A HALL OF FAME LEGENDS SERIES 10th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL:
THE EXCLUSIVE DOUG THOMPSON INTERVIEW: BUILDING JACK WALKER'S "HIROHATA MERC" CLONE...
DOUG THOMPSON IS one of the most-unique custom car builders of all-time !
During the course of over FIVE decades, Doug created not just "custom cars", he created beautiful lasting-works of Automotive Art: true "Rolling Sculptures" of the highest quality imaginable...with almost all of them still on-the-road, in private museums, or, still with their original owners. A testament to Doug's passion for guaranteeing that every car that left his shop not only was beautiful, but that it could be driven anywhere, at any time by its owner !
Doug, like many of the "old school" builders he admired, worked by himself in building these one-of-a-kind customs that were consistent award-winners. And, when I say "by himself" that's exactly what I mean ! Doug did it ALL: the designing, the body work, the engine rebuilds, the chassis rebuilds, the drivetrain & transmission, wheel/tire combos, the wiring, the painting, the upholstery (with, sometimes, the help of his wife, Nita)...whatever needed to be done to build that car, Doug Thompson did it !
In a recent phone conversation we had, Doug told me that every car that he built was created for each particular customer's style & needs...he never built two cars alike.
FOR A GOOD EXAMPLE of that concept, take a close look at the photo at the Top of this Page: Clock-wise-left from Richard Ratty's '46 Packard in front, there's Ed Guffey's '50 Ford, Jack Walker's '51 Hirohata Merc, Bill Schultz's '58 Impala, and, Ray Hetrick's '50 Merc the "Scorpion". Each of these built specifically for those owner's.
So yes, in his FIVE Decades of creating some of the most gorgeous cars on the Planet, Doug's legacy as an iconic builder of "Art-In-Steel", has firmly entrenched him in many Halls of Fame, and his exotic custom builds have won countless awards, been seen in-person, and, in magazines around the world, by thousands of Custom Culture fans !
DOUG & I HAVE BEEN friends for many year's. We first-met in 2001 when I drove the "INVICTA" to Starbird's Hall Of Fame Museum for the 6th Anniversary Celebration & Induction Ceremonies. Doug complimented me on the INVICTA, loved the car...and, more importantly, complimented me for actually driving that beautiful Candy/Laser Red custom all the way to-and-from St. Louis !
Doug, his lovely wife Nita, and, I had breakfast there a couple of times that weekend, and always tried to keep in touch. We did the same in 2003 for the 8th Anniversary...and Doug wanted to take a picture of us before we left for home. You'll see that photo below...coupled with one from 12 year's later.
Doug's stories were always so great to hear ! His memory banks are overflowing with Info, so, finally, in 2015 at Starbird's 20th Anniversary Celebration, we finally got to sit down both Saturday & Sunday that weekend to do an in-depth set of Interviews documenting Doug's long and varied career in the R&C Industry.
THE FIRST STORY I WANTED to cover was about Jack Walker's "Hirohata Merc" Clone. I've also known Jack forever, and Jack has told me much about it from his perspective. Plus, I've seen the car up-close & in-person many times, as Jack has drives it ! It's been to Starbird's and almost every KKOA Lead Sled that I can remember. So to hear Doug's complete history of the build was just fantastic !
As you listen to Doug talk, you'll hear the passion he has had for that '51 Merc that was built for Bob Hirohata, but, in addition, how he loved the work of the Barris Brothers...especially the amazing work that Sam Barris was able to accomplish, not only on this Merc, but on all of the cars he customized !
Doug started the build on this car in early-1983, and, finished it 18 Months later...just in-time so that he and Jack could take it to its first event, which was the KKOA Lead Sled in Springfield, Ohio, in 1985.
I WANTED THIS SUPERB Interview with Doug to use as a SPECIAL FEATURE to celebrate the10th Anniversary of the Hall Of Fame Legends Series. It's a rare look into one of the most-famous customs ever created, and the Hirohata Clone, like the Ala Kart, the R&C Dream Truck, the Golden Sahara, and, the Aztec, is arguably one of the most-photographed customs in History !
Again, my personal thanks to all of you for your kind words, input, and, support for TEN of the most-wonderful & rewarding year's of my life...keeping the Oral Histories & Stories of these great Legends/Pioneers On-Line for all to hear, all-over-the-World, 24/7/365 !
Listen, learn, and, enjoy...DOUG THOMPSON'S STORY: THE BUILDING OF JACK WALKER'S "HIROHATA MERC" CLONE !
Jonnie King (July, 2017)
Doug Thompson has spent his career in the Mid-West...still lives here in Missouri. Sometime in the mid-90's Doug became seriously ill, and sadly, had to give-up building cars due to his health. He still suffers from some medical conditions, but graciously agreed to spend as much time as we needed to do our Interviews.
He is still the "ultimate car guy", going to shows when he can, keeping busy at his home-base, and always willing to share his time, and his amazing insight, anytime I call. And, a nicer guy you'll never find !
Thank you Doug, and Nita, for your kindness, friendship, and, help, for all of these year's. JK
Above Photo Left: Doug Thompson & Jack Walker with the first award they won for the Hirahato Merc, at the 1984 KKOA Lead Sled in Springfield, Ohio; Above Photo Right: Jack Walker, Owner, George "The King Of The Kustomizers" Barris, and, Doug Thompson,Builder, at an event in California in 1984, where George gave his official approval of the authenticity & perfect-build of the "Hirohata Merc" Clone !
Above Left: That's yours truly with Jack's Merc when it was on-display in the Jack Walker Section of the Hall Of Fame Museum on June 5th, 2004. (Not to worry Jack: I always keep a Brillo Pad with me to buff-out any fingerprints that may result from my actions !) ; Above Right: My personal well-worn copy of the Fall 1992 Issue of Custom Rodder Magazine which features a terrific story about Doug, Jack, and the Hirohata Merc's re-creation by Doug. If you can find a copy, a great story - with cool, rare pix - by Jerry Weesner, can be found on Pages 36 - 38 !
(Photo on the Left: Doug & myself at Starbird's, Hall Of Fame Museum's 8th Anniversary, June 2nd, 2003; Photo on the Right: Doug & I doing our Interview Session at Starbird's Hall Of Fame Museum's 20th Anniversary, June 7th, 2015.)
TO HEAR GEORGE BARRIS' story about how he & Sam built the original, then-new '51 Merc kustom for Bob Hirohata, simply CLICK-ON-THIS-LINK and it will take you to that Page !
(NOTE: All of the photos on this page are courtesy of the Doug & Nita Thompson Collection...with sincere thanks!)