The name Hupmobile kind of says it all. If you’re not familiar with Hupmobile, don’t feel bad if the answer is no. To be honest I had not. That was before we had the chance to go to the 2019 Detroit Autorama. The Autorama is known as a hot rod enthusiast’s Mecca. This year was no different with a fantastic, eclectic array of builds on display.
Everyone can find something awesome to see at this show. Whether you are into desert prerunners, hot rods, muscle cars, new offerings from industry manufacturers, or performance oriented applications. All the people are fantastic and the staff does a first rate job of keeping it all rolling smoothly. The food and the drinks aren’t too shabby either.
Anyway, back to the fantastic Hupmobile build we came across on day one of the three-day event. If you’ve never heard of a Hupmobile, then let this be your introduction. The Hupp Motor Car Company built the Hupmobile from 1909 through 1939.
The first Hupmobile model, the Hupp 20, was introduced at the 1909 Detroit auto show. It was met with positive reviews. Even Henry Ford is reported to have taken a liking to the brand. Multiple types of cars were built and sold by The Hupp Motor Company during its thirty years of manufacturing. Touring cars, coupes, and sedan models were all manufactured and sold at Hupp dealerships throughout the country.
However, by 1936 the company was in trouble and had to sell some of its plants and assets. In 1937 Hupp suspended manufacturing and last Hupmobile rolled off the line in 1939. This is a shame, as many of the cars built by the company sold well. They were known as reliable, rugged cars and were even utilized by the City of Detroit as its first police cars. In the end, the company was the victim of poor management and filed for bankruptcy in 1940.
Fast forward to 2019 and there was one sitting right in front of us. With wo full levels of the Cobo Center filled with builds from major manufacturers and local car clubs. If you are going to get noticed sometimes it takes something a little unusual. A Hupmobile with all the trimmings certainly fits that bill.
As we maneuvered the crowds to get the best vantage of some of our favorite cars, we were struck by something we had never seen before. Anytime we have the chance to see something new, we get excited. The 1927 Hupmobile built by Bob Mermuy definitely fit the bill. Bob is based out of Fenton, Michigan. He also has a pretty cool story to go along with his classic-yet-modern street machine.
“A couple who I used to build race cars with had a friend who passed away and left them the Hupmobile. I was over at their shop and they told me I needed to buy it. I told them I needed a Hupmobile like I needed a hole in the head! Well I came back another day and actually looked at it.
I thought wow that would make a pretty nice streetcar. That was back in 2013 and we just finished it two weeks ago,” Bob explained. The majority of the work was completed within the last three months in preparation of the 2019 Autorama.
Many components of the car are original, including the body, turn signals, radiator cowling, and headlights. The rest of the vehicle was modified to retain the classic original appearance while adding in modern touches to make the car comfortable and reliable. The car was built from scratch with the exception of the previously mentioned components. Even the frame rails of the rod are custom.
Given the rarity of the car we asked Bob why he made the decision to take a car like this and make the machine before us. “What made this interesting for me was that no one else has ever seen a Hupmobile street rod.” Bob shared. “I’ve always wanted to do a street rod and this is the first.”
“I’ve done a lot of restomods but I always wanted to have something like this.” The fact that the Hupmobile is something different is appreciated by more than just Bob and us. In fact, during the corse of the event Bob was awarded a top ten sticker for the Hupmobile.
In addition, many attendees at the Autorama stoped at his booth for a second glance. “People will just stop and say, “Wow, what the heck is this?”I wanted to build something unique and that I would love. The fact people have come along and like what we put together is really great.
I look at it as a piece of art and this will be with me until I’m gone. After that the kids can figure it out,” Bob said with a hearty laugh. We don’t blame Bob for wanting to hold onto such a cool rod. Most of us have some kind of dream project and this one is his.
A 354 Hemi engine built by a member of Bob’s local car club provides power. This was perfect for Bob, as he wanted the Hupmobile to have a certain level of go fast capability. In addition that era motor just seemed to fit perfectly with the build. Bob purchased it from his friend but the first time he started it the motor just didn’t have the thump he wanted.
As a result he decided to go ahead and replace the cam to get a bit more sound out of it. Bob is happy with the current rumble and doesn’t plan any additional changes at this time. Electric cutouts were added to the exhaust to provide that legit street sound that we all love.
“It’s an attention getter for sure,” Bob admits with a smirk. After all, if your going to have as unique a car as this why wouldn’t you want to make it stand out a bit.
As far as future plans for the rod Bob stated, “I don’t build them to sit that’s for sure. I’ll be taking it to the Blue Suede Cruise. I’ll probably do some track runs with it as well down in Norwalk, Ohio at the Summit Motorsports Park. If I have any shows to go to in the Tri-State area I’ll definitely drive it there. Cars are built to be enjoyed and to be driven. I don’t like to just let them sit.”
Part of the amazing story about this Hupmobile is the fact that Bob paid one dollar for the ride prior to the build. As we said earlier, he purchased the ride from friends that inherited the vehicle. When Bob expressed genuine interest he was told that he could have it for one dollar. The only condition was that he had to pony up the cash before he could take the title. That dollar still hangs above the workbench of the previous owner. The cost of the ride is the culmination of many projects the friends have worked on over the years.
“I never could have gotten all of this together without all of the amazing people that helped me finish this project up. In the last three weeks I’ve had just a bunch of the people from my car club help me get it together. They saw how close I was to finishing it and they told me I too. I was here about ten years ago and won best in class for one of my race cars but it’s a lot of work to get things ready and then show it.”
Most people don’t realize that showing a car at the Autorama requires a lot of prep just getting the vehicle ready. Then there is the seventy-two plus hours of showing the vehicle at the event. Additionally, all of the exhibits must be completely disassembled and taken out of the hall Sunday night after the show closes.
That’s a lot of work and a whole lot of energy to expend at 10pm Sunday night. Bob shared, “I’m glad we got it all done. Seeing all of the people and how they have reacted to it made it all worthwhile.” We loved it and are thrilled to show it off to our readers.