The Japanese car infatuation is known worldwide. That in Japan the cult of tuning has been well established, it is also known. But that a really active scene around American hot rods and custom cars or Cafe racers has formed in Japan, is known only by a few insiders. It is assumed that this scene has its origins in a shop called Paradise Road in Nagayo, in the heart of Japan. Junichi Shimodara had founded Paradise Road in February 1987 and imported mainly American vehicles and spare parts. It has become the most important starting point in Japan, when it comes to Low Rider, hot rods or custom cars. He has become so well known, that even the US American Kustom Culture icon Ed “Big Daddy” Roth visited his shop shortly before his death in 2001. From Nagayo the scene spreaded in the large capital cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. Today, the scene is so big, that even an own exhibition show for the scene takes place for 25 years, the Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show.
Two of the largest companies in Japan, that support this scene, are the Southern California company Mooneyes and the clothing company Vans. Since the late 80s, Mooneyes hosts also the annual Street Car Nationals, an automobile festival at which the Japanese tuning and custom scene meets up annualy.
Around 16,000 visitors flocked in to the Pacifico Convention Center for the 26th edition of the Yokohama Hot Rod & Custom Show, including some 900 overseas visitors to see around 250 cars and 600 motorcycles on display. On Sunday several concerts took place all over the halls.
A highlight every year is the drive through of selected guests with their vehicles through one of the exhibition halls. The audience at the sides of the demonstration cheered to welcome the owners and designers of the specially modified vehicles. There were some real rarities of the Hot Rod and Kustom scene. The 90-year-old American Hot Rod Builder Gene Winfield was present this year. He showed his 1965 Buick LeSabre “Invisible Sabre”. Among the celebrities was also editor-in-chief Coby Gewertz of the Church Magazine with a 1963 Ford Ecoline “Van Go”. First entrant on the Driveway, however, was the winner of last year’s event, the owner of the Heiwa 1968 Triumph TR-6. As last, custom designer Allan Clark drove past the crowd with his frog green 1959 Chevrolet El Camino “Kermit”. Steve van Doren represented the main sponsor VANS and drove into the hall in a MOON buggy.
As every year, the Yokohama Hot Rod & Custom Show features some highlight themes. This year, for example, there were the special shows “32’er Ford Deuce” and “Chevrolet Al Camino” modifications of all kinds from 1959 to 1987. In both special exhibitions, the most varied and spectacular modifications of the models were presented. Meanwhile, even the US customizers come to Japan, to take a closer look at the amazing Hot Rods and Custom Cars, because the Japanese builders now create vehicles with a completely unique style.
Between the predominantly American models, the visitor also finds German models. Particularly popular are Volkswagen Beetles and Bully buses.
Not to forget the approximately 600 motorcycles, which were also outstandingly modified. These are mainly Harley motorcycles, but all have different structures. In Japan they love the simple vintage look for the styling of the machines, but their design is extremely high quality and some of them have exceptional finishings.
At the motorcycle section there was a special show this year too,with the theme “Swinging Traditional Choppers”. On display were choppers in the style of the early 60s.
Art is also part of the Yokohama Hot Rod & Custom Show. Several Japanese artists were invited to an artistic competition and were allowed to design air filter lids under the motto “Color the Temptation”. Winner of the competition was the artist Izumi Sougou Geijyutsu Kai.
This year the jury chose a motorcycle for the “Best of Show” award. The winner was the owner of the Heiwa Triumph TR-6. The four-wheeled models did not receive a best of show, but individual class winners. In the special show “Al Camino” the 1959 Al Camino of El-Classico Vintage & Antiques won the class award. Best of “Taste of Deuce” at the 32 ‘Fords became the Ford Model B by Andy’s Rod Works. The Gene Winfield award has been received by the 1950s Chevrolet Sedan from Vannys Automotive.
All other winners can be found at
PHOTOS copyright: Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show