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Going “Kure-ji” at Yokohama’s Hot Rod & Custom Show!


‘Art of Speed Malaysia’ was recently invited as Guest of Honor to attend and check out the 22nd Annual Yokohama Hot Rod and Custom Show on the 1st Sunday of December 2013. Without hesitation we quickly organized our trip to learn more about the “Kustom Kulture” over there, yes, spelled with a ‘K’.


To make our Malaysian presence felt, we created a package with the help of MOONEYES and managed to get 20 participants including from neighboring, Indonesia. We also hoped to promote Malaysia as a vacation destination seeing as how it’s ‘Visit Malaysia Year 2014’ next year.


Upon arrival on the set-up day at Pacifico Yokohama exhibition hall, we were floored by hundreds of custom cars and bikes that were getting ready to be displayed. Show contestants and vendors were seen doing last minute detailing to their rides as the set up was only till 5pm on Saturday evening. Not to mention, we were in awe watching all the top-notch and rare bikes parked at the parking lots.


Looking at all the custom Harleys in front of us, we realized that the Japanese were really occupying themselves, busy buying and collecting all the real-deal Milwaukee iron from Flatheads, Pans, Knuckleheads to Shovels and other vintage makes. From all out customs to period correct as well. It showed the maturity of Kustom Kulture in Japan.


This year, the show had visitors not only from all across Japan and USA, but also Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, Macau, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand and others. On Sunday, 1st December 2013, the 22nd Annual Yokohama Hot Rod Show 2013 took place at Pacifico Yokohama exhibition hall. In the past two decades, the show has grown each year.


The organizer of this show, MOON of Japan Inc., headed by Shige Suganuma had a strong pool of dedicated crews to ensure the one-day show will be an astounding success. Suganuma is from Yokohama, Japan born in 1955. The man is responsible for keeping the MOONEYES legacy after taking over the business in the early ‘90s after the passing of Dean Moon, the founder of MOONEYES. The company carries on the traditions of Dean Moon. Today, MOONEYES Japan and MOONEYES USA coexists together under Shige Suganuma as the owner of the company.


This year, the show recorded 15,000 spectators (over 500 international and 180 foreign/domestic media), 280 show cars, 650 show motorcycles, 270 vendor booths, 30 collectivities alley, 40 pinstripers, 40 minicar/model car/pedal car, 60 Throne Lid Paint Contestants and surprisingly 96 Show Awards!


Spectators began to line up at the main entrance as early as 6am this year. The doors scheduled to open at 9am but opened at 8:30am showing true Japanese efficiency. All MOONEYES crew and Suganuma himself were on standby to launch the grand entrance to kick-start the event. While spectators were flooding the main entrance, the excitement kicked in when we could hear the bikes and cars being warmed up from the back isle.


Starting off the “Ride In” as what the tradition of this show, we can see a long white isle being partitioned so that spectators can stand on the side. All domestic/international media from all over the world took their positions to capture the best angles by now. Two Best of Show winners from the previous Hot Rod Custom Show 2012 rolled in to awe all the spectators with their winning rides. They are Best of Automotive, T.D.K Mr. Kondo and his 1949 Mercury and followed by Best of Motorcycle, Cherry’s Company and their 2013 H-D Knucklehead.


Crowds were becoming more excited. A lot of oohh and ahhh can be heard from the isles. The first guests to enter the Ride In were Starlite Rod & Kustom. The lead car was Jack Fields’ 1960 Ford Starliner “Agent Orange” followed by Erik Hernandez and his 1960 Oldsmobile Dynamic ’88 “Electric Lemonade”.


Next was the Old Crow Speed Show strolling the main isle with their Bellytank. As the land speed racer has a very high gear ratio it cannot be driven at low speeds, both Bobby Green and his crew were seen pushing the car.

The next group of guests were on motorcycles. There were nine bikes in total. The first to enter was ChopperDave and his 2006 H-D Turbo Sportster “Steel Shoe”, Cro Customs – Caleb Owens on his 1976-78 H-D Shovelhead CX “Yang Yang” (Builder’s Choice at Born Free 4) and Noise Cycles – Scott “T-Bone” Jones with his 1952 H_D Panhead EL “Sneak Attack” which won Best in Show at Born Free 5.


The next group included Powerplant – Yaniv “Neevo” Evan riding his 1956 H-D Panhead “The P-16 Bomber”, followed by Small City Cycles – Todd Asin with a 1950 Triump Thunderbird and right behind was Joey Cano on his 1947 H-D Knucklehead “Knarrow Knuckle”.


The final group was Jeff Leighton and his 1947 H-D Panhead “Longclaw” followed by Dynamite Joe on his 1942 HD Knucklehead “White Powder” which received the MOONEYES PICK award at Born 5 and last to enter the Ride In was Cycle Zombies – Big Scott Stopnik riding on his 1947 H-D Knucklehead “Zombie Child”.

All official invited builders are from the USA and they comprised three automobiles and nine motorcycles. Soon after the last Ride In, all of them were introduced on the main stage and the show was officially opened to public.


During the one-day event, which was from 9am to 5pm, live bands also performed on the main stage and also performed live inside the Rat Island, which hosted pre-1948 vehicles and motorcycles within a free open area enclosed by a fence. The cars and bikes on display were not cordoned off, and spectators could pass through all day. The perimeter hosted artist and guests from abroad so it’s a must see location within the show.

This year, the event’s spotlight for automobiles was titled 60’s Mild Custom “Mild and Wild” which focused on mild custom cars from the ‘60s era. Leading off the spotlight were the two custom cars from Starlite Rod & Kustom.


As many true enthusiasts of the Hot Rod Custom Show know, the event hosts a broad spectrum of custom cars and this year featured a taste of just about everything imaginable. Both foreign and domestic makes of hot rods and customs, classic VWs, vintage Japanese cars, K-cars and so much more. Each car has own personality and is top-notch show quality. Most importantly, all are in running condition!

The show also hosts the Pinstripe Gathering lead by MOONEYES Signs & Pinstriping Hiro “Wildman” Ishii, which housed a talented and famous pinstripers and artists. Live demo and commissioned pinstriping were done all day and yes, they were very busy on their workstations. Each year the show has a custom paint contest and this year it was titled “Throne Lid Custom Paint Contest” where the throne lid referred to the throne none other than the porcelain kind. The contest recorded 60 entries from domestic and international. It was literally a gallery of customized painted toilet seat covers and you might not want to place it in the toilets. Just for art show!


As time was very limited and the award presentation would commence at 3.30pm sharp, we strolled and chat with all the international builders specially invited for the show. We were very impressed by the dedication of all the domestic and foreign show contestants. All the vehicles brought in to compete in this show are all winners in their own right.

Winston Yeh, hails from Taipei City, Taiwan is the founder and owner of Rough Crafts. His bike 2008 H-D 1200R “Stealth Bullet” Sportster won the AMD World Championship 2013 and contested in the motorcycle category for this show.


“It is an amazing show in the region and I will not miss this chance to participate and show off my creations”, said Yeh and further explained how he contacted the organizer and made his way to Japan with his winning bike. Where vehicle customization is somewhat an issue in certain countries, Yeh proved that by not limiting and retraining one creativity and get constrained to what is cool at the time, one should be able to explore and be creative to create a desirable and of course a running vehicle. Jeff Holt, the Editor-in-Chief from Hot Bike magazine, picked his motorcycle as one of the winners in motorcycle category for this show.


By 3pm, Steven Sare from MOON of Japan Inc. announced that the award presentation would start soon. By this time, the Mooneyes crew had already organized and called up all the winners to standby behind the main stage. All 96 winners!

The judging for Best of Show winners for Automobile and Motorcycle categories was made earlier on previous night by the MOONEYES Japan and USA. This showed how efficient and organized they are to ensure the one-day show will run smoothly. All the invited guests did all other picks on the day of the show from 9 to 11am. They ranged from builders, artists, magazine editors and show promoters from all over the world.


Art of Speed Malaysia led by Asep Ahmad Iskandar was invited to pick a winner at this show. Art of Speed Malaysia is a movement promoting Kustom Kulture, from custom vehicles including automobiles, motorcycles, lowriders, arts such as low brow, pinstripe, airbrush, graffiti, sculptures plus youth extreme sports and music. Kustom Kulture is a growing scene in Malaysia and is getting stronger with more quality works being shown year after year. In this age of cookie cutter lifestyle, more people are looking at new ways to create their own identity and many have found it through Kustom Kulture.

I am honoured and humbled by this experience to actually be invited to pick a winner at this show. A 22-year-old international event and organized by one of the icons in the kustom kulture industry had invited a 2-year-old event from Malaysia. This is a huge responsibility and this is for all Malaysians that had trusted us and supported us all along. I’ll make sure I pick the best one”, Asep said the night before where the organizer hosted a Little Get Together Party with all the participating vendors and special guests. (Asep’s wife, and co-writer of this article, MizzDeni, is pictured below addressing the crowd – AF)


The award presentation kicked start with the picks from all the invited guests and they also include picks from the founder of The Salinas Boys, Cole Foster and Jeff Decker, a sculptor and historian famously known for his bronze sculpture “The Hill Climber” located at on the grounds of the Harley-Davidson Museum.

The award presentation took about 40 minutes and all invited guests were given about 1 to 2 minutes to explain why they picked the winner.

The crème de la crème of the awards were the Best of Show Automobile, which was won by Ace Automotive Mr. Nakamura, a 1960 Buick Invicta and Best of Show Motorcycle won by Cherry’s Company, a 1967 HD Shovelhead. The Best of Show Motorcycle award was also picked and received astonishing nods from Cro Customs/Caleb Owens (USA), JDA/Two Wheels Terrors (USA), Boccin Custom Cycles (ITALY) and also by Art of Speed Malaysia (MALAYSIA).


The show also marked another achievement when the organizer of Born Free had stepped in and announced that they are bringing their Born Free Pick winner and motorcycle to California next June at Born Free 6. For the past two years, MOONEYES has been bringing in the Best in Show bikes from Born Free in USA to Japan for the Hot Rod Custom Show.

What we had seen at the show is a large pool of traditional style choppers from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s as well as full-on restorations. Not forgetting all the American cars. From Fords to Buicks, the scenario tells you that the owners know their stuff by combining hand made parts and accessories that builders outside Japan would never think of. Even with the high cost of importing & parts, the vehicles were World Class. Very refreshing in an age where buying new and throwing away is a norm.

Many builders also go to great lengths to ensure roadworthiness of their vehicles and that is something we want to share as well with Malaysians. From our experience in Japan, we realize that dedication to the craft is something that we can share with Malaysians regardless of type of vehicle. It is the passion to build something by hand and understanding its rich history that sets the Japan scene apart. We do hope however to see more kustom classic american cars & bikes on Malaysian roads as that is the true heritage of Kustom Kulture!

Congratulations to all winners of the Hot Rod Custom Show 2013! This show is one event not to be missed, as there are tonnes of amazing builds, thousands of visitors and yes, there were so many things going on that you might get sensory overload big time. Hope to see you at Art of Speed Malaysia event on 7th & 8th June 2014!

Words : MizzDeni & Steven Sare

Photo credits : MizzDeni & MOON of Japan Inc.