1951 Mercury Hirohata Custom

Mecum exceeds $200M in Kissimmee
Thursday, 6 January - Sunday, 16 January
Sale Price
15 January 2022
Sold Date
Lot Number
Customized restoration
Mecum Auctions
Auction House
Chassis no. 51SL35730M. Turquoise Green with dark green sweep panel over beige and dark green vinyl. 331 Cadillac V-8, 3-speed, Cadillac wheel covers, wide whitewalls, triple Stromberg 97s.

Evaluation: The word “icon” is over-used and no longer descriptive, except in this case. Built by the Barris brothers for Bob Hirohata and widely displayed and featured at the time. Appeared in the movie “Running Wild” with Mamie Van Doren in 1955. Bought by Jim McNiel in 1959 and driven for a few years when he was in high school, then put aside until 1996 when it was restored. Restored again in 2015 by some of the team who built and painted it in the Fifties and won its class at Pebble Beach the same year. Still owned by the McNiel family.

The dashboard still has its original pinstriping by Von Dutch. Excellent paint and interior. Bright chrome. The engine compartment isn’t as fresh as the cosmetics, but that is insignificant compared with its history and continuing influence on customizing.

Bottom Line: The Hirohata Merc probably inspired more lead sled Mercurys than any other car during the ascendancy of customizing. It was the subject of a long and ultimately successful campaign to re-establish its recognition since appearing at Pebble Beach seven years ago. The family were hoping for a 7-figure price and did they ever get it. The new owner got a singular automobile after enthusiastic bidding. It is an iconic car acquired in an iconic auction process.

by Rick Carey
23 January 2022
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Condition definitions
Condition #1: Concours
Condition #1 vehicles are the best in the world. The visual image is of the best vehicle, in the right colors, driving onto the lawn at the finest concours. Perfectly clean, the vehicle has been groomed down to the tire treads. Painted and chromed surfaces are mirror-like. Dust and dirt are banned, and materials used are correct and superbly fitted. The one word description for #1 vehicles is “concours.“
Condition #2: Excellent
#2 vehicles could win a local or regional show. They can be former #1 vehicles that have been driven or have aged. Seasoned observers will have to look closely for flaws, but will be able to find some not seen by the general public. The paint, chrome, glass and finishes will all appear as excellent. No excessive smoke will be seen on startup, no unusual noises will emanate from the engine. The vehicle will drive as a new vehicle of its era would. The one word description for #2 vehicles is “excellent.“
Condition #3: Good
#3 vehicles could possess some, but not all of the issues of a #4 vehicle, but they will be balanced by other factors such as a fresh paint job or a new, correct interior where applicable. #3 vehicles drive and run well, but might have some incorrect parts. These vehicles are not used for daily transportation but are ready for a long tour without excuses, and the casual passerby will not find any visual flaws. “Good” is the one word description of a #3 vehicle.
Condition #4: Fair
#4 vehicles are daily drivers, with flaws visible to the naked eye. The chrome might have pitting or scratches, the windshield might be chipped. Paintwork is imperfect, and perhaps the body has a minor dent. Split seams or a cracked dash, where applicable, might be present. No major parts are missing, but the wheels could differ from the originals, or other non- stock additions might be present. A #4 vehicle can also be a deteriorated restoration. “Fair” is the one word that describes a #4 vehicle.
Condition #5: Poor
Running, but battered, incomplete, and perhaps rusty.
Condition #6: Parts car
Parts car.
Hagerty only assigns condition ratings to vehicles we can inspect in person or, for online listings, via high-quality photography.