The Tinmama

Tinman II Kustom’s Tinmama

The build that would eventually become Luke Merrill’s Tinmama started as a project for his dad in 1990…two years before Luke was even born. At that time, his dad was building a nice 1941 Chevy pickup. That truck, however, wasn’t very conducive to having four young kids, so his mom wanted to build a hotrod to bring the family to car shows in. So, his dad bought the shell of a 1940 Chevy two door Sedan. Due to medical and financial difficulties, the car was parked in the family’s backyard garage on the backburner for many years.

Twenty-seven years after his dad bought that shell of a car, Luke recognized the need to step in and finally build it. After finishing in the Top 10 Young Guns and Top 40 Overall in the 2017 SEMA Battle of the Builders, Luke decided to commit to building his mom’s dream hot rod, which he named the Tinmama, full time. Even though the kids are all grown, this was still important to the Merrill family.

At the time the build began, Luke’s mom was sixty years old and his dad was sixty-seven. They were on set/low income and he didn’t see that changing anytime soon. While stopping all other business to work on this car full time, Luke couldn’t afford to flip the bill on the parts. So, he reached out to form sponsorship relationships. Many great companies stepped in and were willing to help out, which he is very thankful for.

After about 5,000 hours of labor on the car and countless hours in his backyard garage capturing YouTube build videos, Luke was ready to compete in the SEMA Battle of the Builders again in 2019, while also building his mom a car she dreamed of. Among over three hundred total entries and over fifty Young Gun entries, the Tinmama finished in the Top 12 overall and Top 3 Young Guns in the Battle of the Builders competition.


  • 1940 Chevy 2dr Sedan
  • All steel, every panel has been modified
  • Front clip widened 8”
  • Rear fenders widened 3” each
  • Front fenders re-peaked to tuck wheels
  • Front valance/nose and fenders stretched down to 3”
  • All wheel openings reshaped for flow
  • One-pieced front fenders and filler panels
  • Hood one-pieced, pancaked, shaved clean and body lines extended around nose
  • Steel body lines added to cowl for flow
  • Shaved headlights, blinkers, door handles, door hinges, truck hinges, trunk handle, cowl vent, windshield wipers, bumpers, all trim and trip rails
  • Relocated Hagan gas door
  • One-off rear roll pan
  • Frenched license plate
  • Tuliped drip rail, rear taillights and exhaust
  • Door corners rounded to flow better
  • Handmade running boards
  • Modified Chev’s of the 40’s billet grille
  • Reshaped and stretched hood-side panels
  • One-off inner fender panels
  • 1,000+ hours of metal work by Tinman
  • Oracle headlights relocated behind grille
  • Homemade taillights with Oracle bulbs

Chassis and Suspension

  • 2017 Mustang independent rear suspension graft (disc brake)
  • 1970 Nova front subframe graft (disc brake)
  • Air Lift Performance 3p air management
  • Air Lift Performance D2500 bags
  • QA1 shocks and extended length ball joints
  • ECI narrow track spindles and brakes
  • Energy Suspension bushings throughout


  • Custom mix pearl metallic base/clear they named “Sinful Seaweed” (Bench mixed using Summit Racing Paints)
  • Body/paint by Tinman & Midstate Auto Body
  • Wet-sand and ceramic coat by M&B Paint Correction
  • All other parts bodyworked and painted by Tinman with Summit paints


  • One off upholstery by Cambridge Upholstery with help from Tinman
  • Douglass Interior products custom leathers and textiles
  • Highly modified 1940 Chevy dash
  • Rockford Fosgate audio system and wiring
  • Big Al’s billet handles and armrests
  • Retro Manufacturing seatbelts
  • AutoMeter gauges – Model #2000
  • Custom CNC cut gauge panel


  • Built 355 Small Block Chevy (approx.. 425 hp)
  • Original 1940 Headlight air cleaner
  • FiTech fuel injection
  • Comp Camps valvetrain
  • Corvette Ramhorns chopped and smoothed
  • Numerous billet parts from Summit Racing
  • Homemade stainless exhaust tips
  • Flowmaster stainless “U-Build-It” exhaust
  • Pypes electronic exhaust cutouts
  • MSD ignition
  • TKO quick release clamps throughout


  • Built 700r4 (by Affordable Transmission)
  • Monster Pan & Lockup
  • THOR Convertor
  • B&M SuperCooler

Other Miscellaneous Components

  • Vintage Air A/C System
  • Custom cut glass from AutoCity Classic with Fairchild seals
  • Speedway Steering Column & Billet Interior Accessories
  • Modified JAZ products seat slides
  • GC cooling fan and aluminum 3 core radiator
  • Metro Moulded seals, rubbers and tracks throughout
  • Speedway 20 circuit wiring harness
  • Custom 17 gallon fuel cell in trunk
  • Rostra Universal cruise control kit
  • AVS stainless hardlines, bulkheads and fittings
  • AirSlamit modified bag plates and fittings
  • Nitrous Express dual bottle nitrous kit
  • POR-15 & Lizardskin used anywhere that wasn’t body color
  • VIAIR compressors
  • Yukon Gear & Axle slip yokes, additive and valve stem caps
  • Wilwood master cylinder and prop. valve setup (4 wheel disc)
  • One off steel wheels
  • One off forever sharp flame burnt steering wheel
  • Custom made California car cover
  • Powedercoated parts by Magnetikote

You can see more of the car via Tinman 2 Kustoms on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or on the SEMA Battle of the Builders TV episode airing on Discovery/MotorTrend in January.