TWO years ago, the Street Machine crew visited Japan to discover just how special the Mooneyes Yokohama Hot Rod & Custom Show is. A dozen or so Aussies attended that 23rd running of the event and were simply blown away by the sensory delights on show.
Fast-forward to December 2016 and we were thrilled to be heading back again – but this time with a handful of homegrown entrants in the show. 2016 marked the 25th anniversary of Shige Suganuma’s Mooneyes show – and I can confidently report that it is still just as impressive as ever. With 300 cars and 650 motorbikes proudly on display, there was never a shortage of stuff to look at – 60s and 70s-style customs, rods and bikes were still a huge hit, and there were also plenty of Pro Street, muscle car and JDMthemed builds to satisfy just about anyone’s automotive palate.
For a 30-strong contingent of West Aussies, there was an extra element of excitement this time around, as Ben Forster of the Cranksters Rod & Custom Club unveiled his 1927 Model T, Coupster, at the show – a 60s-style show road with V12 Lincoln Zephyr flathead power!
The day before the show, we strolled into the Pacifico Yokohama Convention Centre to check out everyone setting up their displays.
It was abundantly clear that this was a very well-organised operation – keep in mind there are 950 individual vehicles to set up, as well as the vendors, artists, live music and merch – and all for a one-day event! Everything flowed like clockwork, and watching the cars roll into the venue was a spectacle all of its own.
One thing that struck us was the fact that every vehicle coming into the show was streetlegal.
No matter how low, loud or completely crazy some of them were, as long as they adhered to some basic regulations they could be driven hassle-free on the street. The Japanese sure are lucky in that regard!
Saturday night threw us a fantastic surprise.
We received a hot tip from our friend Corey Aldridge; it turns out that on the first Saturday of each month, a lowrider cruise known as ‘D1SBY’ is held after midnight just outside Shibuya, a 45-minute train-ride from Yokohama.
We set off on a mission, and after engaging in some Google Translate-assisted conversation with the locals we found what we were looking for.
Picture this: It’s midnight on an inner-city street, there are 50 colourful lowriders lined
up on both sides of the road, and one after the other they hop and three-wheel up and down in a continuous procession for hours on end. It was crazy! No doubt these shenanigans wouldn’t be tolerated for five minutes back home, but here it was no issue. We reckon it boils down to a basic respect, which the Japanese place a lot of emphasis on. The lowriders were all mindful of and courteous towards other road users, and even the local constabulary didn’t seem to mind when they cruised past.
After a few hours’ sleep we headed back to the Mooneyes show to join the other 16,000 punters in attendance. The official opening always begins with the roll-in, where the special guests make their entrance. Dave Shuten drove the Galpin Auto Sports-restored Ed Roth Orbitron into the hall, followed by Pete Chapouris and his 1926 Ford roadster, Sirod II. Gene Winfield entered in one of his latest creations, a 1952 Chevrolet dubbed Desert Sunrise. Next was a procession of bikes, including skateboarding legend Steve Caballero on his 1952 Triumph pre-unit, The Scout.
The next few hours were spent trawling up and down the venue, desperately trying to take in everything that was on offer. One of my personal favourites was Mr Suzuki’s 1970 Nissan Gloria custom, and it really seemed to resonate with the other Aussies in the group too. Most of us were stumped when we first discovered it was a Nissan, but we all agreed it looked fantastic with the ’63 Pontiac headlights, custom grille, paint and white trim. Other vehicles that caught my attention included a rear-engined Toyota HiLux mini-truck, a radical 1968 Subaru 360 custom, a host of modified VWs, some absolutely beautiful traditional hot rods and more custom Triumphs and Harleys than you could poke a stick at. One of the wilder two-wheeled creations was a five-piston, radialengined Honda Tiger that was pieced together in Jakarta.
After a solid day of wandering around the hall, it was time to catch up with the rest of the WA contingent to see how they had fared.
When I finally found Ben Forster, I had to push through a crowd surrounding him. He had a look on his face that suggested he was dazed, confused, and maybe slightly hungover from the night before.
“So, how did you go?” I asked. He led me over to the Coupster and pointed to the awards on the floor – a participation award, Burnout Magazine’s Pick, and Mooneyes USA’s Pick!
Holy mackerel – Ben had taken out the most sought-after award at the show!
“I just can’t believe it!” Ben exclaimed. “I was so nervous loading the car into the show. This car represents the absolute best of my ability, being shown to the world for the first time ever in front of all of my peers.
“It’s been six years in the making, and I only decided six months ago to unveil it here in Yokohama. After going to Mooneyes two years ago I thought the car would fit in really well here, and that the Japanese would really get the 60s show rod theme.
“There has been a crowd three-deep all day taking photos, and although I don’t speak Japanese, I’m pretty sure all the feedback has been positive. I had no idea it would be received this well.”
When we finally debriefed at the end of a long but exciting day, we all agreed that the Japanese know how to build a car, and they can definitely put on a great show. They have an unwavering commitment to anything they set their sights on – they embrace it, they live it, and they pay attention to the finest of details. The level of respect and pride was impressive too, not just for the vehicles they create, but also for the culture, each other, and literally everything else that makes this place tick.
Heading to Japan is most definitely a bucketlist experience, and a massive source of inspiration. Seeing first-hand the spectacle that is the Mooneyes Yokohama Hot Rod & Custom Show is something I would recommend to anyone. I think Ben summed up the whole experience on the plane trip home: “If I had to find another home, it might just have to be in the Land of the Rising Sun.”