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”.
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 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 ½ 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…
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.