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It's A Small World – A '49 Mercury's Journey From California To Sweden

A dialog, story and photos by Mike H., Claude H., Ron C., Diane . and our new car-guy friend from Sweden, Mårten Gyllensvaan. With memories of Norm Dodsen and his 1949 Mercury.

In case you may not know, Mike H. maintains the club's Facebook page. Our Club's Facebook page is followed by over 1200 people and recently was messaged by a fellow enthusiast from Sweden, Mårten Gyllensvaan. The following is the exchange and what transpired. The consensus is that the '49 Mercury is the same one that was owned by Norm Dodson, a Roamin Angel who passed away about 2 years ago. It is a small world and the love of classic cars is worldwide. Here is the Facebook Messenger exchange.

Hello! Just wanted to let you know about a car that I purchased a couple of years ago that I found in Finland! It’s a 49 Merc that was Built by a guy named Norm I found an article on your site with info on the car.

If I could get ahold of Norm I can give more info about the car. Anyway just wanted to let you know that the car has come to a good home and we really take care of it!
Best regards from Sweden!

An eblast went out to the Club for more info and several club members responded that it had to be Norm Dodson's Merc. Norm had passed away a few years ago. Mike also heard from many people and then responded back to Mårten:

Mårten.... We have an interesting story to share with you about Norm, the car and the build. [As Diane stated], Norm passed away a few years ago. Even that story deserves to be shared. That would be shared by Norm's best friend Claude...who is a story unto himself. You've bought many stories aside from the car. We'll get you that info as soon as we can. Claude is out of the Country for a few more days. In the meantime, I invite you to our 20th Car Show we stage at the Nevada County Fairgrounds here in California. See the Roamin Angels WEB site and look at "Cruisin the Pines" for details. – Mike

Wow, how interesting and kind of you! Thanks for the invite! You and others are more than welcome to send info to my email: [email not posted]

The story from my side is that I found the car in an ad on internet, It was located in Finland with a Finnish title and it was a friend of the owner who posted the ad and there was no good photos of the car.
I was interested but thought it was a little ”fishy” so it took some time before I called.

When I did I got in contact with the owner he turned out to be a real nice guy. In fact he was close to a perfectionist who was responsible for the safety and environment on all the schools in his area, in other words a good guy to buy a car from.

So without seeing the car in real life, me and my wife booked a train ticket to Stockholm, Ferry to Finland with a car on the ticket for the return trip and packed our bags. The ferry arrived in the morning and Mika, the owner, picked us up in the harbor and we drove to his home town. Me and my wife both really liked the car so after an inspection and a short test drive it was a done deal! We drove the car all the way back home with no problems at all! The car gets a lot of attention and we use it a lot. You can really tell that Norm put effort and love in to the restoration. My plan is to keep the car pretty much as it is, it’s in very good condition. I have lowered it a bit in the back and put in a new stereo and hidden sound system in it. I also had a friend goldleaf and pinstripe a small ”art deco” piece on the trunk.
I’m thankful for all info and fun stories of the car and people around it!
Best regards!
Mårten Gyllensvaan

Response from Claude H.: Mike - Not long after Norm moved from Long Beach to Penn Valley in 2007, Norm and I drove to the San Fernando Valley to arrange transportation of his Mercury to Penn Valley. He had earlier been looking for a 1949 Mercury, as that was his wife, Leslie’s, favorite year, the year she was born. Norm told me that a friend of his had located it in someones back yard, in excellent, original condition. The car had been in a shop, where Norm had been working on it for several years. By this time, Norm had pretty much totally restored it, frame-off, with a Chevy crate 350 engine, 700R4 transmission, modified front end, new original color paint, new interior, etc. The car was driven onto the shipping truck and delivered the following day to Lake Wildwood. Fresh off the truck, Norm ran out of gas on a test drive around Lake Wildwood. I got a call and found him just a few blocks from his house, where I brought him a can of gas to get him home.

Some time later, Norm and I planned a week long cruise up the Oregon coast to a Car Show in Puyallup Washington. He drove the Mercury, joined by 10 other Roamin Angel Club members. Eventually, having grown up surfing in the Los Angeles area in the 1960s, Norm longed for a “woodie,” as he always favored more traditional “surf wheels.” He sold the Mercury and bought an original condition 1951 Ford Woodie. Norm was in the middle of modifying the woodie. A Ford 302 engine and transmission were on his garage floor. Due to his physical weakness from agent orange related cancer from his 1966/1967 tour as an Army medic in Vietnam, his fellow Club members helped complete the modification, trailering it to Palm Springs, where he drove it, just two weeks before he passed away on the 26th of October 2015.

Here’s the story about Norm's Mercury that Ron Cherry wrote in The Union in 2010.

A guy loves buying nice things for the woman he loves. When Norm D. bought his ‘49 Merc, he really did plan on giving it to his wife Leslie and told her so. Norm has long been a “car guy” and owned a ‘56 Nomad. Leslie had a special fondness for “fat-fendered” (1941-1948) or “shoebox” (1949-1951) Fords, so when a friend told him of a good one for sale, Norm jumped at it. Well, maybe not a fat-fendered Ford, but a fat-fendered Mercury and that was close enough. It was a totally original and basically rust-free car, even having the flathead V-8 engine. Unfortunately, it had a cracked block and would not run. Still, the friend knew Norm was looking for a car like this and called him. Norm bought it, sight unseen. So Norm st about to fix it up for Leslie. Then began the monetary hemorrhage. Since the engine was not running and the Merc would need more power to go over the Grapevine in SoCal where they lived, Norm dropped in a new 350 CID Chevy with a 700R overdrive auto trans. Obviously, it would need a new rear end to handle the power, so he chose a nine-inch Currie. For handling he changed to a Fatman front end, completely rebuilding the undercarriage and powdercoating the frame at the same timel. He wanted to keep it looking as stock as possible, so he repainted it in the original Alberta Blue, albeit with higher quality paint. He converted the electrics and stock gauges to 12 volt and added power steering and brakes as well as air conditioning. He even found a new, original clock at a swap meet. Unfortunately, the seller knew what it was worth and that Norm wanted it, so more cash went into the “money pit,” as Norm has come to call it. For the upholstery, Norm found some original 1949 interior fabric. Sadly, when it arrived it was rotted. So Norm opted for a leather and fabric interior. When they moved up to NorCal, it sat in storage for three years. During that time, nothing was done except some electrical work by Billy Bob Electric (Roamin Angels Bill Brothen and Bob Duncan) and some body alignment. Then Norm pulled it out of storage and set to work to finish it. Now it is so close to being done that Norm can truly see the light at the end of the tunnel. He took it to a birthday party for Roamin Angel Joe Saso on April 18th and to the Grass Valley Car Show. The only problem is that it has cost so much that Norm feels he must sell it and recoup a little of his investment. Although Leslie has never even driven “her” car, Norm has repossessed it. But for those of you who remember old TV ads, maybe he should just give her Arpège.

Keeping a car looking stock while giving it the dependability, comfort and power of a new car is called making it a “Resto-Rod.” That’s what this Merc is. Norm had custom-embossed valve covers made and painted them and a vintage Cadillac air cleaner painted Alberta Blue. The Chevy engine is painted Ford blue. Leaving the dash stock, Norm added a console to house A/C controls and a modern sound system. He plans to cut and original radio in half to fit int the dash. For looks only, of course. ©2010 Ron Cherry, The Union

Here is the final exchange as of 2/21/19.
Norm was a combat Medic in Vietnam. He died due to agent orange exposure. The last car he had was a Woody. Many friends in the Club finished it for him, drove it the 500 miles to his residence so he could enjoy it. He passed shortly after seeing the Woody... his last car. Claude was his very good friend who helped with that last project. Claude retired from the Coast Guard. If you've ever seen the Movie "The Perfect Storm" you've seen the story about Claude and his heroics flying rescue helicopter. Like I said ....stories abound. Mårten, take good care of that car........ – Mike

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