While some readers may breathe a sigh of relief upon seeing this headline, the non-Chevy reference is not an intentional, self-deprecating jab at our Chevy Craft reputation. Instead, it is paraphrased from a quote from Bruce Aherns, owner of this great-looking Mercury. "After building Chevys, this car was a challenge. It is a lot easier to find parts for Chevys."
Bruce's favorite car is the '65 Impala. At one point he owned 10 of them, which is probably some sort of record. Now, his daily driver in the summer months is a big-block convertible. One of his brothers, Bob, is the Ford guy of the family, and he bought this Mercury and two Torino Talladegas at an auction a few years ago. Bruce is good at sheetmetal work, so his brother asked him to fix up the cars. Realizing the amount of work involved in renovating the Cyclone, Bruce ultimately bought it from his brother and restored it to the condition you see here.
Though the car was actually in good shape, Bruce decided to fully disassemble it and have the body media blasted. Most of the sheetmetal was usable, but the quarter-panels were full of rust. Bruce fixed them by taking the wheel openings from a pair of front fenders of a Cyclone donor car, shaping them to match the quarter-panel openings, and welding them to flat pieces of sheetmetal that he then formed to match the shape of the rusty metal he cut out. We admit to being envious of Bruce's skills with a welder and a body hammer.
The drivetrain is original save for the C6 transmission, which was replaced sometime before Bruce's brother bought it. Bruce had the engine rebuilt with Edelbrock cylinder heads and a Comp cam, freeing up some horsepower and shedding some weight in the process. On the engine dyno, the 428 generated a thundering 514 hp and 508 lb-ft.
The rest of the build was straightforward but time consuming. Bruce says half the work was searching for parts. "Many sleepless nights were spent searching eBay for glass, grille, trim, and lenses." All told, this restoration took about four years. After all that labor, Bruce is probably happy to get back to building Impalas.
Who: Bruce Aherns
What: '69 Mercury Cyclone
Where: Maplewood, Minnesota
Engine: The Cobra Jet was a performance version of the 428 FE. With better-flowing cylinder heads and upgraded connecting rods, the Cobra Jets were rated by the factory at 335 hp. Bruce's CJ makes 508 hp at 5,900 rpm and 514 lb-ft at 3,900 rpm. It was built by MAS Performance in Ellsworth, Minnesota, where the guys bored the block 0.010 inch and upgraded to Super Cobra Jet-spec LeMans connecting rods and forged pistons yielding a 10.0:1 compression ratio. The reciprocating assembly was balanced before it was installed into the block. Bruce chose a Comp cam measuring 218/224 duration and 0.513/0.520 lift, a set of Edelbrock Performer RPM cylinder heads, and a matching Performer RPM intake manifold. The long-block is topped off with a Holley 750-cfm carburetor that breathes through the factory Ram Air hood. We were a little surprised to see the factory exhaust manifolds, though. Bruce tells us that issue was the subject of much mental debate. "The headers for those cars are a two-piece design and are hard to fit, and they always leak, so I decided to keep the manifolds." He acknowledges there was a trade-off in power and admits he sometimes wishes he had installed headers instead, but overall, he doesn't really miss the hassles and leaks they would have created.
Transmission: The C6 in Bruce's car is not original but it is has a '69 date code. It was beefed up with extra clutches, a heavy-duty valvebody, and a 3,000-stall TCI Breakaway torque converter. "It shifts hard," Bruce says.
Rearend: The 9-inch is original, but Bruce upgraded it with a Detroit Locker differential, 3.50:1 gears, and 31-spline axles.
Suspension: The underpinnings of the car are mostly stock, but Bruce tells us the addition of aluminum cylinder heads and intake manifold forced him to install front springs that would have originally been under a 351-powered car. "My car weighs 240 pounds less than my brother's Cyclone with a totally stock engine. I put the drag pack springs in and the front end sat about 8 inches too high." We agree this Cyclone wouldn't lend itself well to the gasser look. While he was at it, Bruce replaced the stock bushings with urethane ones.
Brakes: Stock stuff here—front discs and rear drums.
Wheels/Tires: This is the timeless Cragar S/S and BFGoodrich combination. Up front are 215/70R15 tires on 15x8 wheels, while 275/60R15 tires on 15x10 wheels bring up the rear. We like that Bruce bucked the trend toward oversized wheels and rubber-band tires.
Interior: You can tell Bruce spent many hours rehabilitating the interior. The seats were re-covered by Threadbarren in Andover, Minnesota. Bruce and his brother replaced the headliner and Bruce rebuilt the door panels, stretching the stock vinyl over new cardboard backings that he made. He also replaced the yellowed and foggy gauge lenses with Lexan. While he was at it, he added some extra gauges to the unusually Spartan Mercury gauge cluster. Bruce is able to monitor engine functions with the Auto Meter tach and two-gauge pod, which Mercury thought its customers would only use for warning lights. Surprisingly, the carpet is original. "It was in really good shape. I just hosed it off." Awesome.
Paint/Body: After Bruce performed the quarter-panel surgery, he brought the car to Bob Van Canneyt at Central Auto Body in Minneapolis, who did the finish work and sprayed the car in its original Medium Lime Metallic.