Marge The Magnificent Barn Find

By Joel Ferris

When I was running Mercuryland, I would run an ad in the community newspapers asking for leads to Mercurys, 1949 to 1956, that might be for sale.

I offered a $50 bounty for leads to a parts car. That is how I got my inventory of parts cars. I got a call from Marge telling me that she had a 1950 Mercury that her dad bought new. It had been parked in a shed since 1965. She wondered if I might have an interest in buying it.

So, on a sunny Sunday afternoon in May 2004, I called her back. Marge was available, so Dee and I drove 120 miles to her home in southeast Nebraska.

Marge said, “It’s in the shed over there.”

Well, the shed had a swing-out door and there was sod built up against it, so I had to borrow a shovel to dig out the door so it could be opened. I could hardly get in. There were all kinds of things stored beside the car. There was no light. I felt down along the rocker panels and couldn’t feel any rust holes or blisters.

I managed to open the driver’s door a little and the keys were still in the ignition. What pot metal I could see looked really nice. There was a spare engine in the trunk. It appeared that rats had lived in the car at one time.

It is my experience that if rats take up residence in a car, mice will stay away. The advantage is the absence of the odor of rodent urine. Feces and filth, yes; but for some reason the stink is absent. Maybe rats have a bladder. Who knows?

I told Dee, “This car is too nice to part out. It only has 35,000 miles. She is asking more than I want to pay for a parts car. It should be put back on the road.”

“How much does she want?” Dee said. “I got a bonus when I retired. Why don’t I buy it as an investment?” And so she did.

The next weekend, we hooked up the car trailer, and loaded some tires and wheels, knowing the tires on the car were flat. After loading our barn find, the first stop was a car wash where we removed the first layer of accumulated dirt and grime.

On the drive home Dee decided to name her investment “Marge” in honor of the nice lady who sold it.

I cleaned out the interior and put Marge into storage. We didn’t have time to work on her, because we were running a business selling Mercury parts. The shoemaker’s children go barefoot. you know.

Time passes, life goes on. We closed the business and followed our grandchildren to another town 100 miles down the road, leaving Marge in storage.

A neighbor was looking for a parts car for his project last spring. I told him that I had what he was looking for; but I was not sure there would be enough usable parts. He offered to take his truck and trailer, and we would go look it over.

Upon closer examination, the car that I had available just wasn’t going to meet his needs. It is a real shame, because we have a truck and a trailer here. It would be embarrassing to drive home with an empty trailer.

So we loaded up Marge and hauled her back to my shop!

Now the fun began. I replaced the fuel tank with a reproduction fuel tank. Classic Tubes had patterns for the fuel lines and brake lines, making it possible to replace those.

New, upgraded water pumps and hoses. New rebuilt fuel pump and carburetor. Plus an electric fuel pump.

I had a new master cylinder and brake cylinders. The brake lining was more than suitable, but I had new brake shoes in stock and so installed those.

While the car was on the lift, I discovered a faulty universal joint. The muffler and tailpipe were rotted away. There was a new muffler in the trunk, but I had to order a new tailpipe. The rubber hangars were broken, so I made some new ones.

I got new whitewall tires. The wheels on the Mercury were body color, so I found a place on the door jamb and cleaned it up. Took a picture of it to the auto parts store and got a good match on the color. Sand blasted and repainted the wheels. The car came with a complete set of hubcaps, but I opted to put on new reproduction hub caps.

I gave the engine a complete tuneup. Points, plugs, wiring and new coil. The engine was not stuck. Amazing when you consider the car was parked in 1965 and this is 2023. So, while the plugs were out, I put some oil in the cylinders and spun the engine with the starter.

The Independence Day parade and car show was approaching, and my son Scott decided we needed to have Marge ready to debut at the show. We begin the preparations for the first start. A car that has not run in this century, not even in this millennium, was going to come back to life.

Ignition. Checked. Fuel. Four gallons. Turn on the ignition, the electric fuel pump is churning away. Nothing. No fuel to the carburetor.

I removed the gas gauge sender and peered into the new gas tank. The intake tube is soldered into the tank and there is a bend to place the intake at the bottom. Unfortunately, it was soldered about 1/4 turn off, so the intake could not reach the bottom five gallons of fuel. This is unacceptable. We will not drive around with five gallons of unusable fuel in the bottom of the tank.

Back to the drawing board.

I spent the next month pondering my options. I was about ready to drain the tank, remove it and take it to a radiator repairman who might consider the project, when Scott gave me a call.

“I’ve got an idea,” he said. “The CaseIH air planters have push connectors on their tubes. I think your intake is the right size to put on one of these connectors with a short tube on the end to reach the bottom of the tank.”

With the help of a welding rod and a flashlight, I was able to slip the connector over the intake by reaching through the sender hole.I turned on the ignition, the fuel pump came to life and FUEL!

We were in business.

Scott came by on the weekend. I put him in the driver’s seat so I could observe the activity under the hood while he started the engine. It fired off on the second compression.


And she sure is noisy. Clatter, clatter, click, clack, bang. It doesn’t sound like a connecting rod …

“Scott, what is the oil pressure?” I asked.

“35 pounds,” was the reply.

That’s very good for a flathead. It wasn’t smoking very much.

I concluded the noise was sticking valves. We ran the engine at a high idle for a time, then took it for a trip around the block. The more we ran it, the quieter and smoother it got. Except for one wheezing cylinder, she purred like a kitten. I see a valve job in her future.

The upholstery was unusually well preserved. The headliner and carpet needed replacing. I pulled out the carpet and door sills, and mined a lot of dirt from the rockers and mud from the frame. Definitely a country car.

Marge the Magnificent Barn Find made it to the Independence Day car show. The whole community knows her now. As we cruise around town she gets smiles, waves and thumbs up from everyone she meets.