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08/07/2010 1847

Mercury [6] - D528 Beldone

Experimental Y-block V8, two-bbl carburetor, two-speed automatic transmission with overdrive, separate frame, coil sprung suspension and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 120" One of the least known of Ford’s concept vehicles built in the mid 1950s is the “Beldone,” or D-528. The name D-528 stemmed from the fact it was the 528th "design" project. It was unique in the fact it was less concept and more research inspired.

The D-528 was conceived to test advance concepts in air conditioning, seating, ingress and egress, lighting, front frame crash absorption, as well as being Ford’s first car without "A" pillars and initially designed as Ford’s first car with four headlights.

The exterior styling of the D-528 was designed by Gil Spear, while the interior was crafted by John Samsen. Spears believed sound engineering was a necessary component of the cars he designed and this was reflected in the D-528.

Air conditioning was seen as becoming a popular option in the future, but because the AC evaporators were so large they had to be located in the trunk. Thus, to provide adequate luggage room the spare tire was positioned in one rear fender and the gas tank in the other.

The roof of the D-528 was shaped like a "T," and hollow to act as a conduit for cold air from the air conditioning evaporator. Cold air would flow-up through the hollow "C" pillars, into the roof section, and exit through perforation panels in the headliner.

For ease of entry or exit, each panel was individually raised or lowered by an electrical motor when a door opened or closed. The hooded, reverse backlight, later a Mercury styling cue, was first seen on the D-528 and was manually operated.

The D-528 and a companion car, the D-526, were also the first full-sized, fully operational cars built by Ford personnel with fiberglass bodies. Both the D-528 and the D-526 were started, but not finished, at the Design Department due to corporate restructuring. Engineering was given its own design studio under Gil Spear’s direction and it was here the D-528 was further developed. The D-528 was finished, but was revised several times, remaining a work in progress when this design studio was disbanded in 1958. Subsequent revisions were then made, some of which included the roof structure. The A-pillars and an interior framework to hold the roof up were also installed. The D-528 was moved from place to place, often being used to test some new engineering concept.

In the early sixties the D-528 was sent to Hollywood for use in the movie industry. Who better to do the work than the iconic George Barris? Barris removed the name "D-528" from the front fenders and replaced it with "Beldone" – a name selected by its new owners,Paramount Pictures. The Beldone was used in the 1964 Jerry Lewis movie, The Patsy, and later in several other movies and television shows while still in the possession of Paramount Pictures.

After a number of changes in ownership the Beldone was sold to a group of Canadian investors and the Guild of Automotive Restorers who painstakingly restored it in the late 1990s. The restoration was executed to concours standards and special attention was paid to ensure that all its original factory developed quirks were retained. Now presented in gleaming gold paintwork and finished with a fresh white interior, the D-528 is an eyecatcher that is truly unique in every respect. It is a welcome entrant and display car at events throughout the country as there is truly nothing like it, attesting to this, the Mercury was shown at the Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance in 1997.

Powered by its unique version of a Y-block V8, then still at the experimental stages, the D-528/Beldome represents excellent value given its long history, provenance and rarity, especially when compared to recent sales of “concept” cars at auction.





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