Ever since I was a little kid in the 1950s crazy about custom cars, I remember seeing the Hirohata Mercury Custom. It was one of those cars you could not forget. The car was owned by Bob Hirohata of Los Angeles. Its real fame came from its builders, Sam and George Barris. Although George is the more famous of the two brothers, it was Sam who many say had the real customizing talent. He is well known for his own build of a similar 1949 Mercury. When Hirohata saw what Sam had done to his own chopped Merc, Hirohata ran out and purchased a 1951 and took it to the Barris shop for them to do their thing to it.
This particular car was a daily driver, seen in all the major magazines and even appeared in the movie “Running Wild” with the sexy heart throb Mamie Van Doren.
By 1959, it sold for $500 to a 16-year-old Jim McNiel. It wasn’t until 1996 that it underwent an extensive and accurate restoration back to its original Barris custom condition. One of the original builders, Herschel Conway and Frank Sonzogni, again restored it in 2015. After its second restoration it went to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2015.
The modifications to the car were extensive and started a style of customization of “Lead Sled” Mercuries that continues to today.
After being displayed at the 2021 MCACN show in Chicago, the car is off to the Mecum Auction in Kissimmee, FL, for 2022, with an estimated sale price of $1,000,000 to $1,250,000. It sold for $2,145,000!