Driving monster machines has been a way of life for Mario Cabrera. For 25 years he hauled freight between Denver and Grand Junction as an engineer for the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad. His ride? A 4300 horsepower diesel locomotive. So, naturally, when he retired in 2010 he started looking around for something else to drive, maybe not as big as a locomotive, but at least something that would command attention and respect.
He found what he was looking for on E-Bay; a 1949 Mercury Monarch owned by a customizer in Quebec City. The dude had chopped the roof 4″ all around, channeled the body, and lowered it to within millimeters of the ground. With its fiberglass fender skirts, its decorative hood scoops, and its black acrylic metal flake paint job, the car was a total bad boy by any standard and just exactly what Cabrera wanted.
Fortunately Mrs. Cabrera agreed to it, despite the $40,000 price tag. “I like to think of it as a retirement gift from my wife,” Cabrera said with a wink. “I flew my brother-in-law and nephew up there to get it for me. They put it on a You-Haul trailer and drove it back. It took them nine days.”
Introduced to the Canadian market by the Ford Motor Company in 1946, the Monarch incorporated design elements from both Ford and Mercury, and originally sold for between $1400 and $1800.
“That year, 1949, they only made 11,317 of them,” Cabrera said. “No telling how many are left.” And while forty large might sound like a substantial chunk of change, Cabrera is quick to point out that the car has doubled in value in the three years he’s owned it.
Cabrera’s Monarch turns heads wherever he goes.
“It’s a joy to drive it around,” he said. “People holler and get all excited. I’ve actually had girls try to climb in. And I’m constantly getting notes on it at swap meets from people who want to buy it. But I didn’t buy it to sell it. I bought it to drive it.”
Maybe so, but he also bought it to show it, and so far he’s managed to garner three first place trophies and one People’s Choice Award in car shows around the region. At least one of those trophies has an interesting story behind it. As it happened, Mr. and Mrs. Cabrera were cruising up Bridge Street in Brighton one afternoon when a cop fell in behind them.
“I turned right. He turned right,” Cabrera said. “Then he pulled up next to me at a stoplight. I rolled down my window and asked him how come he was following me. He said, ‘I just wanted to ask you about your car.’ Turns out he was a member of the Rattle Traps Car Club. He turned us onto a car show at Colorado and Louisiana. I entered and we took first place.”
One of Cabrera’s favorite Monarch pastimes is to drive the Golden Super Cruise on the first Saturday of the month, from May through October. The Super Cruise is a combination parade, rally, and mobile car show in which as many as 5000 low riders, hot rods, and muscle cars from all over the metro area creep along bumper-to-bumper in a giant loop around Northeast Golden.
“I’m a refugee from the 50s,” Cabrera said. “I’m proud to own this car. I get an attitude whenever I drive it.” In addition to pride of ownership, the car offers all sorts of unforeseen fringe benefits for a sixty-five year old retired custom car freak.
“I get invited to all kinds of car shows, so it gets me out of the house and around town,” he said. “I’m mechanically inclined and I like messing around with cars, so it gives me something to do with my time. Best of all though, my wife likes to ride around in it with me and the grandkids. We’ve been married thirty-nine years and we’re still on our honeymoon.”
For additional info:
Golden Super Cruise
Casuals Car Club
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