Sunday, May 26, 2024


Lead sleds are the epitome of cool customs, admired for their sleek lines and ingenious modifications. It takes more than just hours of metal work to create a great custom. It takes imagination, courage and sometimes, restraint. Customs are art.

Les Sherry first laid eyes on his custom Mercury at the start of the century. Located in the historical city of Ballarat, it was up for sale after the previous owner no longer wanted to pursue ‘the dream’.

“It was painted black with harlequin flames, all shiny on the outside but when you lifted the bonnet, it was all greasy and looked like crap. It didn’t have the dash in it and other bits were missing. I virtually bought it in bits and pieces. It had already been chopped but I had to remodify it,” says Les of his less than perfect ‘50.

“The previous owners bought it in from America with the mods and just mucked around with it.  The body had been grafted on to a 1972 Pontiac Le Mans chassis with the Le Mans running gear.

Once back home in Melbourne, Les stripped her down and virtually started from scratch. The Mercury’s shell had been grafted over the frame and running gear of a 1972 Pontiac Le Mans in the USA, Les worked it over to bring it up to its show class best. The 400 cube Pontiac motor was treated to a performance package from Edelbrock consisting of alloy heads and manifold along with other performance goodies, Les reckons now it’s good for one horsepower per cubic inch. Topped off with a 1957 Caddy air cleaner and plenty of bling, this engine bay pays homage to the custom work on the outside.

Additional ride comfort comes courtesy of a self-levelling AccuAir air bag system. Les was one of the first to have bags fitted as they were popular in the States but still in their infancy over here at the time. The chassis and running gear is finished in stunning Glasurit Cherry Mica.

The list of body mods reads like a George Barris to do list! Yet one more Desoto lays toothless, donating its grille as have so many before it. We like the flush fitting indicators and massive overriders. The hood has been shaved and decked and fitted with custom air scoops. F100 headlight rims make the frenched headlights look easy.

Gazing down those curvaceous side panels, you take in the Buick moulds outlining the pearl white scallops. Two sets of Buick moulds were used to give the flawless finish. The healthy chop is four inches at the front and five at the rear. It looks like it always was but Les will assure you it was no easy task fixing up the hashed up job done previously! “When they customized it, they didn’t do the chop in the roof properly, we had to re-chop it at the rear so that the back glass would fit. Rob Stevens who painted it worked full time in my factory for twelve months to complete the modifications.”

A new green tint rear window was purchased from the States, while at the front Les replaced the single piece windscreen with a two piece V butt screen.  And what about those mirrors? These unique items are known as passing view mirrors. Les explains “They’re a 1950s accessory and are as rare as rocking horse shit. You can only get them for the left hand side. The one on the right had to be handmade and took four weeks to make! It was made out of brass and chrome plated by an old school beater who worked for my painter, Rob Stevens.”

The rear bumper is 1954 Kaiser enhanced by a same year Kaiser overrider cut down to frame the custom number plate. The original modified fuel cap was a garish alloy race cap looking completely out of place but Les has since hidden it away behind a flush mounted panel.  Full rear spats at the rear keep her looking low and heavy in true sled style while 1957 Cadillac wheel covers compliment the front.

Stepping inside, you’re struck with gleaming white leather covering the door trims, head liner, split bench and rear seat.  A contrasting maroon carpet laced with white piping breaks up the stark white as does the right hand drive customised tank Fairlane dash, XR Falcon steering column and wheel. The creature comforts extend to power steering and airconditioning while the ambience is enhanced with tunes from a modern stereo.

 “I knew exactly how the car was going to come out like from the start. I knew what colour I wanted and what I was building. The only thing done different, which I have to thank my painter for, was putting the white scallops in. I was going to paint it all one colour but he suggested we put a white pearl scallop in and I reckon it just makes the car. It stands out in two tone and looks awesome. He did a great job on the paint.” 

Les debuted the Merc at the 2006 Victorian Hot Rod Show picking up 2nd in Top Show Car and went on to pick up 1st place at the Meguiars show. But this custom is no show pony! 

“I’m here for a short time, not a long time. People say to me you’d be too frightened to drive it. Well if I’m too frightened to drive it, I may as we’ll buy a poster of it, hang it up on the wall and leave it there. They’re meant to be driven, not to just sit there looking at them.”

You’d hardly know it as he’s somehow managed to avoid every stone chip on his travels! Believe it or not, it’s about to be pulled down for a freshen up and respray!

This is not Les’ only toy as you can see another of his projects under way in the background. The Hemi-powered ‘32 Ford roadster will have all the good gear in it while at home is another five window deuce. They all vie for attention with Les’ accommodating wife of 38 years! She must be a saint and Les loves her for that and would like to thank her for not devorcing him during the build!


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