This Documentary Will Bring You Up to Speed on Custom Car History

Bob Hirohata might not be a name that rings a bell, but if you follow vintage American iron the last name might sound familiar. It should, anyway, as Hirohata was responsible for commissioning a custom car that kind of flipped American car culture on its ear, only for the car to fall out of favor with changing trends. This mint-green ’51 Mercury was significant enough to make its way to the Historic Vehicle Association register and be the star of a four-part documentary series.

a green car driving on a city street: The legendary Barris-built Mercury is featured in a short documentary series.

© YouTube / HVA
The legendary Barris-built Mercury is featured in a short documentary series.

If you’re wondering why this Mercury is so important: Fair question. This car wasn’t the first to receive a chopped top. It’s not the first car to receive a custom pillar-less look, either. The Hirohata Mercury isn’t as much a collection of ambitious firsts as it is a sign of American craftsmanship and a touchstone of a massive cultural change.

While later installments in the series focus on the car and its fall from favor and eventual return to form, this first short, 8-minute segment acts almost as a primer for new custom car enthusiasts and for folks unfamiliar with the history surrounding custom cars in the early 1950s. The video both shows the cast of characters largely responsible for some major automotive styling trends found throughout the decade and also introduces you to those trends.

If you have any interest in American history, cars, or custom cars: this series is a must-watch piece. You can check out the first video above, but you’ll have to head to the Historic Vehicle Association’s YouTube page for the other installments.

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