Hank Huisman sits down and gives us the history of how ASC McLaren grew to become a $500 million company and how it helped with our Mercury Rising Project.
My Name is Henry Huisman, my nickname is Hank and I’m currently supplying parts for the McLaren. I do car restorations and my dad was a mechanic and he was always buying cars, fixing them up, and selling them so I kind of learned from him. I was always around cars and I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit so it being the “motor city”, we always had different cars and always have been interested in them.
ASC (American Sunroof Company) started back in the 60s and they were doing electric sunroofs. The Mercury Cougar was the first program they had and with Ford they did 500 cars and that’s what got them started. They were just a little garage shop before that. It gradually involved into a big empire worth 500 million dollars at one point with 2000 employees. They had plants all over the country putting in sunroofs. They got into convertible tops, retractable hard tops, fixed glass roofs, T-tops, they had their hands in everything. ASC was already an established company and McLaren was actually an established company from McLaren racing in England by McLaren racing legend Bruce McLaren. McLaren engines were establishing a brand in the US market and they wanted to do development work here. The plan was to do performance enhancements on these McLarens. That was actually in their sights and that’s why they took on the McLaren name. They gave it more of a racing feel; an automotive, historical touch to the car. So, ASC bought McLaren engines actually in the same town named Livonia, Michigan. They were planning on do development work. They did do some with the GNX program which ASC was apart of, but for some reason they never did the performance stuff on the Mustangs. They claimed it had to do with the warranty issues, emission standards, and all of these factors they had to weigh in. So, it never really took off, but they did use it with the Buick program, so that’s where the name came from. That’s how they got their start, putting in electric sunroofs that were made in Germany (they called them Golde Sunroofs). So, he brought that to the US market. The company from the sunroof end of it, that was his start.
I bought a 1968 Cougar with one of these factory sunroofs in it so I was always intrigued about the sunroof. That’s how I got involved with the ASC program. I had worked at a trim shop right out of high school and was learning upholstery, headliners, vinyl tops, that sort of stuff. Then I was redoing my own sunroof on my own car putting a vinyl top on it and headliner and I needed cables for the sunroof. I called ASC and explained it to them and they said they had them and came out and looked at the car. They asked about the top and learned that I put it in and were impressed that I was doing all that stuff. They literally asked me if I wanted a job there, so I said “okay why not?” It’s closer to my house and they offered me a lot more money so I started working there. It was at the Wixom Ford plant where ASC made a pilot plant next door to the factory so that they could take the cars from the Ford factory to the ASC plant down the street. They would put the sunroofs in there, then send them back to the plant, then the plant would send them all over the country. So, everybody that was thinking they’re getting a factory installed sunroof, they were actually getting a dropship program getting their roofs installed. I ended up working there most of the 70s, but towards 1977 or 1978 they wanted to do the sunroofs in-house right at the factory. So, ASC kept supplying the parts, but were now being installed at the factory. It kind of made the plant shut down to where they were doing it offline. I sort of went off on my own after that and opened my own little shop and went around all of the shops and installed sunroofs for them. Taking a car off their stock, putting a sunroof in and bringing it back so they could sell to the customer. Instead of waiting to order one from the factory for 2 or 3 weeks, they could send to me and it would only take 2 days. I kept doing that business and was still in contact with ASC because I was buying parts from them for the sunroofs.
I got to talking with them and learned that they were throwing a lot of parts away for these cars that they didn’t need and I said that I would take that stuff. I was getting their takeoff parts. For the convertibles they wouldn’t need the hatchback, quarter windows, backs seat, console etc. I would take all that stuff and started selling them off. Every now and then they would have cars that they were made for development or executive cars and they would offer them to me for a pretty good deal. Some of them I sold and some I kept. They eventually quit building the cars. They started selling pretty good then the economy started slowing down. Cars weren’t selling like they used to be and they weren’t going to be making the cars anymore after 1990. They had only sold 65 cars that year and they were use to selling 1000. They were pretty much putting an end to that. McLaren bailed so they kind of offered me the rest of the parts and if anyone called them wanting parts, they’d just say call Hank and he’ll take care of you. It just kind of took off from there and pretty much became the continuation of servicing and supplying parts for these McLarens. Since I had quite a bit on hand, I had a good start. As I ran out of some stuff, I would still have it built because I still had a lot of the tools and suppliers/contacts. The goal was to keep the cars on the road, alive, and keep the hobby going. After 1986, the capri was gone but they went to Ford and said they can do this on a Mustang. Basically, the same body though it had kind of evolved from there.
Well Shannon (LMR owner) called me around 25 years ago wanting parts for his own ASC and I hooked him up with ground effects, wheels, whatever he needed. We kept a relationship after that and I’d see him at race tracks in Oklahoma all the time. We’ve been in contact for quite a while and have remained friends for quite some time. Shannon called me a couple of years ago telling me that he had this project in mind that the same McLaren that he’s been buying parts for years have changed hands back and forth and ended up in his uncle’s hands. He wanted to surprise his uncle by restoring this car. He needed parts so I assured him that I had just about anything he would need for it. So, I just sent him some used and some new parts that I had and he just kept me in touch with the progress of how this car was coming along. He seemed really excited about it and decided that he was going to make this his showcase for the business and surprise his uncle when it was all done. He even invited me to come out for the unveiling and took his invitation because I was excited to come out here. I was glad he invited me and glad I’m a part of the program. He seems really passionate about it and he’s done an incredible job! Amazing build and way beyond anything anyone could have expected. He’s taken it to a whole new level. I would say there isn’t going to be a nicer build out there, he’s gone all out. Unbelievable what he’s done here.
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