big Plexiglas panels providing an entire aspect view of the XM-Turnpike Cruiser inside. The setup was harking back to the General Motors Futurliner buses and carried the title “The Big M Van-O-Rama.” Both tractor and trailer have been painted white and a reddish colour just like the pearlescent persimmon XM-Turnpike Cruiser.

When the XM-Turnpike Cruiser was displayed from throughout the Van-O-Rama trailer, one of many trailer’s aspect panels may very well be lifted and prolonged to permit the automobile to spin as if it have been at an indoor venue such because the Chicago Auto Show, the place it was additionally proven.

Those who ogled the XM-Turnpike Cruiser couldn’t take residence the automobile — no less than not but — however they may decide up a four-page brochure that defined lots of the automobile’s superior options.

“Here’s a Mercury ‘idea’ car that represents another chapter in the saga of the never-ending search by Mercury stylists and engineers to develop innovations keyed to the very-changing trends in modern motoring,” stated the brochure. Mercury additional identified the XM-Turnpike Cruiser’s new plastic “butterfly” high that “gently pops up when the door is opened facilitating passenger entry and exit. A new ‘compound wraparound’ windshield curves back at the top as well as at the sides, providing altogether new viewing horizons for all passengers. This double-curved window flows gracefully back into the low-silhouette top (only 52.4” excessive) and provides to the phantasm that the highest is floating in air.”

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The roof was emphasised in Mercury’s brochure.


This floating roof of the lengthy and low XM-Turnpike Cruiser featured rear brake lamps simply beneath the roof panel — a characteristic that may not be commonplace till a long time later. Another characteristic that may turn into frequent, though a lot sooner, was its particular person leather-based bucket seats with consoles back and front. A brochure illustration flashes the center of the again window lowered and, though this may turn into actuality in manufacturing Mercurys, the window of the particular idea automobile didn’t descend.

Mercury’s brochure for the XM-Turnpike Cruiser referred to as the automobile a “review of the future,” a mirrored image of “Mercury’s dedication to be frequently on the forefront in styling and motor automobile improvements.

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A detailed-up view of the “T-top” roof of the XM-Turnpike Cruiser. Note the air intakes on the windshield header and along side the roof; the manufacturing 1957 Turnpike Cruiser had air intakes on the A pillar of a distinct design, however have been absolutely impressed by these on the idea automobile.


XM-Turnpike Cruiser is just not merely a ‘dream’ automobile. It is a full-scale, absolutely operative automotive styling laboratory devoted to the precise process of pioneering, testing, and perfecting new concepts in design, new options, new security and new energy utility.”

Indeed, the XM-Turnpike Cruiser would go from dream to actuality, no less than partially. Most of its options appeared in future Mercurys. While the movable butterfly high “gull wing” panels within the floating roof and four-seat inside with its spacey handles and knobs didn’t make it to manufacturing Mercurys, the essential sheet metallic did closely affect Mercurys that began appearing on vendor tons for 1957.

The XM-Turnpike Cruiser’s wild coves within the rear quarter panels resulting in V-shaped tail lamp housings appeared on 1957 Mercs, as did the hooded headlamps and the concave grille beneath them. Where the XM-Turnpike Cruiser used a cut up entrance bumper housing two big pods with lamps, the 1957 Mercurys used a single bumper with two big rectangular air intakes. The 1957 Mercury’s entrance bumper theme was repeated on the again rather than the XM-Turnpike Cruiser’s a lot less complicated, skinny vertical-bar bumper. However, the general profile of the XM-Turnpike Cruiser was used from 1957 via 1959, with the ultimate of these mannequin years being probably the most carefully associated to the idea automobile of 1956.

Of course, even the “Turnpike Cruiser” title was tailored to the Mercury line to symbolize the top-line 1957 mannequin. For the manufacturing Turnpike Cruiser, the “XM” for “Experimental Mercury” was understandably eliminated, however Mercury really added just a few extra gizmos to the automobile. Of these, probably the most memorable was in all probability the manufacturing Turnpike Cruiser’s roof air intakes with UFO-like antennae protruding from them.

Jim and Cheryl Farrell said that it was Reith who bought administration on a toned-down XM-Turnpike Cruiser as a manufacturing mannequin. So assured was he within the design of the automobile that Reith satisfied his bosses that the manufacturing Mercury based mostly upon it could seize an enormous market share enhance within the mid-price vary. Not solely was administration bought on his pitch, it made Reith common supervisor of the brand new Mercury Division. When Mercury’s market share solely rose four p.c within the mid-price vary to 21 p.c throughout 1957, Reith was faraway from the place and supplied a decrease put up in Ford of Canada. He declined the brand new place and resigned on Aug. 30, concerning the time the brand new 1958 Turnpike Cruisers could be introduced.

Meanwhile, the 1956 XM-Turnpike Cruiser was endlessly linked to Reith and as such, the automobile was thought of an “outcast” by Lincoln-Mercury Division administration, in response to the Fallers. It and its 1956 Ford hauler and trailer have been parked behind the Detroit places of work till 1958, when the automobile was bought to Jim White of Dearborn Steel Tubing for $300. (Dearborn Steel Tubing labored on many low-volume initiatives for Ford, together with some idea automobiles, however the XM-Turnpike Cruiser was not amongst them.)

White saved the XM-Turnpike Cruiser outdoors, behind his dad and mom’ Michigan auto components retailer, and the automobile’s components started to go lacking or vandalized. In 1971, White bought it for $500 to a person named Baker from Ohio who had repeatedly inquired concerning the automobile parked behind the components retailer. After Baker purchased the automobile, he tried his hand at some metallic restore to the hood, ultimately reskinning it, however the outcomes weren’t completely passable. In 1979, Baker bought it for $3,000 to Ray Sabo and his son, Al, who have been 1957 Turnpike Cruiser followers based mostly in Michigan. The Sabos stored the automobile for 3 years earlier than promoting it for $10,000 to Ray Cosh, the person from whom Maruska bought it.

“Each owner kept it for a few years and made a few bucks on it when they flipped it,” Maruska stated. “They didn’t actually do something with it. Its deterioration began proper from the get go when it was parked out in Ford’s car parking zone. Vandals stole the consumption, carbs and air cleaner off the automobile, however the automobile in any other case was full.

“Once the windows were broken, weather got in the thing and it just started going. No one has ever garaged the thing. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

Maruska continues to be going via the a number of bins of components that got here together with his buy of the XM-Turnpike Cruiser and expects he’ll discover all the items however the air cleaner. However, he’s positive all of the components he finds will want restoration. While the inside is shot from climate publicity, he says there’s sufficient materials left on the again seat to find out precisely how the remainder of the inside needs to be upholstered. Regardless, he is aware of that he has his work lower out although he already has two different Ford Motor Co. idea automobile restorations underneath his belt.

“This is way worse [than the XM-800 and Italien],” Maruska stated. “The Italien was an all-steel automobile and that had no rust on it. The XM-800 was all fiberglass and so they have been each a lot simpler to revive than this factor might be.

“The XM-800 I did over one winter; it took eight or perhaps 9 months. This one I anticipate taking a full two years.”

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Maruska and his XM-Turnpike Cruiser in 2018.


Two years could seem love a brief period of time for such a frightening undertaking, however Maruska, a self-taught restorer who’s now retired from the ground protecting enterprise, will focus 100 p.c of his time on the restoration of the XM-Turnpike Cruiser starting this fall. Given his background with different Ford Motor Co. idea automobile restorations, there in all probability isn’t a greater man to revive it.

“I like to do things that are different, not all the ‘me too’ things,” he stated. “And I figure somebody built it once and I can do it again.”

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