After gracing the covers and pages of countless hot rod magazines over the decades, the Hirohata Merc could be destined for a permanent spot in your garage.
That’s because the pastel green coupé—which is easily one of the most famous custom cars of all time, if not the most—is one of the headline lots at Mecum’s Kissimmee 2022 auction this weekend. An opportunity like this is exceedingly rare, as this will mark the first time the car has been for sale in over 60 years.
The Hirohata Merc started out life as a standard 1951 Mercury Eight Club Coupe. It was a particularly car-obsessed time in Southern California, and its owner, Bob Hirohata, wanted a vehicle that would really turn heads, according to Road & Track. So, in 1953, he took his car to George Barris’s custom shop and asked him and his brother Sam to turn it into something special. The rest is hot rod history.
The Barris team took an already sleek coupé and made it even smoother. First, they chopped and lowered the two-door, then they shaved off its emblems, door handles and other extraneous details. It features scoops, spotlights placed just ahead of the A-pillars and a unique grille made from the parts of three different Ford grilles. Its front wheels have also been outfitted in a set of sparkling Cadillac wheels. Why Cadillac rims, you ask? Just look under the hood, where you’ll find a Caddy V-8, making the car a Mercillac. Finally, it was finished in a stunning coat of sea foam green, which offsets its two-tone, cream and green leather interior and special Barris badging.
The Hirohata Merc was an immediate hit, making appearances at Motorama shows, the Indy 500, and in loads of magazines. It even made a cameo in the 1955 film noir Running Wild. Times change, though, and by the beginning of the decade it had fallen into disrepair and ended up on a used car lots. It’s because of this that late car collector Jim McNeil was able to buy the coupé for $500 when he was just 16. The car would sit untouched in his garage for decades, but in the ‘90s, he had it fully restored with the help of the members of the original Barris shop team. It wouldn’t be a quick process, though, and the fully restored vehicle didn’t make its public debut until 2015. That same year it won First in Class at the Pebble Beach Concours.
The legendary custom car is schedule to go up for bid this Saturday. Mecum expects it to sell for somewhere between $1 million and $1.25 million, which is no surprise given its history. Regardless of the final bid, it’s sure to make McNeil’s teenage $500 purchase seem like the steal of the century.
Check out more photos of the Hirohata Merc below: