William S. “Bill” Hirsch, founder of Bill Hirsch Automotive Products in Newark, New Jersey, died on October 23 at age 90.
Bill was a lifelong car enthusiast and the company he built is a well-known retailer of restoration goods. He retired from the helm of the operation in November 2017 after suffering a stroke, though the company continues to offer a wide range of Packard parts, engine paints, chassis paints, interior soft goods, and more.
Bill began his business almost by accident nearly 50 years ago while searching for an appropriate green engine paint to use on his 1930 Packard 745 sports phaeton. The search led Bill to a manufacturer of aircraft-grade engine enamels who was willing to mix the paint in the correct shade. The problem was, Bill only needed a quart but the supplier required a minimum purchase of 10 gallons. So, Bill bought 40 quarts, kept one for himself and advertised the remaining 39 in the Classic Car Bulletin. He realized he was onto something when all of the paint sold out in about a day. Bill ordered and sold 40 more quarts, then 40 more. He increased his order to 80 quarts and sold all of those as well. Soon, he expanded his engine paint offerings to include colors for Fords, Oldsmobiles, Buicks, and more — even custom shades. Next, he developed a line of gas tank sealer and high-temperature exhaust paint.
It was another restoration project that launched Bill into the upholstery business: His 1956 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I, that he imported from Europe. The car was in need of new carpets and seat hides, but no one seemed to be selling the material he needed. So, after making contact with a supplier in Great Britain, he became a vendor for those products as well. Success with that led to expansion into all sorts of fabrics, leather, and vinyl as well as carpet material of any variety.
Bill was born on August 7, 1928, in Newark, to Harry and Sarah Hirsch. He grew up the youngest of three boys and attended Weequahic High School in Newark, then studied at Upsala College in East Orange.
Bill is survived by his wife Berit, his daughter Jane, his sons Eric and Jeffery, his daughter-in-law Tamara, and a grandson, Augustine. Donations may be made in Bill’s name to one of two charities: Ronald McDonald House or Smile Train.