The first weekend of December is always an event double-whammy for me. It starts off on Saturday at the Pacifico Yokohama convention center for the Mooneyes Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show setup, while Sunday – the actual Mooneyes event day – is spent at Fuji Speedway for the Nismo Festival.
Now that Covid disruptions seem to be behind us, this past weekend I had a lot of fun hitting up these two legendary meets once again. Let’s kick off with the Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show 2022 – the 30th anniversary event no less.
The show prep is something I’ve always enjoyed shooting.
Seeing so many wild vehicles arrive under their own power is a real spectacle, and even if I never get to see the actual show the following day, I never feel short changed.
With enough space inside the venue that I can easily break out my 70-200mm lens, plus no crowds to contend with, setup day at the Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show really is an automotive photographer’s paradise.
It’s also so cool to see the work that goes into preparing cars for display, not to mention the displays themselves.
Then of course there are the cars – the main reason why we’re here.
Although I’ve covered Mooneyes events in Japan for years – and learned a lot about this corner of car culture in the process – I could never call myself an expert. There’s just too much variety when it comes to vehicles, history and styles spanning pretty much a whole century.
But that’s OK. I’ve always enjoyed being a fish out of water at these events, but at the same time some things have become familiar. That’s because Mooneyes Japan events always throw domestic cars into the mix.
Like the Yajima Jidousha S14 Silvia, which I first ran into at Tsukuba back in 2018. Since then, its L28 engine has received a bump up to 3.1L and it now breathes through triple 50mm carburettors.
Right in front of the S14 was this Nissan Gloria wagon, also powered by an L-series engine with a similar spec.
It’s so cool to see owners continuing to use these older, carbureted straight-sixes. It must be rather cool having full-tune S30Z sound in your wagon.
Mooneyes always has its fair share of Volkswagen Beetles and Buses, but there were some other rear-engined VW beauties at the event, including this stunning Brazilian 1600 4-door notchback.
No matter how you decide to navigate the Pacifico halls, the variety keeps coming.
So, when I was done looking at old American trucks, I headed back outside to see what was on its way in.
I love themed cars, especially ones that make sense. I wouldn’t look twice at a Nissan NV200 van on the street, but when one turns up to a Mooneyes event sporting the iconic BRE livery and running reimagined 4-spoke wheels – the originals used on old Datsun Sunny race cars – I start snapping away.
The NV200 wasn’t the only BRE-themed vehicle at the Pacifico. Check out this amazing track-side support van from Art Racing.
On the ramps out back was a Datsun 2000, also sporting the legendary colors that Peter Brock of Brock Racing Enterprises made so famous. This rig and car setup was like a Hot Wheels Team Transport release, but in 1:1 scale and fully functional.
The Nissan racing theme didn’t end there…
I am not 100% sure what we’re looking at here, but I got flashbacks of the S30-inspired Z33 I saw at TAS back in January, on the Nissan Automotive College booth. If the cars from Ground Designs are anything to go by, it seems like grafting old school faces onto modern cars is catching on.
Here’s Ground Designs’ more street-oriented build, rolling in later on in the day.
Custom bikes are an important part of the Hot Rod Custom Show, so I always have to grab a few pictures.
Mooneyes Japan always likes to bring in builds from other countries for this event, but sadly it didn’t end up working out this year. The container coming from Los Angeles, that was filled with bikes, never even made it onto the ship due to dockworker strikes.
One area of the event was reserved for ‘Muscle Mopar’, and boy did the display live up to its name.
Not only did they have this crazy machine sporting a 9.3L big block engine…
…But a huge number of Plymouth Road Runners – more than I’ve ever seen in one place at one time.
It was fun trying to figure out the differences of the various model years.
For me, the winner was this Super Bird iteration – primarily based on the visuals and that massive rear wing. I tried to look for the owner to ask if the car was one of the few packing a 426ci Hemi V8 – and to hear the beep beep horn – but to no avail.
Earlier on I mentioned the variety of builds on display at the Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show, and here’s more proof – a slammed Daihatsu Hijet.
This little display – a homage to the 1980 Subaru AWD wagon that was used by the US Ski Team during the Lake Placid Winter Olympics and subsequent ad campaign – stopped me in my tracks. It was so ’80s, and with so much pink I end up wondering if this is the reason STI used the color in its branding…
Ever since covering Andy’s Rod Works years back, I’ve become a real fan of Willys coupes. I’ve always found it visually-pleasing how the front and entire roof line of these cars dramatically lean forward, making them look like they’re going 100mph even when sitting still.
No surprise then that they look absolutely menacing when built up for drag racing.
There’s nothing like a big blower topped off with a bug catcher to make a statement!
I had my son in tow, sort of as an assistant, wheeling my camera case around and making sure to complain every few minutes at just how much walking we were doing. When we stopped to look at the ’90 Years of Deuce’ display he had trouble comprehending that these cars are close to 100 years old now. “But they look so new,” he kept saying. He was kind of right, and that’s really the whole point of kustom culture – keeping these historic machines alive and reinventing them over and over again. I’m pretty sure it struck a chord with the little fellow.
As the day went on, the displays were buttoned up and the show really started coming together.
It was towards the evening that I had a chance to take a closer look at some of my favorite builds of the show, including this one from a member of the famed Pharoahs Car Club Japan.
I’ve always been intrigued by the straight-eight engine, a Fireball 8 in this case.
Not too far away, the lowrider area was pretty much ready for Sunday.
I’m sure Snoop Dogg would feel right at home in this one.
The Mooneyes Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show has always managed to bring domestic and international kustom culture together in its own unique way, and this year’s event was no different. The fusion of old and new, the mix of styles and the amazing people make it all so special. As ever, I can’t wait for the 31st event in 2023.
Dino Dalle Carbonare