The classic Detroit full sized station wagon used to be a staple on the highways and byways of this continent for close to five decades. Station Wagons were primarily used as a commercial vehicle in the very early days of the 20s and 30s, and achieved a level of prestige by the mid 30s as these became popular by affluent communities across the country. The wood bodied wagons were spacious, somewhat practical, but required a lot of upkeep to keep those glorious panels from deteriorating over time. By the late 40s, a new breed of Station Wagon was born in the form of an all steel body, courtesy of Jeep (1946) and Plymouth (1949), and the last of the domestic real wood bodied wagon was gone by 1953. However, the Ford Motor Company would keep reminding us of the origins of the Station Wagon, with a nameplate that is as iconic within the automotive subculture as other historic names like Mustang, Corvette, or Thunderbird; The Country Squire. From the advent of Ford (and companion Mercury) steel bodied wagons in 1952, Ford offered the Country Squire with simulated wood DiNoc decals flanking the sides and rear of the body, with matching fiberglass or plastic trim finished in a different wood tone. By the 60s, the Country Squire and Mercury Colony Park were the only wagons trimmed this way, and were among the best selling models within their respective line-ups.
Hooniverse is one of the only automotive web sites that seem to continually celebrate the classic Station Wagon in all of its forms, with particular attention given to the wagons of the 60s and 70s. We even have a feature called Wagon Wednesdays which highlights wagons that are offered for sale around the web for our fans to comment on, or possibly purchase for their own. Which brings us to my nomination for this years HCOTY; I spotted this Mercury Colony Park in a posting from Autoholics, and decided to find out more about the car and its current owner. Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting this modified 1961 Mercury Colony Park Wagon for HCOTY 2012.
This 1961 Mercury Colony Park is owned by Boris Maryanovsky, and he runs a shop in Euclid Ohio called Street Machinery. Boris and I have been exchanging emails about the Colony Park, and I inadvertently asked what types of cars get his attention. He went on to tell me:
There’s only a handful of cars that catch my attention. Sure you can go to a Goodguys event and see over the top Camaros, Mustangs, and street rods that have unbelievable workmanship, attention to detail, countless hours of build time and unless something about these particular vehicles catches my eye, I’ll walk right by to something that does. My friend coined the term “filler cars”, these are the cars that fill the show fields and fairgrounds but you may walk right passed them. Even though they may be wonderful cars, they just lack the wow factor. I think true car enthusiasts will agree with me that even though you go to an event that has thousands of cars, only a few will make a mark on your memory. For me its obviously a good stance but more so then ever I’m in love with Distressed vintage tin. Call it a fad, or whatever you want but ever since I saw a late 40′s woodie wagon at the ’96 NSRA nationals in Louisville with worn paint, rotted wood, 5 spokes, hammered stance, and a thumper motor I was sold. That car had more character then any car at the event as far as I was concerned.
The Rat Rod look seems to be in vogue right now, but Boris seems to have quite an opinion of what makes a great car and what is a passing fancy:
I’ve loved the worn out look on anything mechanical before all the ridiculous ratrods “built” (a term I use loosely) from the teens and 1920′s era platforms that are out there now. I feel those cars are a fad but later model cars done tastefully with some degree of patina whether mild or extreme will always be popular.
He went on to explain the first time he looked at this beast of a wagon, and it started on a business trip:
On a business trip to Las Vegas I was getting restless spending my time at the hotel. After a quick Facebook post asking if there were any local car shows or cruises in Vegas, an old friend from back home, now living in Vegas told me about the Super Run car show in Downtown Henderson NV. It didn’t take long to secure a taxi and head out to the event. Being not only in the business but also a true enthusiast I appreciate all classic and special interest vehicles but two favorite genres of classics are both the natural unrestored, weathered look and any kind of modern mechanicals under vintage tin.
The colony park had me drawn in, my associate could see it in my eyes, I was going to own the car even though there wasn’t a”for sale” sign in sight. After returning several unsuccessful times to try and speak to the owner we left with only a cell phone number that friend of the wagons’ owner reluctantly gave me. A month later all it took was a simple text message to the owner explaining I saw the car in Henderson and to keep me in mind if the car was ever on the market, he responded with “my current build is near completion and for the right price you could own the wagon”, it didn’t take long for funds to transfer and transportation set up to get the car to Ohio.
This isn’t any ordinary 1961 Colony Park Wagon, it is one that resided in the Desert Southwest for its entire life, and was the subject of a fantastic heart transplant. According to Boris:
I won’t lie, the paint (or lack of) is what grabbed my attention but the drive-train is what stopped me in my tracks. Here we have a lifelong desert resident that stayed dry for over 50 years keeping its body in amazing condition. The paint looks to be the same that was applied at the plant in 1961. The interior is in great shape with newer carpet and seat covers, this was a high dollar model that has power windows and even power seats and a super duper rare Factory Tach that WORKS.
But it was the engine choice that made me keep coming back to the car until I can find the owner/builder. I wanted to see if it was for sale or not, just to talk shop with the builder. Nuts, Bolts and Gears turn my crank, and anyone who knows me knows I can shoot the shit for hours on end about hotrods. I found out that the owner has experimented with several D.O.H.C. Ford Mod motors which were equipped in the higher dollar Fords and Lincolns, and he worked on other projects with a renowned Mod motor expert Dr. DOHC. These Modern Dual Overhead Cam engines are a great choice for retrofit in older cars. The install is super clean, the car starts right up and runs super smooth, during the build they used as many factory late model parts as they could such as the radiator, expansion tank, and cooling fans.
So I asked what was modified in the engine compartment, because it didn’t look like an engine taken from a modern Lincoln or Mercury…
The engine is a stock 4.6 modular V8 donated from a 98 Lincoln Mark VIII that has had the upper plenum removed, a carburetor plate fabricated and a Holley 4 BBL installed. It uses a module which gets input from the crankshaft position sensor to fire the coils. The car runs fantastic and still gets decent fuel mileage. Personally I think I would have left the factory engineered fuel injection but I think the builder was trying to give the wagon a 60′s musclecar vibe with the look of the 4 barrel carb.
So what else has been modified to make the car safer and more desirable to drive?
The brakes were upgraded to disc in front and a power brake booster and dual master cylinder was added. There has been a Vintage Air unit installed under the dash but it will still need the compressor and hoses for a fully functional AC/Heat system. There is a nice full flow exhaust so it sounds awesome both at idle, and while cruising down the road. Other then some minor detail work and complete refinishing of the factory faux woodgrain, the car is exactly how I got it from the previous owner. Even the original Ford factory 9″ rear axle is still in place.
I noticed that you listed the car on eBay a while ago, and I have to ask why?
My plan was to Airbag the suspension, finish the ac, swap out for some larger diameter billet wheels and drive the snot out of it, my realization that I am not going to be able to make every car I fall in love with exactly the way I want it has finally come to light so I have decided to leave it alone and let the next owner decide if he wants it as it is or personalize it to their taste. The car cruises down the road very nice and I would feel comfortable driving it anywhere. If I still own it next year and time allows I would like to install a more modern 4 link rear suspension with Air springs front and rear instead of the factory coil front and leaf rear springs as well as add disc brakes to the rear.
I asked Boris what are the other types of cars he works on at his shop, and he replied:
As I stated earlier I’m a big fan of modern or oddball mechancials. In our shop we’ve done many engine swaps, from common ones such as LS1 conversions to more complex such as a DOHC Lexus V8 fitted into a 1959 Bel Air (!!!). Typically its not only the engine conversions that we do, most cars receive adjustable air suspension so that you can dial in your ride height and quality as well as give it the killer stance when parked.
The upgrade of brakes is done on most vehicles, and we use factory parts that are readily available. We retrofit common C6 Corvette brakes to just about any car that comes in the door. We’ve had 50s and 60s Buicks, Fords, Pontiacs, Cadillacs, and more modern vehicles, like S10s and full size chevy trucks. We have adapted the Corvette parts to FWD vehicles as well. We like to do the installs here at our facility but often sell the components to the builder.
Many vehicles we purchase are used for R&D work and later sold, however some are put into our collection. After being in business for nearly 20 years and making several moves to larger locations, we now have 17,500 sq feet in two adjacent buildings to not only run our business but to house our vehicles. The collection includes many examples of late 40s, 50s, and 60s cars and trucks, with the 1958-64 cheepy Biscaynes and Bel Airs being my personal favorite. We are always on the lookout for fine examples of these types of vehicles both restored and original.
So, here is a Mercury wagon in the hands of a guy who builds spectacular custom Chevrolets. This Colony Park Wagon still wears its original paint from 51 years ago, has received a magnificent engine upgrade in the form of a Lincoln Modular V-8, as well as improvements with the braking and suspension systems. It was at one time a car that received several factory options when new such as power seats, electric windows, and that fabulous factory Tachometer in the dash. Yes, it is for sale and it ain’t cheap, but so what? This is the very definition of what the Hooniversal Car of the Year is suppose to be; Unusual, Badass, Lustworthy. This wagon has more presence than any modern car you can name. I want it, and so should you. It deserves to be the 2012 Hooniversal Car of the Year.