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.
About 16,000 visitors poured into the congress centre Pacifico Yokohama, including about 900 visitors from overseas, to see the 300 exhibited automobiles and 650 motorcycles. A highlight was the parade of some selected vehicles through one of the exhibition halls. The audience on the side of this demonstration alley cheered the owners and constructors of the specially modified vehicles. There were some real rarities from the hot rod and kustom scene. Including the Orbiton restored by Galpin Auto Sports, which once was built by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Ed Roth was an American car customizer, Comidian and artist. The Beatnik Bandit Hot Rod from 1961 belonged to one of his most famous creations. As an artist, he developed the world-famous comic mouse Rat Fink.
Pete Chapouris, Managing Director of the South Californian Speed Shops in Canada, presented his 1926 Ford Track Roadster “Sirod 2”. Gene Winfield from Wheels Unlimited showed one of his last conversions, the 1952 Chevrolet “Desert Sunset”. One of the special highlights at the fair was the Moonliner, built in the 50’s by Robert “Jocko” Johnson. The streamliner was also driven for record runs. Later Deam Moon from Mooneyes purchased this vehicle and used it for numerous Mooneyes advertising campaigns.
But also for motorcycle fans a lot was offered. Several excellent awarded machines from the “Born Free 8 event” were to be seen, such as the best in show Harley Davidson UL “Lighbringer” from 1942, the award-winning Honda CB1620 “Gekko” from the Kiyo BB´s Garage, or the 1952 Triumph “the Scout” rebuilt by Steve Caballero. Also the modern bikes delighted the audience, such as the recently completed MV Augusta Brutal 800 Dragster RR “Ballistic Trident” by Winston Yeh from Taiwan, the Harley Davidson FXR “Invader” by Yaniv “Neevo” Evan or the Born Free 8 “Give Away Bike”, built by Chopper Dave, the Harley Davidson FL called “Fire Proof”.
On the occasion of this exhibition, a special bike project has been build in the Vans and Moon Custom Cycle Shop workshop. The oversized slip on sneakers, painted and designed by twenty artists, were an unusual art project. The action took place for the 50th anniversary of Vans shoes. The artistic uniques found a lot of aficionados.
The 2016 Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show held at Pacifico Yokohama had a difficult start. In previous years, the complaints of nearby residents and shop owners had accumulated and the event was on the brink. The organizers saw the 25th edition of the fair highly endangered and launched a campaign under the slogan “Respect our Kulture – Mamoroh”. With posters, advertisements and special events for local residents, they brought the culture of the hot rod and custom world closer to the citizens. Also on the 4th December 2016. They held a small celebration with live music, exhibitors booths and some Hot Rod and Custom exhibits, to bring the visitors closer to the culture of the scene. After all, the Yokohama’s Hot Rod custom show is one of the largest fairs of its kind in the world. Now, it remains to be hoped that there is a reunion in 2017.
PHOTOS: ©Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show