Cultural Exchange – The 30th Anniversary Mooneyes Hot Rod and Custom Show
Lead Image: The event never fails to impress with the custom paint work found mostly on the show’s custom cars. Kracker Jack Kustoms in Tajimi, Japan, is a sign and auto paint shop and had the talent to win Best Kustom at this year’s show with this highly ’striped ’57 Ford wagon
If you’ve been to a few car shows in your time, then imagine walking into an event where 80 percent of what is presented you’ve never seen or heard of before. What’s more, the quality and creativity is as good or better than anything you’ve ever experienced. Such is the case when you enter the Pacifico Convention Center in Yokohama, Japan, for the Mooneyes Hot Rod and Custom Show.
Spread across a space of about nine American football fields is the best Japan has to offer on their take on a purely American invention: hot rodding. In the early days (only a few decades ago) a good portion of the vehicles on display at this show had been built in the US and shipped to Japan by auto enthusiasts, but nowadays there’s quite a well-honed faction in Japan building and creating their own rides, which can fall into many style categories.
There is a good representation of traditional-style hot rods, where no part on the car (other than maybe the tires) is newer than 1950, while another faction is comfortable in the well-known ’60s-’70s hot rod styling but void of any trendy parts that wouldn’t fit the era. Street Rods with billet wheels are represented but there was a larger amount of more traditional-inspired hot rods (with narrow powder-coated wire wheels) at this year’s show. Add to this a significant number of vehicles that are only available in the Japanese market and customized here: the Silvias, Toyopets, Crowns, and Toyota Hiace vans.
Customs and custom rods are popular, too, with traditional chopped Mercs or early ’50s Chevys parked alongside some fantastic futuristic takes on the genre. And the show’s full span from traditional to high-tech is no better displayed than in the 500 or so motorcycles in attendance. A dozen of the earliest Knucklehead Harleys in all their greasy splendor are parked near modern Tron-inspired rides that push the envelope of what a motorcycle can look like.
Out in the middle of the gigantic hall is International Alley that has dozens of booths set up highlighting either pinstripers from around the world (from Estonia to Bangkok) displaying their unique artwork, or different street rod organizations promoting their own shows, while on stage several live music bands perform throughout the day.
Shige Suganuma founded Mooneyes in 1987 and soon introduced American hot rods to the Japanese-only car show scene – first in 1987 with the Street Car Nationals (an outdoor car show still being produced some 30 years later) and then creating the Hot Rod and Custom Show in Yokohama in 1992 (the same year Mooneyes USA was formed).
The Mooneyes Hot Rod and Custom Show has become a hybrid of American and Japanese style and sensibilities and offers the tens of thousands of spectators who flow through the doors for the 10-hour, one-day event the opportunity to see the very best in rolling motorcycle and automotive art.
2022 Mooneyes Hot Rod and Custom Show Photo Extra!
Photos by Eric Geisert