This 1951 Mercury coupe just sold at the Mecum auction in Kissimmee, Florida for $1.95 million. Yes you read that right, $1.95 million... for a glorified Ford product.
That sounds like a helluva lot of money for what is basically a 70-year-old Ford product, but this car is much more than just that. Let me explain.
The two-tone green on green coupe is named after the 21-year-old Japanese America Navy veteran, Masato Hirohata, who commissioned it in 1952. It’s a prime example of the custom car scene that came out of Southern California at that time. The price far exceeded estimates of $1.25 million for the car.
“This sale is a record for a 1951 Mercury, and the highest-selling custom car that wasn’t a movie or TV show car,” John Wiley, manager of valuation analytics at Hagerty said. “The continuing relevance of the Hirohata Merc thrills us. A car that was customized almost 70 years ago, within the context of an emerging American art form, is still revered today.”
The car is truly a one-of-one. It was built by many prominent car customizers of the time, including George Barris. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he went on to design some true TV car icons on shows for shows like “Batman,” “The Munsters’’ and “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
The car has won numerous awards and trophies, such as first in class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2015. It’s also been on display at the Peterson Museum in Los Angeles and the national mall in Washington, D.C.
The car is powered by a 331 cubic inch Cadillac V8, operated through a three speed transmission.
The Hirohata Merc was sold by Scott and Darla McNeil, the children of Jim McNeil. Jim had bought the car in 1959 for just $500, and actually used the Merc as a daily driver for a while. It was then restored for the first time 1996 to its Motorama 1952 condition.
The two siblings eventually saved enough money to restore the Merc, once again to its former glory before their father’s death in 2018.
Heavy hitters in the automotive industry like historian Ken Gross and classic car expert Wayne Carini helped the siblings broker the deal. However, the buyer’s name has not been revealed. The children hope their father’s memory stays connected to the car.
“The thing that’s most important to me is that my dad’s impact on the history and legacy of the car stays attached to it,” Scott told the New York Times. “And my fear that once it moves away from our family, it becomes just a Barris Kustom and Jim McNiel gets left out of the storytelling process.”
Darla made sure of that. She hid a $10 bill her father gave her somewhere inside the Hirohata Merc, meaning Jim will always be with the car.
So, while nearly $2 million for an old Mercury coupe may sound like it a lot of money, because of what it means to the custom car world, it could be one of the rare times where the cash is truly worth the price of admission.