HomePick of the DayPick of the Day: ‘Heart Like a Wheel’ movie Mercury

Pick of the Day: ‘Heart Like a Wheel’ movie Mercury

Customized ’51 lead sled was in ’83 Shirley Muldowney biopic


Motorsports movies don’t often receive critical acclaim, but Heart Like a Wheel, the 1983 biopic of drag racer Shirley Muldowney gained an Oscar nomination for costume design and a Golden Globe nomination for Bonnie Bedelia. 

Others playing key roles in the movie included Beau Bridges, Anthony Edwards, Hoyt Axton, Sam Posey (playing himself), and a customized 1951 Mercury.

That customized 1951 Mercury is the Pick of the Day and is being advertised on ClassicCars.com by its private seller in Poulsbo, Washington, located on the Kitsup Peninsula west of Seattle.

“This is the original Heart Like a Wheel custom Mercury from the 1983 Shirley Muldowney movie,” the seller reports. “Two were built for the movie, one for the exterior shots of it racing and driving around and one for the cameras to be mounted to for interior shots. My car is the one used for the exterior shots. 

Muldowney, Pick of the Day: ‘Heart Like a Wheel’ movie Mercury, ClassicCars.com Journal
Muldowney, Pick of the Day: ‘Heart Like a Wheel’ movie Mercury, ClassicCars.com Journal

“Originally built in a couple of weeks for use in the movie, it was redone completely in 1993 by a private party to build it into a proper quality custom and was documented with progress pics the whole way. This car had been in a private collection and had not been shown for years.”

The car, still in its movie makeup, can be seen on the cover of the March 1985 edition of Street Rodding Illustrated magazine.

“It’s an older build that has held up well over the last almost 30 years, but is not perfect… that’s partly what makes it so fun,” the seller points out. “It was painted with House of Kolors Candy Apple Red and then at some point during it s life was tastefully pinstriped including flames, dash, trunk. The paint shows well but there are some chips / scratches / bubbles from traveling around to shows over the last 30 years.

“It has a balanced and blueprinted 406 stroker Chevy small block and Turbo 350, 10 bolt rear end and lots of custom fabricated aluminum / billet parts in the engine bay.

“Body mods include — 4.5″ chop, 1950 rear window, nosed and peaked hood, decked trunk, shaved doors with poppers under the frenched side pipes, bubble skirts, shaved rain gutters, chopped wing windows, tinted windows, chopped windshield wipers, rounded hood and door edges, filled body seams, shaved trim, frenched power antenna, 1955 Desoto grille, hood side scoops, 1957 Ford frenched headlights, dummy Kustom Kraft Appletons, smoothed stock bumpers, and the most noticeable item left from the original movie car, the 1960 Oldsmobile 98 vertically mounted taillights…etc…

“Chassis is basically stock, except this car has a basic early Air Ride Technologies air bag system that is slow but works, it has Mustang disc brakes up front and drums in the rear and stops amazingly.

“Coker 14″ wide white tires, with candy matched rims and customized 1953 Desoto hubcaps.”

Muldowney, Pick of the Day: ‘Heart Like a Wheel’ movie Mercury, ClassicCars.com Journal

The interior also is customized in white tuck-n-roll with red piping on its low-back bucket seats, with a full pleated console and headliner. The rear seat back is believed to have been sourced from a vintage Thunderbird.

“Tilt telescopic column from a Cadillac, vintage Air AC, Lecarra white leather steering wheel, Lokar shifter, teardrop dash knobs, red carpet, trunk is fully upholstered to match and hide the battery / air bag tank and compressor / and gas filler tube,” the seller adds. “All of the doors and trunk are electric solenoid operated.”

The seller concludes: “The car is what it is…it’s a bad-ass looking custom with movie history that runs and drives great, and is priced to sell.”

That price is $53,000. To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. I love it I want it bad I’m a 45 year old green looking woman that might help me get a hard working man!!!! Please call me I’m serious about your car for sale !lucy garcia @ 714-448-0507


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