Distilled experience: an examination of the careful teamwork necessary for any custom car build

By Mike Davey – June 4, 2016

It’s rare to find any custom car that isn’t a team effort. The sheer amount of work involved, combined with the diverse skills needed, means there are few people who can do it on their own. Even when they can, the issue of time crops up. How long do you want your custom build to take?

John St. Germain of Time Bomb Customs in Goodwood, Ontario, takes the team concept one step further. He picks the right shop for the task at hand, and then another specialist for whatever the next step might be. His customs are his design and his concept, and he does some of the work himself, but he relies on a floating team of experts to do what’s necessary.

His latest project is the Tri-Five Merc. It may have been more of a team effort than usual. John St. Germain and Dave Mainland did the metal work. Rick Fabian did the bodywork, and here we should pause for a moment to mention that this stage took about two years to complete. That’s two years of designing, cutting and welding. Just listing the many subtle and overt body modifications that went into the Tri-Five Merc would probably take up most of the magazine. The suspension work went to John Edwards of Dream Machines. Len Hurley, known locally as Mr. Hot Rod, did the engine. Last, but certainly not least, John Connery of Connery’s Custom Paint did the finish work, giving the vehicle its colour scheme.

“I used the new Shimrin 2 low-VOC paint from House of Kolor,” says Connery. “The paint job is called ‘Champagne and Beer.’ It’s Champagne Pearl with Sterling Pearl fades and highlights and Kandy Rootbeer roof and scallops.” Tri-Five usually refers to the 1955, 1956 and 1957 Chevrolet automobiles, in particular, the Bel Air, 150, 210 and Nomad. They’re incredible cars and remain some of the most popular vehicles for collectors and hot-rod enthusiasts.

You may have noticed this Tri-Five isn’t a Chevy, and we don’t just mean that it’s been customized. The car is definitely its own beast, but it traces more of its ancestry to the mid-50s Mercurys produced by Ford than to anything ever built by Chevrolet. The car’s name is a hat tip to the often customized and hot-rodded Tri-Fives.

St. Germain obviously wanted a distinctive custom with the styling of the mid-1950s. This begs the question, why not just customize a Tri-Five Chevy? “I like to look at what everyone else is doing, then not do it,” says St. Germain. “I acquired a lot of parts to build this I’m proud of the work everyone put in and happy with the end result.”

Results like this are hard to argue with. The Tri-Five Merc features body parts and trim from ’54, ’55, and ’56 Mercurys. The engine is a Ford Y-block 312 featuring speed parts from that era (as opposed to modern substitutions). The dash is from a ’56 Oldsmobile.

“Finding the right parts for this car took a lot of work,” says St. Germain. “I didn’t just phone up a supplier and order stock. It had to be authentic parts from the right car. A guy up the road from me collects convertible Lincolns. He turned out to be a great source for parts.” The Tri-Five Merc marries a lot of different parts to make its impact, and it succeeds beyond measure. Every part was chosen for its appearance and performance. Just a few of the modifications involved grafting ’54 flares to the front fenders from a ’55. Of the ’56 Mercury taillights, there’s no sign.

As St. Germain notes, they didn’t have reverse lights. Other changes and substitutions were made to suit St. Germain’s vision. “We used the ’56 Oldsmobile dash because ’56 Mercury dashes are frankly depressing,” he says. “I wanted to do something that was completely different.” There’s no question that the Tri-Five Merc is different. There isn’t a square angle on this vehicle. Even the angles on the doors have been rounded.  The front bumper was shaved and the stock grill replaced and modifications made to the cavity. “The whole inside of the cavity is black instead of old. When you look right at the grill, it looks like it’s floating in there,” says St. Germain.

The control arms for the suspension are custom built by John Edwards ofDream Machines, with ten-inch bags in the front and six-inch bags in the back. The Tri-Five Merc can rise up for driving or hug the ground. It all comes together as one amazing vehicle, and the custom world has already taken notice. The Tri-Five Merc made its debut at the Syracuse Nationals and was a top 10 pick, in addition to being chosen as Street Rodder Magazine’s Best in Show. It will probably have picked up more accolades by the time you read this. St. Germain started building when he was 18 years old. His first car was a Model-T coupe, with custom paint, additional gear and a big block negine. Not only is still around, it’s actually St. Germain’s daily driver, the car he takes out most often.

Some of his other notable cars are “Time Bomb,” a menacing looking ’36 Ford roadster painted in midnight black, and “Shoeze,” a coral and black ’50 Ford coupe that was featured in Custom Rodder magazine.

It’s clear that St. Germain is a man with a passion for custom automobiles, and he’s willing to put in the work and find the experts to achieve that perfect balance that is the hallmark of the well-executed build. He sums up his custom philosophy in just a few simple words. “Custom is about getting rid of the ugly,” he says. Definitely words to live – and build by.

Related Posts

Pinstripe Style

By Mike Davey 2015-06-05 Pinstriping takes talent, patience, and an artistic flair. For Danno Drouin, the road to becoming a

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *