Hot Wheels reintroduces collectors to the famous Hirohata Merc in the 2024 Hot Wheels G Case.

Check out the famous Hirohata Merc reintroduced as a Hot Wheels Mainline in the 2024 Hot Wheels G Case available at Diecast Republic.

Since this is such an iconic car and one of our favorites, the team at Diecast Republic thought it would be a good idea to dive into its history.

In the 1950’s, owning a custom car was the best way to show off your personality and get all the attention at the drive-in.

The 1950s gave us some of the century’s most iconic cars. With the heavy metal frames, the practice of “chopping” to create your own custom style was in vogue. Brothers George and Sam Barris were among the first to become famous in the auto customizing industry. By 1951, they had become one of the premier auto customization shops in the nation. They attracted top talent, including Herschel “Junior” Conway, who is now known for his affinity for car painting.

Masato Hirohata commissions the Barris Brothers to customize his 1951 Mercury for the 1952 Motorama

One of their more famous customers included Masato “Bob” Hirohata, who commissioned the brothers to customize his 1951 Mercury in time for the 1952 Motorama. After months of procrastination, the car was started and finished in around two weeks.

Hot Wheels Hirohata Mercury

The Hirohata Merc performed well in the 1952 Motorama and was soon featured in Motortrend. Hot Rod magazine, and on the silver screen.

In 1953, Bob Hirohata drove cross-country to Indianapolis for a car shop competition and won Best in Show. In 1955, the car received a new paint job. The Ice Green was replaced with gold metallic paint, and the car was featured in the movie Running Wild. After its big-screen debut, Bob sold his Merc.

The car transferred owners a few times until 1959, when Jim McNiel purchased it from a lot for $500 with aspirations of restoring it. The car had been neglected and needed some work, but when he met his soon-to-be wife, Jim abandoned the project and left the vehicle in protected storage. It is reported that Jim turned down multiple offers on the car, some as high as a million dollars, before receiving a call from Pat Ganahl, editor of Rod and Custom magazine. Pat told Jim that he wanted to help restore the Merc and feature this high-profile car in the magazine. Jim and his son did most of the renovations themselves with some outside help.

Interior of the hirohta merc

The restored Hirohata Mercury debuts at the Oakland Museum of Art.

As the car neared completion, a call came from a man named “Junior,” who did not work on the vehicle during its first rendition but wanted to give his hand a try at painting the newly restored body. With help from PPG, the car was restored to the original two-tone “Ice Green” paint scheme and was debuted at The Hot Rods and Customs Car Show at the Oakland Museum of Art.

After ten years of work, Jim’s dream of restoring the Hirohata Merc was complete. The car went to many car shows and eventually made its way to the Pebble Beach car show, where it won first in class, helping cement the car’s legacy. On April 12, 2017, the Hirohata Merc was made part of the National Historic Vehicle Registers, archived in the Library of Congress.

The car now resided at The Peterson Automotive Museum following the death of Jim McNiel. “The real car is currently owned by Beau Boeckmann over from Galpin Motors, and it’s on display in his Galpin Speed Shop up in Van Nuys, California,” says Brendon Vetuskey, one of the creative Hot Wheels designers. The car was sold at a Mecum auction in 2022 for $2,145,000 after all fees had been paid.

Hot Wheels designer Brenden Vetusky explains how his team created a mainline product, Hirohata Merc, from the original premium version.

This isn’t the first release of the Hirohata Merc from Hot Wheels.  It was done previously in the premium product lines. However, it’s back in 2024 as a mainline car at a much more affordable price. The Hotwheels Merc debuted in 1998 as part of the Legends: Barris Kustom 4-Car Set. A higher price was commanded as it was part of the premium set, which included greater detail.

Vetuskey, the Hot Wheels designer, explained how he managed to take the complex car from premium to mainline. “I borrowed the original sculpted pattern from Larry Wood for this car and had it scanned in our model shop. I made a few adjustments, which we used to prepare the digital sculpting for this car. With a car in the mainline, we are typically limited to four parts to keep it at a one-dollar price point.

I incorporated part of the body into the chassis to provide a color break representing the real car. This process also helps our graphic designers when they do new color versions of this for future releases,” Vetuskey explains. There is plenty of excitement surrounding this classic custom’s real and diecast version, and we’d love to see more cars like this make their way to the pegs.

Check out some of the custom details of the now-famous Hirohata Merc!

  • Changed the lines on the car to be more streamlined.
  • Removed the emblems and chrome parts, including the door handles.
  • Added a hidden button along the side of the car to allow entry access.
  • Added a curved chrome trim piece to separate the front and rear windows gives another unique look to this car.
  • Applyied a more aggressive “chop” to the roof rear than in the front, giving the car an iconic sweptback look.
  • Added parts from other car manufacturers gave it a unique look.
  • Added bespoke components including Buick side spear, grill from a 51 Ford, separated French headlights, Cadillac hubcaps, ’52 Lincoln taillights, Appleton spotlights, and a Cadillac motor.
  • Added pinstriping details to the dashboard, done by Kenneth Robert Howard, now called the father of modern pinstriping.
  • Added custom dash knobs and an immense amount of upholstery details.
  • Applied “Ice Green” paint, a stark contrast to the metallic paints that most customs used.