The car self-confinement of the Japanese is known worldwide. It is also known that the cult of tuning has become widespread in Japan. But only a handful of insiders know that Japan has a really active scene around American hot rods and custom cars or cafe racers. It is believed that this scene originated in a shop called Paradise Road in Nagayo, in the heart of Japan. Junichi Shimodara founded Paradise Road in February 1987 and mainly imported American vehicles and spare parts. It quickly became the most important destination in Japan when it comes to low riders, hot rods or custom cars.
Around 16,000 visitors flocked to the Pacifico Yokohama Convention Center, including some 900 overseas visitors, to see around 300 cars on display and 650 motorcycles. A highlight was the passage of some selected vehicles through one of the exhibition halls. The audience at the edge of this demonstration alley cheered the owners and designers of specially modified vehicles. There were some real rarities from the Hot Rod and Kustom scene to see. In 2018 the show took place for the 27th time.
The highlight of the Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show is the “Ride In” at the beginning of the event, where selected exhibitors drive their vehicles into the hall, accompanied by hundreds of spectators. All very polite and no pushing, because we are in Japan. Under the flare of the flashlights, even the US Custom Scene enter the hall, like the 1970Chevrolet C10 pickup “Mafia Truck” by South City Rod & Custom of California. Victor “Reno” Sevilla, also from California, was allowed to enter the hall with his pastel yellow 1959 Ford F100 “Tequilla Sunset” pickup. The special livery comes from Hot Rod legend Gene Winfield. On the other hand, the 1963 Ford Thunderbird “D-Bird” by Starlite Rod & Kustom was rather softly modified. The audience nevertheless showed his full enthusiasm for the special finish of the Thunderbirds.
After the automobiles came the motorcycles. Although the spectators were asked not to travel by motorcycle because in the years before, the complaints of the surrounding residents and shopkeepers had heaped up and the event was on the verge. As in the previous year, therefore, the access for loud motorcycles was closed this year to dampen the noise pollution a bit.
The motorcycles were of course not missing on the show. Among them are real jewels, such as the “Best of Show” The Traditional Way / Co-designer Bobby Green – 1948 Harley Davidson UL “Blackbird”, the Roland Sands Design / Roland Sands – 1934 BMW R7 “9T Concept R7” or the Chabott Engineering / Shinya Kimura – 1978/2018 Yamaha SR “Crystal Trophy”.
Panhead conversions were at the forefront of this year’s Custom Show. It is allowed, what pleases and the designers of the bicycles knew hardly limits. Long chopper forks, lowered frames, specially made rims and magnificent tanks. Wherever you look, there was something new to discover.
The supporting program also had a lot to offer. In addition to a Pinup Girl Contest, there was a whole range of tuning products, model cars, sneaker special models, T-shirts and Pinstriping products. Some visitors drag in the night before the show in front of the halls, so they can grab one of the special models for themselves. For the necessary Partyfeeling different bands provided on a party stage.
Two of the largest companies in Japan supporting this scene are the South Californian company Mooneyes and the clothing company Vans. Since the late 80s, Mooneyes also hosts the annual Street Car Nationals, an automobile festival where the Japanese tuning and custom scene meets.