One of the most impressive sales at the Mecum collectible automobile auction in Kissimmee, Florida, this past weekend was a 1951 Mercury coupe that was customised to a high level and sold for $1.95 million, much above the vehicle’s presale estimate of up to $1.25 million.
The two-tone green coupe, known as the Hirohata Merc after its owner, Masato Hirohata, a 21-year-old Japanese American Navy veteran who commissioned it in 1952, is a good example of the custom vehicle industry that was thriving in Southern California at the time.
“This transaction represents a new record for a 1951 Mercury, as well as the highest-selling custom vehicle that was not a movie or television show car,” said John Wiley, manager of value analytics at the classic car insurance Hagerty, in a statement released on Sunday. Our excitement at the Hirohata Merc’s continued relevance is contagious. In the context of an evolving American art form, an automobile that was modified over seven decades ago is still admired today.”
Few automobiles can match the prestige of the Mercedes. There were several of the most notable figures in the mid-century Southern California custom automobile industry involved in its construction, including George Barris, who would go on to build classic vehicles for television programmes such as “The Munsters,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and “Batman.” It went on to earn a slew of honours and prizes in the process.
In this case, the sellers were Scott and Darla McNiel, son and daughter of Jim McNiel, who purchased the automobile in 1959 for $500. Jim McNiel kept the car and finally restored it to its previous grandeur before passing away last year. The McNiel siblings received assistance in negotiating the sale from automotive historian Ken Gross and antique automobile specialist Wayne Carini.
Because the McNiels had owned the vehicle for a long time, they intended to keep their family’s historical tie to the Merc alive and well. In Scott McNiel’s words, “the most important thing to me is that my father’s influence on the history and heritage of the automobile remains tied to it.” “And my concern that, once it is removed from our family, it will be reduced to the status of a Barris Kustom and Jim McNiel will be excluded from the narrative process.”