Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Four years ago, the parts told him to build a custom car out of a 1998 Mercury Grand Marquis sedan and body panels from 11 different classic cars, in particular a 1957 De Soto. “I needed a new car, but I can’t have anything regular,” he said, noting that his Cadillac hot rod is 50 years old.
Oddly enough, Mr. Heller had to deconstruct his own Deconstructivist style and construct something more reliable.
With the help of a friend who had moved to Florida and found the state overrun with large Mercury sedans, Mr. Heller was able to buy a Grand Marquis with low mileage for $6,600. “They’re old guys’ cars,” he explained. The first thing he did was pry off the lights and bumpers. Then he stripped the body panels, leaving only the front doors and the roof. And he went to work.
When Mr. Heller shops for old cars, he cuts off the sheet metal and sells the rest. “I’m not interested in the mechanical parts,” he said. If the metal is rusted, he’ll sandblast it. If it’s dented, he’ll pound it even. He keeps a stocked inventory at all times. The De Soto panels had been lying around for a while.
With plenty of help from his assistant, Mike Karpf, Mr. Heller assembled the car outside the workshop, painting it himself inside a tent. Bugs flew into the paint and got stuck, and the two would have to pick them out with tweezers.
He calls his creation the Marquis de Soto. It is the automotive equivalent of a pit bull mix. In this case, the De Soto is the dominant breed, though the car has retained the positive traits of the newer Mercury: air-conditioning and predictable handling. It even passes the state inspection.
In 2005, Mr. Heller took the Marquis de Soto before it was painted to the huge Lead East custom car show in New Jersey and won a Best Custom award.
“I’ve never taken an art class,” Mr. Heller said. “I have a B.A. in psychology. I never realized this is what I wanted to do.”
Posted by S I Car News