Custom show cars of historical significance rarely surface in the collector car market. But this week a rare and significant classic custom, known today as the Niemie Merc Convertible, was listed for sale on the Cars-On-Line.com website. (Find more info and contact information here.) Many may remember it from the 2004 Grand National Roadster Show. A well known hot rodder in the Long Beach area named Gary Niemie had the car built by custom building legend Bill “Leadslinger” Hines. Many of the top names in the custom car hobby had a part in building this 1949 Mercury Convertible.
Hine’s vision for the Niemie Merc Convertible included a chopped top, shaved door handles and a lowered ride height. The result is one of the most beautiful and sophisticated lead sleds ever built. Hines chopped and channeled the car and bulit it from the ground up. The 12-stage paint was done by Cypress Rod & Custom. For its day, the unique digital dash was innovative, and the two-tone leather interior was done by Gabe at House of Trim. Custom pinstriping was done by Dave Whittle and Larry Watson. They say the Carson top was installed by Dick Dean, and includes interior mood lighting.
The look of the Niemie Merc Convertible is traditional lead sled, but the styling lines are remarkable and it uses modern technology and custom features. The build is one of impressive quality. It was shaved with door poppers, frenched, given ’53 Desoto grille and bumpers and Kaiser tail lights. The dash featured Dakota Digital technology, is cooled by Vintage Air and has an air lift suspension.
Shortly after the car was completed it was entered in the 2004 Grand National Roadster Show at Pomona. As the story goes, the rules at the GNRS is that all cars in the competition should be displayed with the hoods up. Niemie thought the lines of his car could best be appreciated with the hood down, so he had it displayed that way. The GNRS committee told Niemie later that he would have taken first place if he had gone along with the rules, but because he did not allow the hood to be raised for the judging, he got second place instead.
Niemie did not keep the car long. His friend Boyd Coddington sold it for him soon after the GNRS. It changed hands a few times and ended up in a museum in Georgia. So it was treated as a trailer queen for most of its life. Most recently it was featured in a 2020 edition of Car Kulture Magazine.
The Niemie Merc is a piece of automotive history because of the many legendary custom builders who had a part in building it. Their names are a Who’s Who of the Custom Builders Hall of Fame.
Nieme, himself, from the Los Angeles area, was an original member of the well known 1950’s car club the “Renegades” out of Long Beach, California. He had owned many show quality custom cars and was very close friends with many of the now greats, including Watson, Hines, Coddington, Winfield, Dean, and many more.
Hines was an independent spirit who built custom show cars that won the Detroit Autorama in his early years. The Alexander Brothers cut their teeth on custom cars by working in his shop. He later moved to California, first working for George Barris, and later set up shop to compete with him. Dick Dean is said to have watched Hines chop cars when he was a teenager learning how to use lead fillers. Hines is known as the Leadslinger, Wild Bill and The Godfather of Hydraulics. He made his reputation among custom builders by innovating in the lowrider culture. (Find an interesting history of Bill Hines on the Kustomrama website.)