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Mooneyes - Shop Visit
Built by 'Jocko' in 1964 the Moonliner features a hand-built aluminium body and was originally Hemi-powered. It now sports an Allison V12 aircraft engine. It was run at the drag strip and on the salt flats
The final feature from our trip to the US earlier this year focuses on one of the oldest and most recognisable names in the speed equipment industry Ė Mooneyes, from Moon Equipment Co. We are grateful to Chico Kodama, President of Mooneyes USA, who took time out to talk to DRCReview and gave us an overview of the business.
How has Mooneyes evolved over the years?
As you know, Dean Moon originally owned the company and built it up over the years selling speed parts initially to do with fuel systems. He made foot-shaped gas pedals, aluminium spun fuel tanks and wheel discs Ė some of this dating back to 1955. Sadly, Dean passed away in 1987 and suddenly the parts supply dried up. Dean and Shige Suganuma (now Chief Executive of Mooneyes USA) were great friends and Shige had set up Mooneyes (Japan) in 1984. He decided to buy the business and continue Deanís legacy in the US. He purchased the building, the streamliner, the dragster and more importantly, two great people who had been here from the beginning - Fred Larson and Bill Jenks. Sadly, Fred passed away quite recently, but Bill is still in good health and building fuel tanks for us the way he has done for over 40 years.
Chico Kodama, President of Mooneyes USA
Was it always your intention to carry on with a traditional range of parts, or did you think of expanding the product range?
We wanted to carry on doing the same thing Dean had started - selling specialised hot rod and drag racing parts. We havenít really changed anything at all but have added more parts and helped to built up the brand. Dean was a genius at branding and Shige has followed his lead. We are trying to come up with new products where we can all of the time, but we are very traditional and we want to keep that theme and build new products around this core.
I didnít realise Japan was such a big market for speed parts. Is this still true today?
It was especially big in Japan from 1985 to 1995, but Japan has a tendency to move on from one trend to the other - there are really no hardcore people over there who will stick with one thing. Someone comes up with an idea and everyone jumps on it. Over here in the US, street rods are still going strong but muscle cars have become popular in recent years.
So where do you see company in the next 10 years?
Hopefully weíll still be here, but I donít really know.
The Moonliner is an art form from every angle
The older generation of rodders is not getting any larger. How do you think this will impact your business long-term?
The good thing is that younger enthusiasts are coming through who are happy to surf the internet. Because there is so much more information freely available, they are finding out what parts were popular in the 50s and 60s and even though they werenít born then, they know an awful lot about cars from this era. They are finding out that many of our parts were popular a long time ago and they want to recreate that nostalgic look with their own rods.
Exotic old induction systems on display
So you are riding high on the current nostalgia wave then?
Itís great that people are into older style cars at the moment, but thatís just as well because those are the only parts we sell. (he laughs) Hopefully it will keep going.
What do you make at these premises?
All of the metal casting of products is done outside of these walls along with the polishing of components, but the finished machining is done in-house. The forming and spinning of fuel tanks is handled here, as it has been for over 40 years and we still grind cams on-site. We have a parts warehouse, the shop, a display area and part of our workshop is used to keep and fabricate the race cars.
The entrance to the shop
Part of an extensive display of nostalgic speed parts
What race cars are you working on?
We are rebuilding the Mooneyes dragster with a new chassis. It suffered a large rear impact which cracked and deformed the chassis, so we have a new one which remains faithful to the original. The idea is that the car will be rebuilt in time for the NHRA Hot Rod Reunion towards the end of this year. The other car we are putting together is for Bonneville. Itís a stretched Roadster with a blown small block Chevy and we are hoping to have it ready to test at El Mirage in June. The aim then will be to take it to the Bonneville speed Week in August.
Thanks for you time Chico.
Story & photos: Andy Kirk
The Bonneville car begns to take shape - note the front-mounted blower
The old dragster chassis (above) complete with bent rear section, and the new one below
Part of the workshop across from the Moonliner
1960 Toyota Crown custom guards the parts warehouse. It's fitted with a Chevy crate motor and runs on Boyds wheels