The Hirohata Merc Stories

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  • #67189
    Rik Hoving
    Keymaster

    Earlier this week Jim McNiel’s son started to share some photos and stories about the Hirohata Mercury on the Family Instagram Account. Jim McNiel was the owner of the Hirohata Mercury from 1959, and did the full restoration in his home garage. With his son Scott helping out a lot. I’m not sure how many more stories and picture will follow. But I thought it might be a neat idea to create a post where everybody can share his Hirohata Merc Stories.

    The Hirohata Mercury is one of the most iconic Custom Car ever created. And I think everybody will have a story to tell about the car. Even if you have never seen it in person I guess this car must have had an impact on you. I know it sure had for me. For many years, when I was in my later teens, I had heard about the name “The Hirohata Merc” but I had no idea how it actually looked. I will get to my stories at a later point. Lets first share the stories and pictures shared by Scott McNiel.

     

    “One day my Dad said “Bill Hines is coming over to see the merc, do you know who he is?” I said no. I was a teenager at the time. He said “he’s the best lead guy probably in the world.” I knew a little about lead because my Dad explained how it was used in building kustoms and I understood bondo. It seemed like they talked about lead for hours and at one point Bill offered to teach my Dad, and I noticed Dads eyes well up. He talked about it for days after, actually probably until Bill’s next visit. He came over a handful of times and each time my Dad acted like a kid on Christmas. They realized their birthdays were a day apart (different years) and would talk about “the old days and new ways.” I loved when Bill came over, mostly because it made my Dad so happy, but also because he was so different than other car guys that visited. I could tell he was a genius at a craft. My Dad looked up to Bill and spoke highly of him. They are probably leading an old merc right now!
    So… that’s my personal story of the leadslinger ❤️ ”

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    “The Journalist & The Leadslinger.
    Two masters of their craft, Pat Ganahl and Bill Hines, probably talking about lead”

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    “True story: In 1959, the man on the right told the man on the left “you need to buy this car” after they discovered it on a used car lot… So he did.
    Thank you Uncle Bob for being the best #bigbrother to 4 other amazing gentlemen! This is number 1 and number 2, and I would bet they are scouring junk yards in paradise right now, probably making number 3 carry the parts! R.I.P. ❤️”

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    4+
    #67190
    Rik Hoving
    Keymaster

    A few more photos from the McNiel Family Instagram…

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    #67196
    Torchie
    Participant

    Great Pictures and stories.

    Hopefully there will be more to follow.

    Torchie

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    #67204
    bob tindale
    Participant

    In my opinion the Hirohata Merc. is one of the greatest Kustoms of all time. Pure genius. I did not know Jim [RIP] but phoned him about 5 years ago.When he answered the phone I said ‘In 1953 Bob Hirohata drove the Merc to Indianapolis and was featured in a car show. Do you have the program from that show. After a very long pause Jim said ‘no’ I told him I would send it to him. We then had a very good conversation. Of course I sent him the program Does the family still own the car? I see its in the Peterson Museum.

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    #67205
    KingKustoms
    Participant

    I really enjoy seeing Scott McNeil’s new posts on Instagram and it’s great that you are sharing them here, in a larger format. Thank you!

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    #67206
    Ian Gibbons
    Participant

    Cool stuff Rick. You might want to check your dates for Jim’s ownership. 🙂

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    #67254
    Rik Hoving
    Keymaster

    Cool stuff Rick. You might want to check your dates for Jim’s ownership. 🙂

    I meant that he bought the car in 1959-60… not that he owned the car for only one year 🙂

    Enjoy the beauty of Customizing

    0
    #67255
    Rik Hoving
    Keymaster

    Does the family still own the car? I see its in the Peterson Museum.

     

    As far as I know the car is still in the McNiel Family. I heard that Jim was talking about selling the car before his passing, but that the deal was never materialized.

    Enjoy the beauty of Customizing

    0
    #67256
    Rik Hoving
    Keymaster

    Here is another really interesting Hirohata Mercury story that Roger Honey shared with me a some years ago.

    Roger send me one picture and an pdf file of the story he had done for the WCC and the KKOA monthly newsletters in the 1980’s. He was going to send me more picture he had taken that day, but his scanner broke, and I have sadly not heard back from him since. An amazing story, and an amazing picture.

    Roger’s email…

    Hello Rik

    I see by the internet over the years you are a real Hirohata Merc fan. Maureen was going through some old Kustom poster I had that were moved after I got into my new garage and found an old article I wrote for the WCC and the KKOA monthly papers back in the early 80’s regarding it’s disappearance and existence. She had found this article and set it aside and I was going to send it to you then and then it disappeared again. LOL, LOL, It’s a little long but I thought since it was Hirohata History you might get a kick out of it.

    Back in the in the 70’s after the KKOA had revived Kustoms and even after the WCC picked up the torch here on the West Coast, whenever a group of hard core Kustom guy’s got together the topic of conversation eventually got around to What Ever Happened to the Hirohata Merc? Even when we flew back to different KKOA mid-west runs the topic would come up. Some had heard the story about it being bought off a used car lot for $500.00 but nothing more. No one knew what happened or where it was. I’m talking people like Gen Winfield, Bill Hinds, Rod Powell, Dick Dean, were all involved in these conversations from time to time. Even Barris didn’t have a clue.

    And how about that Doug Thompson, he thought it was gone forever and built a Clone. And a damn fine job at that. After the article came out he called me and I told him we were coming back to Holland Michigan to the KKOA run and we were bring pictures. He was excited and wanted to know how close he came to copying the original. It nailed and it was great hanging with him and his gang for the weekend.

    I got more pic’s coming your way real soon.

    Rog.

    (A few lines of the original article were sadly lost when Roger scanned them)

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    3+
    #67372
    mark wojcik
    Participant

    What a story! My heart was racing as I read it!

    0
    #67833
    Rik Hoving
    Keymaster

    The son of Jim McNiel shared this fantastic photo on his IG. “George Barris & Bob Hirohata January 1954 San Jose Autorama Photo: Vince Burgos, Sr.”

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    3+
    #67834
    Rik Hoving
    Keymaster

    Jim McNiel & Hershal “Junior” Conway August 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance First in Class & Dean Batchelor Trophy.

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    3+
    #67835
    Rik Hoving
    Keymaster

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    4+
    #67837
    Mild Mitch
    Participant

    That last picture. 🙂

    Mitch

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    #68132
    Rik Hoving
    Keymaster

    A few more photos shared by the McNiel’s…

    “Here are a couple pics from the restoration journey.”

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