Hot Wheels designer Harry Bradley’s “shark fin” Infiniti J30 is now for sale

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 RodderRod & 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.”

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11 Responses to Hot Wheels designer Harry Bradley’s “shark fin” Infiniti J30 is now for sale

  1. Steve says:

    It is Harry Bradley who was instrumental in directing my passion for cars into being a designer. When I was a kid, I remember seeing his so beautiful sketches of the 73 Silverado and Monte Carlo in Motor Trend when photos were not available and teasers were all we had. His sketches of tomorrows models had such a grace of line and texture that I would spend time in class drawing cars and not learning about history or flailing around in math classes. Little would I know that years later, I would be attending CCS (Harry taught at Art Center – where I went to get a tour with my rally car in tow) and spending the majority of my professional career in automotive design, making good money for “not working” a day in my life.

    I remember this car, not with passion, but I remember seeing it and thinking WTH. Harry was a different character and beat to a different drum, like a lot of people in design. This is what gives us such great variety in automotive design and leaves us with beautiful automobiles to drive, collect and desire.

    Harry had physical restrictions, I believe he had MS, yet look at his whole body of work. He made a great career for himself, and was an inspiration and legacy to many automobile enthusiasts world wide.

  2. Fred Langille says:


  3. Frank G. says:

    There’s a link to the for sale ad in the article. Search for Facebook marketplace.

  4. Ben Dover says:

    Why does it appear you need to open the trunk to unlock the doors? 🤔 haha

  5. Chris Green says:

    OMG I was just thinking about this car the other day! I can’t believe it’s for sale. I was in Harry’s automobile sketching class when I went to Art Center for a short time in the 1990s. He showed the car off to the class as I recall, and talked about how he had improved on the design by adding that fin. I thought it was really cool if extremely strange. This car has to go to a good home! I can’t get it (or can I?), but hopefully one of his many now very successful auto designer students will take it. It would be great if it showed up at the Art Center Classic car show sometime, too.

  6. speedie says:

    The J30 wins the award for the blandest, most forgettable design ever. Look mom its a Ford Contour! No honey that’s an Infiniti J30 that costs twice as much more.

    • MikeRL411 says:

      Good observation, Some dream cars are really nightmares.,I like the “slippery turd” design. I own one [j39T not a turd],

  7. Chris Brown says:

    I have memories of looking out the cafeteria window at Art Center to see if Harry Bradley’s J30 was in the staff parking lot to see if it was time to go to his class. It really stood out against a sea of bland, silver cars in the parking lot.

    He was one of my favorite instructors. He critiqued everything with either damnation or praise, seldom anything in between. when he would do drawing demos at a table, the students would be on the opposite side of the table from him, so he would draw everything upside down in perfect perspective, so the students would see it right side up. His other trick was to sit on a stool with his back to the chalkboard and reach backward to draw in perfect perspective without looking at what he was doing!

    He had an amazing grasp of surfaces and lines, which showed in his work. He did a lot of illustrations for custom car magazines throughout the years. He not only designed the first hot wheels, but also some of the more interesting design details for GM- ’67 Chevrolet truck, clamshell disappearing tailgate on fullsize GM wagons, taillights in the bumpers on GM A-body wagons and El Caminos. He also did a lot of moonlighting in the 1960s when the car companies worked with famous customizers to build show cars to display along with concept cars at new car shows. His most famous was the Deora, done for Dodge (while working at GM) It was based on a Dodge A-100 pickup, had a front hatch/windshield that was from the back of a 1960 Ford station wagon, and became a Hot Wheels car. He also designed the modern Wienermobile.

    I hope somebody saves this Infiniti. Hopefully we find out more about what happened to it after its days at Art Center.

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