The Merc - which he drove a lot - was his moving bill board, where ever he went with the car, people would stare at it, and more than once would lead into a new custom job.
By Dick Page and Rik Hoving
|Never before published photo shows Jimmy's Mercury in its|
second color - metallic green. Its nice to see it parked next to
a stock 1940 Mercury... Which looks so tall now, compared to
the very elegant and well proportions Summers Merc.
Jimmy Summers built custom car body's from scratch and restyled production cars starting in the 1930's in Hollywood. He built "specials" as they were called for movie stars, and at least one of those appeared in several movies. Jimmy Summers was nationally known despite the lack of hot rod and custom car (only) publications in the day. Jimmy worked several project cars with Frank Kurtis. One of those projects was a wonderful hand built roadster for Bill Huges.
The best known example of his work is his personal 1940 Mercury convertible shown here and in part one on this blog. A custom built to show case his talents to potential customers, the car according to POPULAR MECHANICS May 1947 issue was valued at $6,200 dollars. Jimmy and the Merc were featured prominently in that issue. It is not a real feature of the car since it does mention and show other cars and aspects of Custom Building. But I think we can still see this as possibly the first magazine "feature" on a Custom Car.
|A page from the 1947 Popular Mechanics article that |
featured Jimmy's work and his 1940 Mercury.
It shows one photo of the dash/interior with what
could be Jimmy's first wife behind the steering wheel.
|From the same 1947 Popular Mechanics article is this photo of |
Jimmy showing the use of his fade away fender kit.
Summers was one of the first to open a custom body shop. His first shop was located at 7919 Melrose ave in Hollywood. In the 40's he was one of only two in the Hollywood area to do sunken licence plates under glass and chopped tops on coupes and sedans, the other was Roy Hagy. Summers was the most popular by far.
|In this great photo from the Kevin Wright Collection we have |
a good look at Jimmy's shop. The 1932 Ford was Jimmy's
personal project which was later owned by Fred Vogels
and Max Balchowsky. It had some typical Summers custom
body work done to it.
|A great looking ad for Jimmy Summers full fade away |
fender kits. You had to specify if you needed them for
a coupe or convertible. They sold, but where never the hit
Jimmy had hoped for.
His reputation was such that he was called on to repair collision damage on coach built cars for other builders in the 40's. People who knew of his skills have referred to him as a "god with metal" and having the "best hands on the planet". Pat Ganahl said of this Merc "It represents the best of an era". Jimmy's reputation for good taste and craftsmanship prompted Henry Ford II after he assumed control of Ford Motor co. in 1947 to personally inspect Jimmy's Merc. Later when the '49 Merc (that was originally to be the new Ford) was released it shared the same rear deck/fender form as Jimmy's car.
Summers shop on Melrose ave. across from Fairfax high school was open well into the 50's according to Doane Spencer.
Jimmy built full aluminum bodies for land speed streamliners and Tony Nancy's fully enclosed dragster at his later location in the San Fernando valley.
|Jimmy' ad in the first Hot Rod magazine in January 1948|
His ad for the shop at 7919 Melrose ave in Hollywood appeared in the first issue of HOT ROD in January 1948. The Merc also was featured in the Dan post books CALIFORNIA CUSTOM CAR PHOTO ALBUM and THE BLUE BOOK OF CUSTOM RESTYLING 1949-52 where Post commented
"Often good metal men lack the taste to create attractive, unlabored designs. Not so with master craftsman Jimmy Summers who has gained national recognition for his rare blend of design-wise approach, inventive construction and par-excellent fitting and finishing ability"
|The photo - from the Dick Page Collection - was taken at|
the same location as the photos used in the Dan Post
Photo Album book. I believe this was the two car
garage at Jimmy's home.
Summers was referred to in the June 1953 Rod&Custom as "one of the country's top metal men" Another car he built appeared on the cover of MOTOR TREND in the January 1952 issue.
A '47 Chevy sporting a set of his fadeaway fender kits can be seen in the February '59 Rod & Custom.
Doane Spencer was Jimmy's best friend and the August 1990 R&C ran the "top 20 rods & customs of all time" by Pat Ganahl. Spencer's '32 roadster with Du Vall windshield (body work by Jimmy Summers) was listed first in the rods column. Summers own Merc was listed at the number one spot for the customs.
|This fantastic color photo comes from the Kevin Wright|
Collection, and shows the car in 1946 or early 1947. The car was
painted maroon and had the painted wheels with smaller
|Photo that was used in the 1947 Popular Mechanics as well|
as the Dan Post Blue Book of Custom Restyling. The car was
now updated with larger ripple disk flipper hubcaps.
In the third and final story in this series, Dick Page will take us to look at the body modifications and the interior of this breath taking Custom Car. And then we will have some more never before seen photos of the Jimmy Summers 1940 Mercury.