The 1990s was a weird time. Although countless young enthusiasts were customizing Japanese cars already, they operated outside the purview of mainstream publications, seen as a fad that would quickly fade. And what kind of Japanese customs did the car mags fall over themselves to cover? Cars like Harry Bentley Bradley’s Infiniti J30. The renowned designer’s creation definitely sprang from a different culture, but it made quite a splash in the world of paper media. And now, that piece of history can be yours.
Bradley was a legit car designer, working at General Motors’ Advanced Design Center in the early 1960s. However, the California native had witnessed the hot rod and kustom culture first-hand, and it was his artwork for magazines like Street Rodder, Custom Rodder, Rod & Custom and so on, penned under a pseudonym, that made him a star.
In the late 60s, he left GM and went to work for Mattel, where a new line of diecast cars was about to take form. Bradley put his eye for cool customs to good use, creating most of the cars in the original 1968 Hot Wheels lineup and launching a toy car dynasty in the process. His other works include a 1951 Chevy called the La Jolla, the real-life Deora that was also made into a Hot Wheels, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, and many more.
What almost all publications focused on the autorama era leave out of Bradley’s oeuvre, however, is his 1993 Infiniti J30. Many claim that Bradley’s final project was a 1940 Mercury called Afterglow, which he sketched in 1993. Bradley would later do one last Pontiac project for a friend in 2010, but the Infiniti was built at the tail end of his active period when the car was fresh off the lot. Strangely enough it’s largely forgotten now, even though titles from Custom Rodder to one of the major Car & Track titles devoted full spreads to it back in the day.
Bradley said he was enamored with the J30’s rounded profile, especially the rear, but thought the factory body was too plain. So he had legendary hot rod painter Butch Brinza add lavender and red streamers wrapping around the nose, hood, sides, mirrors, and rear flanks. Billet aluminum discs machined covered the wheels, while faux side pipes lay along the rocker panels.
“I like chrome because it suggests quality,” Bradley wrote for Custom Rodder when they profiled the car in 1995. “The side pipes are really a way of suggesting frame rails — this gives the car a ‘genuine’ quality. Cars are so disguised with plastic and paint today that they don’t seem to be real automobiles — just appliances.”
Perhaps the J30’s most controversial styling point was the shark fin on the trunk. Bradley said the back was too round, and needed “energy and elegance”. In period the taillights were replaced with an entire smoked taillight bar, but stock lenses appear to have found their way back to the car.
The armrests too were supposed to have been custom units designed by Bradley and made by famed interior fabricator Warren Morimoto, but they appear to have been returned to factory spec at some point. About the only mods this custom shares with anything going on in the tuner world at the time are Eibach lowering springs and shaved exterior door handles.
It came as quite a shock in the 90s when such a well-known artist in the American hot rod and custom car scene debuted an Infiniti. “Back then [in the 50s] it was all instinct. Every custom car was amazing and bold.” Bradley explained in Custom Rodder. “Today… we’re customizing the same cars over and over… years ago customizing a new car was no big deal. Probably half the customs throughout the Fifties were new or nearly new cars. But today, nobody touches a late-model automobile.”
It’s not clear how the car wound up in the hands of what appears to be a junkyard or maybe just a large grassy field in Hanover, Pennsylvania. The odometer shows just 69,995 miles and the interior is in mostly good shape. It just needs a little cleaning. The seller doesn’t appear to know the history of the car, and does not mention Bradley in its description. It’s said to run great. If you want the car you can buy it on Facebook Marketplace for $5,000. That’s not a bad price for a fairly well-kept Infiniti J30, if you don’t mind Bradley’s personal style.
“Why’d I do it? Just to prove a new car can be a famous custom. To generate a little controversy,” Bradley wrote in 1995. “Yeah, it’s a late model, four-door Japanese sedan, but it’s a car, man, and I’m having a ball with it every day.”
Additional Images, Facebook Marketplace: