Morning Mania Cruise
Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture
January 14, 2007
very two months, the classic car nuts at Mooneyes
host a meet for friends and enthusiasts of old school Japanese cars. If the Mooneyes name or their googly-eyed logo seem familiar, that's because it is the same famous maker of hot rod parts that's been around for over a half century.
Hot rodder Dean Moon began fabricating parts in 1950, and quickly became one of the original parts makers for the American rodding, biker, drag and lakebed racing scenes. Some of his signature products include the smooth aluminum wheel discs synonymous with the Bonneville Salt Flats and the iconic "Moon Tank" found on post-war racers everywhere, just like the ones rocked by Toyota's SEMA FJ45 Low-Boy
. Back in the 60s, a guy by the name of Carroll and his co-conspirators rolled the first Shelby Cobra out of Moon's garage in Santa Fe Springs, California.
In May of 1986, Moon's friend Shige Suganuma opened a Mooneyes branch in Yokohama, Japan. Suganuma, a fellow hot rod enthusiast and drag racer, had lived in California as a young man and found himself at center of the So-Cal/Hawaiian lifestyle defined by surfboards, pinstripes and drive-ins. After Moon passed away in 1987, Suganuma became the sole owner of Mooneyes and has since carried on Dean Moon's legacy.
Under Suganuma's watch, Mooneyes has expanded to include some Japanese classic flavor. In addition to his love for hot rods, mini-trucks, El Caminos and his '69 Camaro, Suganuma also has a deep passion for old school J-rides. Toyota Crowns in particular, and in 1989 Mooneyes began hosting annual Crown Picnics for enthusiasts of the early Toyota stalwart. In fact, his daily driver is an MS50 Crown with a S130 1JZ swap. In 2005, the Morning Mania Cruise was established to expand such meets to all sorts of vintage Japanese cars and Nissan specialist Barracuda
has been enlisted to jointly hold the events.
The dead of winter usually means a slow season for vintage car shows and meets, so a relatively large number of enthusiasts got together to welcome the new year. Out of approximately 50 cars, 60 percent of them were nostalgics. Mostly Nissans (Glorias, Cedrics and Sunnys in multifaceted pickup, wagon and coupe form) and Toyotas (Coronas and Crowns, including a first-gen 1962!). The rest consisted of a battalion of Toyota Hiace and Nissan Homy vans and newer Crown sedans. All cars arrived under their own power; no trailer queens here.
Mooneyes has always had a touch of Japan, however. The Chevy V8s powering the Nissan R381 race cars of 1968 were built at Moon Automotive. Also, Suganuma has discovered that many of the early Moon products were made in Japan in the 60s, when a US dollar traded for 360 yen. How we wish we could travel back in time to buy some cars at those rates! Such vintage made-in-Japan items are highly sought after by collectors today.
Suganuma also restarted the US shop
in Santa Fe Springs, which continues to churn out Moon Discs and Moon Tanks to this day, and also holds gatherings for rodders and bikers. Thanks to him, the Moon tradition lives on proudly, sold all over the globe from Norway to New Zealand with a dedicated worldwide following of fans.