Let’s say you’ve worked your way to the top of the racing world and taken home a victory at the illustrious Indy 500. Then after winning the race, your sponsors offer to buy you your dream car, no matter what that may be. What would you choose, a Lamborghini, Ferrari, or McLaren of some sort? While something exotic would be spectacular, there’s something special about a classic, especially one that’s been customized to your exact specifications. That might sound like a fantasy, but that’s exactly what happened to former Indy Car driver, Buddy Rice and this sinister 1949 Merc is the car he chose.

Photo: FeslerBuilt

Granted, the Merc wasn’t in the condition you see here when he was gifted the car after winning the Indy 500 back in 2004. At the time, it was close to an original car inside and out and even though a stock 1949 Mercury Coupe is still a fantastic looking car, Rice had something even better in mind. He decided to reach out to the talented crew at Fesler Built and have them give his beloved Merc a complete makeover and as you can see here, the end result is nothing short of spectacular.

Photo: hondaperformance

As soon as Buddy handed over the keys, the master fabricators and technicians at Fesler Built started working their magic. The first thing they did was strip the car inside and out so they had a blank canvas to work with. Once the teardown was complete, they ripped the motor out and sent it away to be rebuilt from top to bottom with stronger internals. Why do you ask? Well, it’s important to do that when adding a massive Weiand 871 supercharger on top of it.

Photo: FeslerBuilt

While the engine was away getting its makeover, it was time to switch focus to the overall look of the Merc. They wanted it to be as sleek, smooth and silky as possible so they shaved everything off that they possibly could such as door handles, side mirrors, side skirts, and drip rails just to name a few. They also hand fabricated a front and rear bumper that was smoothed out to create a smooth and flush look. For an added touch, they “Frenched” the headlights which added to the sleek and sexy throughout the rest of the car and then they finished it off with the grille from an old Buick.

Don’t go thinking this is just a work of art, even though it clearly is. There is some serious function to go along with that form, in case you forgot that giant blower attached to the stout Buick Nailhead engine. To handle all that power the guys at Fesler Built had to address the suspension system in order to improve the handling. What they ended up doing was replacing the stock front end with one from a Mustang II built by Scotts Hotrod and then added an airbag system from Air Ride Technologies on all four corners. This killed two birds with one stone, for lack of better words, because not only would the airbags make the road feel all plush and comfy, but could also firm up and give you the performance handling you’d want once the road got a bit twisty. Not to mention it would give it the ability to drop it down low, in the classiest way possible. To finalize the overall look of the exterior, Fesler installed a set of 20-inch wheels by their own design and even though they may look a bit “basic,” they fit the rest of the car perfectly.

Photo: FeslerBuilt

The interior of the “Lead Sled” was given the same attention to detail and customization. Everything was spruced up with modern technology but they did it the right way so that it doesn’t look like the inside of your everyday luxury car. All of the manual door locks and window controls were upgraded with power. Fesler had to custom build a new dash in order to achieve the look they were going for, plus they wanted to be able to house all the controls for the air ride and new stereo equipment that was added to the project. To make it as comfortable as possible while turning heads down the highway, they also added a Vintage air conditioning system as well as power steering unit which was run by a custom pulley system that was fabricated in-house.

No bolt was left untouched, every nook and cranny was given a once over and it should only take one glance at this masterpiece to see that. Needless to say, this old Mercury is absolutely worthy of being a “dream car,” no matter who’s dream that it is. However, for whatever reason the fact that its the dream car of a former Indy 500 winner makes it even more appealing.

Buddy Rice with team co-owner David Letterman after winning the Indy 500.
Photo: usatoday
Photo: FeslerBuilt
Photo: FeslerBuilt
Photo: FeslerBuilt
Photo: FeslerBuilt
Photo: FeslerBuilt
Photo: FeslerBuilt
Photo: FeslerBuilt
Photo: FeslerBuilt
Photo: FeslerBuilt
Photo: FeslerBuilt
Photo: FeslerBuilt
Photo: superflyautos