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Old 08-28-2005, 05:41 AM   #1
Rikster
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Default MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

Well this car really does not need much of an introductions since Everybody has seen this one in person, in new magazines of books. But since this post is about “Milestone Customs” And the Hirohata Merc is a “Milestone Custom” I feel it should get a post on here.


In 1952 Bob Hirohata brought his ’51 Mercury to the Barris brothers to have them turn it into a full custom. One of the few modifications Bob and George discussed to do to for this custom was to turn it into a hard top and use similar side window trim as Barris had designed and built on the Nick Matranga ’40 Mercury several years before.
George made a few sketches with some wild idears and after sitting in the shop for a while the ’52 Motorama show was coming up the Barris brothers decided it was time to start creating the - as we now know it -“Hirohata Merc”


Below from the '53 Motor Trend magazine a sketch George made for the front end design.




The top was chopped 4 inches in the front and 7 in the rear. The B-pillars where removed and top of the doors cut of and welded to the top. Drip rails where removed in the process. In the back the rear window was laid foreward considerably and a large new section of the top had to be scratch built to to make it all flow nicely.




At the front a new cut was made just above the beltline on the A-pillar for a new door shape. The caracter ’51 Mercury dip on the side was filled and the surrounding sheet metal was reshaped to flow with the to be added ’52 Buick side trim. The rear portion of this was brought outward a bit and a new functional scoop was created around a inch rod bended to shape. On each side three ’52 Chevy grille teeth where added to the scoop opening. The top of the line sits now higher at the top of the scoop which now optically flows nice into the front fenders. New fenderskirts where made to fit flush into the stock Mercury wheel openings. Round rod was used to add the lip on the bottom. Same round rod was used to create the lip on the front fenders. At the front the fenders where extended several inches and headlights where frenched using 52 Ford rings. The whole grille surround was hand formed out of sheet metal and a new large lip was added to the front of the hood, which was also extended at the bottom. The gravel pan was molded in and reshaped to match the top. A new grille was created using three ’51 Ford grilles. Two where used for the fender units which also house the parking lights behind frosted plastic lenses. And the other was used to create the grille itself. The original 51 Bullets where removed and the side pieces where moved inwards. The ribbed piece behind the chrome bar was painted dark green similar as below the Buick spear. At the rear the fenders where modified to accept ’52 Lincoln taillights. All brand new items when this car was built.




Accoring to the ’53 Hop Up article on the car the body was pained in ice green and transparent organic green below the Buick spear. (in one of the barris books the light color was called “Seafoam green” On the inside these two colors where also used along with green mist and chrome accents. Bob Hirohata hand made all the two tone laminated plex dash knobs and spotlight handles. These dash knobs would gain popularity soon thereafter and put into production by Cal Customs to be used on many customs, and are still available today. Caddy Sombrero’s and twin Appleton Spotlights where “standard” Kustom equipment in those days and on this custom its clear why… perfect.



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Last edited by Rikster; 04-21-2011 at 12:55 PM.
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Old 08-28-2005, 05:48 AM   #2
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

The interior had to be done in a rush to meet Autorama show deadline and was done partly by Gaylord who did the trunk and diamond patterned sections and the Carson Top Shop who did the rest of it in shades of green and white.







Most of the work on Bob Hirohata’s ’51 Mercury custom was performed by Sam and George Barris and Frank Sonzogni. At one point after the first photo’s where taken the front bumper guards where sectioned two inches to clear the beautiful grille (created by Frank Sonzogni). After a few years the car was repainted in a lime gold and dark green below the trim. Over the years the hubcaps also changed back and forth from Caddy Sombrero’s to ’53 Caddy units (and the last with and without fake Barris crests added knock offs). Jim Mc Niel has been the owner of the Hirohata Mercury since ’59-’60 and perfectly restored it a few years ago.


Bob Hirohata behind the wheel in his '51 Mercury




Second paint job but with the Sombrero hubcaps. Perfect angle photo!

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Last edited by Rikster; 04-21-2011 at 12:57 PM.
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Old 08-28-2005, 05:52 AM   #3
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

Rikster/great post.....but I have a dark ?
Was the murder of Bob Hirohata ever solved?
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Old 08-28-2005, 05:55 AM   #4
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

The trunk was upholstered by Gaylord.





Again the trunk but this time with... very ugly antenas... what where they thinking...





The flow on this custom is just about perfect. The only small drawback from this angle is the vertical lines on the rear fenders where the Lincoln taillights sit in.






Bob Hirogata alongside his ride. Look at the bumperguars which where still stock hight at this point.

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Old 08-28-2005, 06:02 AM   #5
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

I wish I had a better quality scan of this photo... George Barris in front of the Hirohata Merc with trophy... great smile on both...




Some detail photo's... the front








The back

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Old 08-28-2005, 06:09 AM   #6
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury






And the side...






What a sensation it must have been to see the Hirohata Merc on the road in the early 50's...




At shows the Merc gathers a lot of trophy's. Also not the '53 Caddy Hubcaps on the car while it was stil in its first colors.

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Old 08-28-2005, 06:19 AM   #7
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

George Barris and Mamie Van Doren in front of the car at the Running Wild movie set in which the Hirohata Merc and the Barris Built Fred Rowe Merc where featured





Same color sceme but with '53 Caddy hubcaps




And another award...




and dragging a boat?!?!!

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Old 08-28-2005, 06:32 AM   #8
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

Before Jim McNiel started on the restoration... (TRJ photo's)






Orriginal Carson Top interior,




Evident in this pictures is how the side windows worked. The chrome 5/8 inch chanel does not roll down with the window.




The freschly restored Merc at the Pebble Beach grass (Bob Downie photo)



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Old 08-28-2005, 06:44 AM   #9
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury




Beautiful headliner... Pinstiping on the dash is by Von Dutch




Rod & Custom showed us some excelent photo's of the restoration project which took several years to complete. Some of the most intersting photo's where the once from the unique grille

Backside of the grille



top view




Side piece without the frosted plastic inserts




According to the Rodders Journal article Bob Hirohata was shot and killed excecution style on May 14, 1981. The murder was never solved.
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Old 08-28-2005, 08:16 AM   #10
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

Thanks Rikster, this is my all time favorite! I just can't imagine having this car in my garage all those years and not touching it.-MIKE
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Old 08-28-2005, 08:22 AM   #11
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Talking Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

great post!
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Old 08-28-2005, 09:30 AM   #12
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

Awsome...
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Old 08-28-2005, 09:36 AM   #13
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

This had to hurt.
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Old 08-28-2005, 09:45 AM   #14
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

Gorgeous, can't beat the old customs.
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Old 08-28-2005, 10:00 AM   #15
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

VERY COOL! Thanks Rik. There's pictures that I had never seen before.


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Old 08-28-2005, 10:16 AM   #16
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

THANKS! I've always liked this car, finally saw it in the Petersen three years ago. The fact that Jim McNiel had the car all those years and turned down offers to buy it has always impressed me, having a dream car and finally restoring is something few get to accomplish.
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Old 08-28-2005, 10:19 AM   #17
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

Rik, the only one that tops your posts is......you!
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Old 08-28-2005, 10:26 AM   #18
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

Quote:
Originally Posted by The37Kid
THANKS! I've always liked this car, finally saw it in the Petersen three years ago. The fact that Jim McNiel had the car all those years and turned down offers to buy it has always impressed me, having a dream car and finally restoring is something few get to accomplish.
I agree! I saw the car at the 50th GNRS in San Fran in 99 .I spoke to Jim and thanked him for finally bringing this great car back for all to enjoy.
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Old 08-28-2005, 10:34 AM   #19
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

one of my all time fav cars. great post. ive never understood how any old custom or hotrod can fall into such a state of disrepair. you would think each owner bought the car because they loved it so much and they would have taken super care of them.
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Old 08-28-2005, 07:29 PM   #20
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Default Re: MILESTONE CUSTOM CARS: Bob Hirohata '51 Mercury

Quote:
Originally Posted by CG
one of my all time fav cars. great post. ive never understood how any old custom or hotrod can fall into such a state of disrepair. you would think each owner bought the car because they loved it so much and they would have taken super care of them.
This one really wasnt in a "state of disrepair" but it was in long term storage.I read that Jim McNeil bought this car when he was 17 or 18 years old for around $1000.He used it as his daily transportation during high school and for some time after.Then the same old story,gets married,buys house,has kids,etc...But instead of selling the car like so many people do ,he keeps it,stores it fairly well,then as time and money allowed, restored the car.
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