Rolling Art - 1940 Mercury Classic Car Corner
Article and photography by Richard Butschi
One of the most terrifying things to a visual artist is a large blank canvas, waiting to be filled with a unique and creative image. Questions loom; where to start, what direction to take this wanna-be masterpiece. Artist Jeremy Schirm, of SE Cedar Rapids, had no fear when he finally acquired his “blank canvas;” a 1940 Mercury. It was something he wanted for as long as he could remember. The flowing lines and bulbous fenders had stirred his creative instincts long ago; much like a voluptuous model inspires a painter or sculptor.
In the fall of 2014, Jeremy was surfing Facebook, coming upon his inspiration, which was located in southern Kansas, near Oklahoma, over ten hours away. But he “felt he had to have it...in order to change it.” It wasn’t long until the tailored Mercury was in Schirm’s driveway and work was started immediately. Having done his homework, there was a new 1948 Ford frame waiting to be lengthened 2.5” and fitted with the ‘40 Mercury body. New floor panels were installed, along with a Mustang II front end and a rearend from a Pontiac Grand Prix. Since this was going to receive the “fully customized” treatment, air-ride suspension was a no-brainer. The Mercury came as a two-door coupe, but Schirm visualized a hardtop and the “B” pillar was removed. The front pillars were “chopped” 5” and the rear of the roof was lowered 8” giving it that sinister look. The hood was “peaked” adding a needed body line, and the rear was “rolled” cleaning up the bumper area.
The project had almost become an obsession, as true works of art do with their creators. Fortunately, Schirm’s wife, T.C., who is very supportive when it comes to cars and art, would pull Jeremy back to reality, reminding him that there are other aspects of daily life that need attention. T.C. will also be hitting the streets soon with a Hot Pink 1970 VW Karmann-Ghia, painted by Jeremy. The Mercury was outfitted with an ‘87 Mustang 5.0 litre engine and 4-speed OD transmission, put together by friend Charlie Armstrong. The wheels are stock 15” with ‘57 Cadillac hubcaps. The streamlined body received a three-phase paint job by Schirm, laying down a purplish base with a thin, almost “kandy-like” blue second coat, followed with a clear coat. All this took place in the first year.
The second year saw a new custom interior done beautifully by Back Roads Custom Auto Interiors, of Washington, IA. That interior can be filled with music as Schirm installed (as he puts it), a “competition-level” stereo with mega-wattage! It also received a set of gorgeous flames done in orange and yellow with a contrasting blue pinstripe.
As most artists will tell you, it’s very difficult to determine when a piece is “finished.” Some set the work aside and wait to see if there’s anything else they want to do with it. It hit Schirm just this past January that the Mercury needed (of all things!) more flames. T.C. was floored when she discovered Jeremy “scuffing-up” the entire car’s clear coat in preparation for a second set to be incorporated into the first. These would be done in magenta and purple with a lime green pinstripe. Schirm was aided by local striper, Hugh Hoffman, of Mt. Vernon – a member of a group of stripers and painters that meet occasionally for group-studio work. Schirm is also a member and president of the Royal Relics – a car club with only seven to eight cars, “few if any rules,” with meetings that usually consist of a cook-out and/or working on a member’s car.
The Schirms have shown the ‘40 in Missouri, Illinois, South Carolina and the Vintage Torque Fest held in Dubuque in May. But you won’t have to travel far to see it up close and personal, as it will be a featured car at the Cedar Rapids Corvette Club’s annual “Cruisin’ the Ave” Charity Car Show on Saturday, June 10th. The show has a new home this year – on the track at Hawkeye Downs!