Minnesota man’s rare classic car expected to fetch $1M at auction – The Bemidji Pioneer

DULUTH — Tom Maruska certainly doesn’t shy away from a challenge when it comes to restoring classic vehicles.

But the latest project he has completed, an one-of-a-kind 1956 Mercury XM-Turnpike Cruiser, stands in a league of its own.

The vehicle was badly rusted out and completely disassembled, aside from still having its wheels attached, when Maruska bought it in 2018 from a fellow car buff in Ojai, California.

Nevertheless, he recognized the former show car’s potential, enough so that he shelled out $100, 000 for the particular distressed automobile and the multiple bins of uncatalogued parts that had been removed from this. Before buying it, this individual sorted through a sufficient number associated with the jumbled components in order to surmise that the majority of the original and most critical pieces were still there.

1956 Mercury XM-Turnpike Cruiser
Tom Maruska paid $100, 000 to purchase this one-of-a-kind, rusted-out 1956 Mercury XM-Turnpike Cruiser from its owner in Ojai, Calif.

Contributed / Tom Maruska

Much of the damage to the vehicle occurred while it was left parked outside on a Detroit lot, where it was vandalized and then left exposed to the particular elements for years, well before a fellow classic vehicle aficionado snatched it up, intending to restore it himself. But he or she never got around to it and knowing of Maruska’s interest within the vehicle, agreed to sell it to him.


Maruska arranged to have the car hauled back in order to his Mn home and then began the daunting task of making the body sound and fitting a complicated mechanical puzzle back together again.

1956 Mercury XM-Turnpike Cruiser in Lakewood Township shop
Mary Maruska delivered this Mercury XM-Turnpike Easy riding bike to his shop in Lakewood Township to begin restoring it.

Contributed / Ben Maruska

It didn’t help that there were few references to consult. The particular one-off concept car had been custom-designed plus assembled to go on the car show circuit and to assess the public’s interest inside it prior to inspiring a good actual, much-dressed-down production model with quite similar lines in 1957.

But this particular wasn’t Maruska’s first rodeo.

He had restored a 1954 XM-800. (XM means “Experimental Mercury. ) That car, too, never made it in order to production and indeed didn’t even have a working engine when it was first rolled out for display to gauge public response in order to the design. It was powered only years later. After falling into Maruska’s talented hands, the restored, working vehicle sold at auction in 2010 for $429, 000.

As for the XM-Turnpike Cruiser Maruska plans to bring to public sale in January, he said it “should go for north of $1 million. At least I hope it does. ”

Several prominent classic vehicle auctions in the Phoenix area draw car collectors from all over the world at the particular start of the year. Maruska hasn’t yet decided which auction to attend, but stated he offers received multiple inquiries expressing interest in their XM.

Car sitting in a driveway.
The 1956 Mercury XM-Turnpike Cruiser featured tailfins, chrome exhaust pipes coming through the quarter panel, and brake lights at the back of it roof as well as on the particular tailfins.

Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Maruska noted that the market for restored classic cars has heated up in recent many years, fueled inside part by ultra-wealthy buyers willing to pay top dollar for something unique.

For that will very reason, Maruska has shunned opportunities to show the automobile, knowing that the “concours virgin” will be more valuable to many enthusiasts looking to turn heads plus make an impression.


Maruska provides now brought 22 tired old vehicles back in order to their former glory, including a dozen Thunderbirds, and that count continues to grow, as does his reputation. At 73 yrs old, he said he has no programs to quit his painstaking restoration efforts, although this individual does admit to being a bit slower to return to vertical when he or she rolls their creeper out from beneath an undercarriage these days.

A white sidewall tire.
A white sidewall tire on Tom Maruska’s 1956 Mercury.

Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Maruska mentioned he nevertheless takes pleasure in the work and considers it a hobby, albeit a serious plus expensive one, that also keeps your pet active.

“Otherwise, I’d be sitting within the house watching TV, eating potato chips and getting fat, ” he said.

Over the past 3½ years, Marsuska, who formerly owned and ran a floor covering business, figures this individual has sunk at least 6, 500 hours associated with work in to restoring his latest XM.

Probably the single largest challenge has involved repairing plus replicating rusted pieces of the particular car. In all, 13 sheets of 4-by-8-foot, 18-gauge steel sheet went into the restoration.

Rusted undercarriage of 1956 Mercury XM-Turnpike Cruiser
The undercarriage from the 1956 Mercury XM-Turnpike was rusted away after years of exposure to the elements.

Added / Jeff Maruska

Although some literature suggested the automobile had a 1955 Mercury convertible chassis, Maruska discovered it had been actually built atop an 1954 F-250 framework. The hand-built car was so beefy that it sported 11 leafs in its rear-spring suspension, instead of the three-leaf spring found in typical vehicles of the time.

The folks at Mercury definitely didn’t skimp on chromium either when they designed the particular Turnpike Easy riding bike. Maruska said he has been lucky to have acquired all the original detail parts with the vehicle but needed in order to get them rechromed.

Fortunately, they were produced of brass and not steel, which usually would have corroded using the car’s entire body. He hauled 220-some pieces to AIH Chrome in Dubuque, Iowa, for plating at the total cost of about $80, 000.


The vehicle features a good unique pair of butterfly windows — Plexiglas panels in the car’s roofing that automatically tilt up when triggered by an open door to provide for an easy entrance or exit.

Car interior.
The interior associated with Tom Maruska’s 1956 Mercury.

Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Although the original windshield had been long gone, the particular previous owner knew people in the auto industry who created a clay model of the swept-back piece of glass, which was then used to produce a plaster mold that Maruska inherited when he or she bought the car. With the particular help associated with that mold, Maruska has been able to get a new windshield custom-produced.

The side glass was flat, and he was able to have it cut in Zenith Auto Glass inside Duluth.

The other curved windows in the car were made out of Plexiglas, although they were terribly discolored after decades of exposure in order to the sun and rain. Maruska said that with regard to years he had relied on a single shop to provide custom Plexiglas, but the particular proprietor experienced died.

A car sitting in a driveway.
Tom Maruska’s 1956 Mercury XM-Turnpike Cruiser is an one -of-its-kind concept vehicle, built to gauge consumer interest at car shows.

Steve Kuchera or Duluth News Tribune

Left to their own devices, Maruska decided to tackle the job himself. He made plaster molds of the old home windows and after that used those to shape new duplicates.

“I obtained two free electric ranges off of Craigslist and I took them apart and put them together to make 1 oven big enough to put these butterfly roof sections in, ” he stated pointing in order to the finished result.

Maruska acknowledged there was a learning curve included and mentioned he went through quite a bit associated with Plexiglas just before he dialed in the exact temperature and technique needed to accurately replicate the initial windows.

The car has the original 292-cubic-inch engine, but it was rebuilt from Midwest Engine in Duluth. And Maruska redid the transmission themselves.

Man opening a car hood.
Dan Maruska opens the hood of his 1956 Mercury on Sept. 29 to show its 292-cubic-inch engine.

Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

He did alter the particular engine compartment the bit, however. All the components yet the motor itself have been painted to match the body originally.

“Everything was orange in there, plus I just couldn’t do that, ” Maruska said.

A few pieces had been missing from the original vehicle, including a good air cleaner and an intake, as well because a pair of carburetors and valve covers. Maruska subbed out there Thunderbird control device covers but ground the particular bird emblems out, replacing them with all those of a 1957 Turnpike Cruiser to come back the automobile to its original appearance. Other items he fabricated and replaced as required to return the engine bay to the original look, minus the orange paint.

Maruska’s already moving on in order to new projects, including the 1965 Corvette and a 1964 Amphicar, their fourth repair from the German-built amphibious vehicle.

Man next to a car in a garage.
Tom Maruska looks at a future restoration task, a 1964 Amphicar, a good amphibious car manufactured in West Germany, on September. 29.

Sam Kuchera and Duluth Information Tribune

One of Maruska’s fastidiously refurbished Amphicars sold for more than $124, 500 in 2006, setting a record auction price that will stood unparalleled for more than 15 years until April of this year, when someone else sold one of the quirky automobiles for $161, 700.

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