This question has been popping up on several Hamb threads over the last couple of years. And even before that this has been a question that a lot of Custom car enthusiast tried to figure out. Some Hamb threads have had pretty strong discussions on this subject matter, so I figured it was time to start a new thread about the subjects and get all the facts about this in one place. Perhaps we can figure it out... perhaps not. To me personal its not really a big issue which 1949-50 Mercury was chopped first. But its fun to do the detective work, and usually other new Custom Car related facts will come from it. For long it was thought that Sam Barris chopped his own 1949 Mercury and finished it as first. But we now know (thanks to Curtis Leipold aka Cleatus) that the photos taken by Marcia Campbell of Sam chopping the top on a 1949 Mercury are not of his own Mercury, but rather Jerry Quesnel's Mercury. When a fantastic photo album showing the chop process on this Mercury was shown at the Sacramento Autorama Mercury Gathering, the discussion was opened up again. When this photo album was shown by Sam's Son John, even John thought his father was chopping his own Mercury in all the photos. But it soon became clear Sam was chopping Jerry's Mercury. Ever since this event there have been many discussions about why Marcia Campbell took photos of Sam chopping Jerry's 1949 Mercury, and not of his own car. A recent HAMB thread about the 1951 Oakland roadster show showed Sam's Mercury at this February 1951 Show, and again the discussion was heated up about which 1949-50 Mercury was done as a chopped Custom first. Sam Barris 49 Mercury as a painted "Finished" Custom, or Jerry Quesnel as a white primered unfinished Custom. The prime candidates for this quest are: (in alphabetic order) Buddy Alcorn 1950 Mercury Sam Barris 1949 Mercury Louis Bettancourt 1951 Mercury Bill Gaylord 1949 Mercury Jerry Quesnel 1949 Mercury Wally Welch 1950 Mercury others? Below are some of the facts we know about these cars. Buddy Alcorn 1950 Mercury (Buddy bought the car in 1955, original owners name is unknown) Chopped: at Gil's Auto Body Works year unknown First appearance: Unknown First publication: Dan Post Blue book of Custom Restyling 1952 (unfinished) Other facts: Full fade away front fenders, Oldsmobile rear fenders, rebuilt by Barris in 1955) Rounded hood corners. Near fade away roof chop at the back. Earliest date on license plates when the car was chopped: unknown Sam Barris 1949 Mercury Chopped by: Sam Barris First appearance: Oakland Roadster Show 20 to 25th February 1951 Shown in full paint but with unfinished interior, indicating a rush to get the car done for the show. The car placed second in full custom class. First publication: Motor Trend Magazine December 1951 Other facts: No known in progress photos. Car most likely built in Sam's spare time after shop hours. Car was sold in 1951 to its new owner Bob Orr of Muscatine, Iowa Grille uses parts of a 1951 Ford. Sharp hood corners Earliest date on license plates when the car was chopped: 1951 This was the only Brand New car Sam Barris would ever own. So it is likely that he must have had some hesitations chopping it. Sam had to work on his own Mercury in his spare time, after shop hours. This being a disadvantage over client cars (Jerry Quesnel) which could be built during shop hours. Louis Bettancourt 1949 Mercury Chopped by: Ayala First appearance: Petersen's Pan Pacific Motorama 1952 November 10-16 First publication: Restyle your car, 1952 Other facts: No known in progress photos. Car was styled a lot like how the Ayala's styled the late 1940's Fords. Lots of molded in panels and rounded corners. Of all the Mercs in this list this one has the msost body work done to them. Car was redone by Barris in 1953-54. Earliest date on license plates when the car was chopped: 1952 Perhaps this could have been the first one chopped and customized because of a lot of the late 1940's styling cues. Possibly lack of funds prevented Louis to have the Ayala's finish the car for him until early 1952. Bill Gaylord 1949 Mercury convertible Chopped by: Gaylord? First appearance: Unknown First publication: Unknown, but it is seen - finished - in one of the Don Montgomery books with 1949 Mercury license plates. Other facts: Gaylord top and interior Sharp hood corners Earliest date on license plates when the car was chopped: 1949 Most likely the first one chopped, but its a convertible. Jerry Quesnel 1949 Mercury Chopped by: Sam Barris / Jerry Quesnel First appearance: Possibly the Tent Show in Montebello in 1951. Not sure on the exact dates. Car as shown in white primer, and possibly a late rival indicating a rush to getting it ready for the show? First publication: Popular Science October 1951 Other facts: Marcia Campbell documented Sam Chopping this mercury in a photo album containing 37 photos. Stock grille when the car appeared in white primer. Later the grille would be replaced with one made out of 1951 Ford parts, similar to the Sam Barris Merc grille. Sharp hood corners Earliest date on license plates when the car was chopped: 1951 (Edited after readings Jeff's reply.) Jerry (still with us) claims Sam cut the top on his merc before Sam chopped his own Merc. Jerry had started customizing (shaving etc) his Mercury himself at his parents drive way. Wally Welch 1950 Mercury Chopped by: Ayala First appearance: Possibly the Petersen's Pan Pacific Motorama 1951 November 7-11 First publication: Hop Up magazine April 1952 Other facts: The chop on the Wally Welch Mercury was relatively mild with shorter (compared to the others) rear quarter windows. In 1952 Barris redid the car for Wally, changing the color to deep purple, and adding two extra 1951 DeSoto grille teeth. Rounded hood corners. Earliest date on license plates when the car was chopped: unknown This Mercury has a lot less body work than the Bettancourt Mercury, a relatively easy chop and could have been done in a short time. Wally was known for having had a lot of custom cars already. And most likely he was able to sell them for good money thus generating some money for having his 1950 Mercury to be built fast. So here are some of the facts that can be important for dating the cars in time. I guess/hope more facts will be added in this thread. And hopefully one day we will be able to get a date for when the first 1949-50 Mercury was chopped, and or finished. Will this be important. No, not really I think. Back in the day when these cars where being built it was not important who was first. As long as a new custom car was making the deadline for a major show. Car owners wanted to win trophies at these shows, and the builders needed the new entries to get more clients. But I doubt that it was a race against the clock to have the first ever 1949-50 Mercury chopped. This has not been the first time a similar list had been produced. Harry Bradley once made a list in an 1980's magazine. And Pat Ghanal's had his own list in his The American Custom Car book. Harry Bradley's List (1986) Pat Ganahl's list (2001) The new 1949 Mercury has been available to the public since late 1948, and in the pat it has happened more than once that brand new, or near new cars where customized right away by their owners. So in a way it is kind of strange that the 1949 Mercury was not chopped as soon as it hit the dealers. Perhaps the relatively high price was responsible for that. But Bill Gaylord did not mind that and he chop his 1949 Mercury Convertible in 1949. And created a wonderful padded top for it. Perhaps this was the real first chopped 1949 Mercury. But I guess a chopped convertible does not count in this "contest" I think that it was a very big step when the Marcia Campbell photo book was shown and some of its content was shared here on the Hamb. This for the fist time showed that some photos of Sam Barris chopping a 1949 Mercury top where not his own Merc as the photo captions always said. But in fact Jerry Quesnel's 1949 Mercury. So I think that as a fact was an importuned thing to get cleared. Issue #51 of The Rodder's Journal shows 17 of the photos taken from this album, and some of those same photos have been mistakenly been published as Sam Barris, helping to believe Sam's Mercury was chopped first. So, this was long... I hope some good arguments will show up soon, and hopefully with the addition of more photos and insights we can once and for all put a name to the first chopped 1949-50 Mercury.