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Advice on Bringing a 53 Mercury Monterey Convertible back to life


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I have inherited a 53 Mercury Monterey convertible that I want to bring back  to life. At one point in was in perfect running condition, but it has been sitting for 20 years. Paint job is still good, Interior is good (except for mildew on the upholstery that seems to clean up relatively easy). The tires were completely decayed and would no longer hold air, I have replaced those. The engine compartment is where the problems lie. It was a home for rats, lots of them. I have largely cleaned out the rat nests and gallons of rat poop. They seem to have done little chewing damage to wires except in a few places, but some of the air ventilation hoses are breached. I will get a new battery. The chrome on the bumpers and other pieces has a lot of pin holes and some flaked off places. They need to be rechromed but I'm not sure how to go about that properly or where.

What I'm mostly concerned with is what do I check mechanically before I try to start it up. Should I take the carb off and clean it out, should I assume the gas tank and lines are fouled from sitting so long and need to be cleaned/replaced. Should I take the plugs off and scope the cylinders for rust. Should I change the engine oil and transmission oil (it's an automatic). Check the radiator? water pump? Differential? etc.

I would like to not do any damage when I crank the thing up. I want to restore this to driving condition.

Any and all advice is welcome. I'm new to vintage restoration, but I rebuilt a few carbs and a rotary engine in my youth.

I'm located in Santa Barbara, about 100 miles north of LA.

Thanks much for your Wisdom and Experience.

bk

53 Mercury.jpg

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Congratulations.... Good looking ... Deserves to be back on the road....

Some here will chime in on what best to do to make sure you don't damage anything upon it's initial re-birth.

 

Where I come in, and answer you presently, is I have mountains of parts for this car -- all the mechanical parts --

All the brakes -- NEW -- Master Cylinder, Wheel Cylinders, Brake Hoses, Brake Shoes, Wheel Bearings & Seals, Emergency Brake Cables, ...

All the Front End -- King Pins, Pin Kits, Control Arm Shafts, Tie Rods, and more...

All USA made, ...

Water PUMPS (yes, there are two (2) of them!!!!), Fuel Pump, Motor Mounts, Transmission Mount, and a whole lot more ...

Tune Up with quality U.S.A. parts -- Points, Condenser, Cap, Rotor, & Spark Plugs; Switches, Relays, Voltage Regulator, and a whoooooooole lot more...

 

Always best to simply call me -- Craig -- 516 - 485 - 1935....New York...

 

Good luck with your new toy.... Yours, Craig...

 

Edited by mobileparts (see edit history)
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Yes to almost anything that you asked about.  Most likely the carb is not set up for alcahol in the gas and should be rebuilt with a newer kit along with the fuel pump.  Your gas tank, lines should be inspected and cleaned.  The brake system will probably need to be gone through also as it probably absorbed moisture.  Change all fluids .  You seem to have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done.  Nice car.

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Be prepared to get as many pieces of advice on how to properly prep the engine for initial start up as there are members here. I guess I'll be the first.

Pull all the spark plugs, get a small funnel with a piece of hose attached to it (small enough hose so it will fit in the spark plug holes), and pour a bunch of WD40, Marvel Mystery oil, or other thin penetrating lubricant into each cylinder. Let it sit for a week or two. Then try turning over the engine by hand. (Grabbing the fan blades doesn't work.) Put a socket with a long breaker bar on a damper pulley bolt should work. If the engine is free, you can probably try turning it with the starter at this point if the rats didn't eat that wiring. Leave the plugs out while turning it. (It's easier to turn with no compression in the cylinders.) If you reached this point successfully, then drain the oil, pull off the oil pan, clean the pan out, clean the oil pump pickup if needed, clean both mating surfaces for the new oil pan gasket (block & pan), reinstall oil pan, & put in fresh oil. Crank the engine a little to get the fresh oil up to the top end of the engine, install new spark plugs & a tuneup kit while you're at it, and see if she'll fire. Good luck.

NICE car!!!!

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I agree with putting oil in the spark plug holes. Easier to do with flatheads, which I believe your car would be. Marvel Mystery Oil is probably a good choice. Letting the oil set for a while is a good idea, too, I think. Check the plugs when you pull them for the oil.

 

I don't know near as much about old cars as many/most of the people on this forum do, but I think it's always best to revive an old car in increments. Rebuilding the carburetor is probably a good idea, too, and you'll need a battery, but before you go much further than that, I would assess major drive train components. You can spend thousands of dollars on brakes, wiring, gas tank, fuel lines, rust. The good news is your car looks to be pretty solid and presentable.

 

 

 

 

Edited by JamesR (see edit history)
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I'll add a couple things..

Smell the fuel in the gas tank...

If it smells like varnish do not let it get pumped into the carb by turning the engine over....remove the fuel line from the carb or pump before even turning the engine over.

The old gas is probably by now root beer colored...nasty stuff varnished fuel.

The tank and fuel lines/ hoses will need to be removed and cleaned or replaced as with the fuel pump.  

The carb...rebuild...

I don't know if that engine has a rope type rear main seal but if it does some caution about a dried up rear main seal from years of sitting..

..they can stick to the crankshaft because of lack of oil in the fibers of that seal..upon start up the rope seal can tear apart and a severe leaking rear main leak can be the end result...to help prevent this....put 4- 5 gallons of a thin oil, kerosene etc in the engine to get the seals wet with oil...letting it soak a couple days....then turn the engine over by hand at the ring gear or front crank nut...oil in the cylinders too.

If the rear main is a rubber lip type no special warnings.

Get the oil pressure up before starting with the spark plugs out and by cranking it over till the oil light goes out or gauge shows pressure...

 

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Wow, lots of very helpful info from everybody. I am extremely grateful for the advice and information. I've ordered a shop manual off ebay. Pulling the plugs today and take a peek inside and add the mystery oil (and putting the plugs back in so the rats don't poop in the cylinders).

My father modified the car a bit, converted to 12V and put an electric radiator fan on, and added an AC compressor for airconditioning. There seems to be an electric fuel pump below the tank, I'm assuming it's not stock as it's 12v.

 

I will assume the gas has all gone bad and will remove the tank and fuel lines to be cleaned/replaced, rebuild the carb, and clean or replace the fuel pumps, replace fuel filter.

Where do I get a carb rebuild kit that handles gasahol?

and what do I use to clean the gas varnish out of the tank and system?

 

I'm hoping I can determine if the rear main seal is rope or rubber lip from the service manual. Even if it's rubber I'm getting the impression I should keep a close eye on the oil seals after I get it running.

 

What all does 'going through the brake system' entail beyond draining and refilling and bleeding the lines?

Never done brake work before.

 

Thanks for the tips on wiring harnesses, currently it looks pretty good, just a few spots chewed down to the bare wire.

 

Will pull the oil pan and clean it all out.

Where do I get gaskets for that?

 

Again thank you very much all for the help, I feel much more confident about this project now!

bk

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Rregarding your brake system.  Brake fluid absorbs moisture (hydroscopic) which causes rust problems.  Unless your father replaced the system it is a single system.  To completely overhaul the system you would replace the seals in the master cylinder and the seals in each wheel cylinder.  They make rebuild kits for each but some times it is cheaper to just buy new or rebuilts.  The brake lines may have rust holes in them.  You can buy pre bent lines or get your self a roll of brake line, a set of fittings and a double flare tool.

 

Regarding removing the spark plugs squirt some penetration oil on the plug threads and let sit for a couple of days before trying to remove,  Check your brake shoes as they may have oil and grease on them.  While you are at it regrease your front bearings.

 

That is a real nice car.  You will be proud to drive.

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With 4+ decades of experience as an enthusiast (3+ as a professional) of owning/rebuilding/repairing/restoring/etc of variety vintage cars, I’d say concentrate on electrical & mechanical aspects of the car first and leave all aesthetic/cosmetic issues after ALL “first” concerns are FULLY addressed and verified to be in safe working order.
With already known wiring problems, I wouldn’t waste much effort on trying to start or operate the car without repairing (read: replacing) the entire wiring harness between each bumper and service all directly related components while at it.

 

P.S. Just couple of weeks ago, I started working on a quite well preserved/survived ‘56 American luxury car that was (allegedly...) stored inside a Southern California garage since 1964 (... which appears plausible due to overall condition of the car) and first thing I told the client was to order complete, new OEM type wiring harness which I’m currently replacing and servicing all control switches, electrical motors, etc.

 

Once that’s done and sorted, I’ll proceed to look into mechanicals...

... and once those are fully sorted, we'll look into the aesthetic/cosmetic issues and perhaps start thinking of ordering new (whitewall ?) tires ... 

Edited by TTR (see edit history)
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7 minutes ago, TTR said:

With 4+ decades of experience as an enthusiast (3+ as a professional) of owning/rebuilding/repairing/restoring/etc of variety vintage cars, I’d say concentrate on electrical & mechanical aspects of the car first and leave all aesthetic/cosmetic issues after ALL “first” concerns are FULLY addressed and verified to be in safe working order.
With already known wiring problems, I wouldn’t waste much effort on trying to start or operate the car without repairing (read: replacing) the entire wiring harness between each bumper and service all directly related components while at it.

 

This X100!!!

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7 hours ago, Merc 53 said:

 

Where do I get a carb rebuild kit that handles gasahol?

 

bk

May be able to help.

 

Contact me during normal business hours with the make and identification of your carburetor.

 

Jon.

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5 hours ago, TTR said:

Once that’s done and sorted, I’ll proceed to look into mechanicals...

... and once those are fully sorted, we'll look into the aesthetic/cosmetic issues and perhaps start thinking of ordering new (whitewall ?) tires ... 

Well I sprung for the tires first, because the old ones would not even hold air so I could not even roll the car anywhere. The wiring harness looks in good shape except for a couple of small spots missing insulation and a few lugs that need to be replaced. However I will take your advice and check it out thoroughly and not assume anything.

 

The advice about penetrating oil on the spark plugs was a good one. Half came off easily, the other half were troublesome. I've loosened them a bit and am letting them soak in more penetrating oil before I try to get them all the way out.

Peering into one of the cylinders the piston top looks rusted some. I'll look more thoroughly when I get all the plugs out but I'm guessing I may need to pull off the heads to clean up the rust and see the true condition.

 

Off in the distant future, is it advisable to paint the engine to protect it, or just clean it up?

 

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21 hours ago, Merc 53 said:

Well I sprung for the tires first, because the old ones would not even hold air so I could not even roll the car anywhere. 

No worries, you’re far from only enthusiast/hobbyist or even “professional” vintage car builder/restorer having made what I consider more than common mistake and/or perhaps waste of perfectly good money (and tires) when beginning, planning or preparing for a rebuilding/restoration of an old car.

 

In majority of cases I’ve seen in 4+ decades in this hobby, finishing a project, especially hobbyists first self-build ones, before those promptly acquired new tires are way past their safe-to-use date is extremely rare, no matter how enthusiastic or optimistic initial timeline expectations are/were.

 

If a project needs tires for “rolling”,  I usually recommend finding a local tire store willing (think liability) to provide and install some inexpensive or used set. Even if their appearance, size or style is not quite ideal, who cares, as long as they fit and hold air.


All this, of course, is just my opinion based on personal expectations of having fully functional and safe to use vintage car to be enjoyed as originally intended, i.e. driving it as extensively and as often as possible, whether it (the car) belongs to me or my clients.

Edited by TTR (see edit history)
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All the above advice is excellent, your car is a beauty and worth your investment in both time and money. One other thing I may suggest, is to also use the spray type WD-40. By pouring it in the spark plug hole the oil will tend to fall to the bottom of the cylinder. The spray type with the extended plastic will "fog" the entire cylinder. Also you might consider joining a local chapter of the AACA or a Ford-Mercury related club in your area. Mobileparts sounds like he has all of what you need!

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On 2/24/2020 at 8:27 PM, Merc 53 said:

 The engine compartment is where the problems lie. It was a home for rats, lots of them. I have largely cleaned out the rat nests and gallons of rat poop. They seem to have done little chewing damage to wires except in a few places, but some of the air ventilation hoses are breached.

 

Ugh, rats are the absolute worst.  Steam clean the engine bay and whatever else you can access that steam won't damage and then (with the car in your carport) put an O3 machine inside, close the door, drape plastic over the whole car with 2x4's on the ground around the perimeter, and let it run for a few days.  Once their scent gets in there they think they own the thing and they will keep coming back, not to mention that it will continue to come back to haunt you on every warm summer day no matter how well you think you have cleaned it by hand.  Be diligent about seeking out all the wiring they have damaged.  Most old car fires seem to have their root cause in an electrical short.  Be sure and keep the battery disconnected whenever it is unattended until you're certain that you've got everything debugged.  Good luck!   

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Merc53,

    I was actually the first to respond to you -- and while I didn't specifically mention the initial two things you have inquired about, it falls under my category -- and a whoooooooole lot more....

    I can supply you with the carburetor kit in the new ethanol gas compatible material , and whatever gaskets you would like.

    Here is the phone number again -- 516 - 485 - 1935.....

            Yours, Craig.......

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On 2/24/2020 at 9:33 PM, keiser31 said:

Try "Rhode Island Wiring" or "Y 'n Z's" for a new wiring harness if you need one.

Yes, I would be tempted to rewire !

 

Run it off of a gas can at first. 

 

Change the oil and give a go at seeing if it will fire (and either before or after you will probably need a carb kit or rebuld and a fuel pump kit or rebuild.

 

Once running then tackle cooling system.

 

The gasoline tank.

 

And, then tackle brakes,

 

And then whatever else is bad.

 

Do not take too much apart apart (one or two projects at a time).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, W_Higgins said:

 

Ugh, rats are the absolute worst.  Steam clean the engine bay and whatever else you can access that steam won't damage and then (with the car in your carport) put an O3 machine inside, close the door, drape plastic over the whole car with 2x4's on the ground around the perimeter, and let it run for a few days.  Once their scent gets in there they think they own the thing and they will keep coming back, not to mention that it will continue to come back to haunt you on every warm summer day no matter how well you think you have cleaned it by hand.  Be diligent about seeking out all the wiring they have damaged.  Most old car fires seem to have their root cause in an electrical short.  Be sure and keep the battery disconnected whenever it is unattended until you're certain that you've got everything debugged.  Good luck!   

A tough one as to smell - probably will need carpets replaced at minimum.

 

Keep in mind that people who get into rats and mice often end up in the hospital with serious problems and some even die from it. 

 

 

Edited by John_Mereness (see edit history)
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On 2/27/2020 at 9:28 AM, jan arnett (2) said:

Rregarding your brake system.  Brake fluid absorbs moisture (hydroscopic) which causes rust problems. 

 

Not to pick nits, but brake fluid is hygroscopic.

Everything else is you mention is spot on.

 

Can't wait to see this one on the road again!

 

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