It’s not often that the first things you encounter in the morning are burnouts and dragsters roaring, serenaded by 1950s rock ‘n’ roll and dancing pin-up girls, surrounded by tons’ worth of American iron. But that certainly doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be.
On a warm SoCal Saturday in December — the weekend after the 27th annual Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show in Japan — Chico Kodama and the team at Mooneyes USA threw quite the Christmas bash. While making our way through the many hot rod-themed booths, I heard a girl in era attire say “today was my kinda day: hot cars, hotdogs and hot girls.” Add in the hot temperature and I’m not sure I could sum up the event any better.
Something us Californians take for granted is our weather’s allowance for year-round car fun; this became clear as people poured sweat in Christmas sweaters as a warm sun beamed down on chrome trim and metal-flake paint. After spending time with Jordan and Paddy earlier this year, I’m certain California’s Decembers are nicer than summertime in most places. Sorry, guys…
Although our Christmases may not be white, who’s to say our car culture can’t be jolly?
By 9:00am the line to get into the Mooneyes Xmas Party at Irwindale Speedway managed to back traffic up a half mile down the road. You could feel the urgency to get in as the howl of horsepower echoed in the background at the drag strip.
After making our way into the show there was some evidence outside of Irwindale that it was indeed December, but only just barely.
Something that makes Mooneyes special is the brand’s unifying effect. The event was not a homogeneous group of muscle cars and hot rods; there were lowriders and tricked-out vans, vintage and custom motorcycles, dragsters, pickups, and just about anything else that’s old school and American.
Many people I talk to tend to think that vintage Americana-themed events are all identical, and specifically that the cars that show up are the same. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and although these cars have been around for decades it seems their owners are always up to something new each year.
In these circles, creativity has no bounds.
And when it comes to laying frame, these guys did it first.
Don’t believe me when I say there was a bit of everything? How about a 1930s-era Ford across from a resto-modded 1962 Thunderbird, parked up next to what appears to be a Bonneville Salt Flats-prepped Ford Probe.
Everywhere you looked was quality vintage style, and often ‘looks’ that could never ever work on anything else. The pinnacle of this concept landed on this pair of vans which had to be my favorite at the show. So out there, yet so cool.Two Wheels
Alright, moving away from four wheels, you can’t really attend a vintage event in SoCal without a plethora of motorcycles.
In all honesty, I’m not the best one to talk about bikes; I’m not aware of trends or the origin stories of the styles we see on bikes here. But it doesn’t take a genius to recognize clean execution and creativity whether it’s found on two wheels or four.
In thinking about motorcycles in California, one factoid does come to mind. It doesn’t really have anything to do with this Mooneyes event, but I think it’s indicative of the culture in California surrounding cars, bikes, and traffic.
If you aren’t from here or haven’t driven our roads much, you may not know that splitting lanes is legal in California (the only state in the US which specifically allows this). That is, if you’re on a motorcycle you can just drive between the lanes through traffic. You can skip to the front of traffic lights, stop signs, and cut through stop-and-go freeway traffic like it’s nothing.
I’ve heard from friends who lean towards two-wheel travel that multiple attempts have been made to overturn this protection, but given the strength of the motorcycling community at large (not to mention outrageous commute times) all of these attempts have been futile. It’s just one small way that old biker habits live on even in the very law of the land.
If you knew this already, please accept these photos as an offering of apology for boring you. Custom frame, turbocharged, and complete with a wheelie bar – I should have tried to track down the owner but there was just too much to take in elsewhere.The Other Side
As expected at a packed event like this, there was loads more to do than just check out parked cars.
Beyond the morning drags (which I promise I’ll get to in a future story) and live music, you could also do some Christmas shopping for the rockabilly or hot rodder in your life. Or just kick back and enjoy a cold beer.
Alternatively, you could even get a haircut.
The event was, of course, about the cars. But beyond this it’s hard to stress just how much was going on. People hanging out, barbequing, taking photos, and even Mooneyes’ resident pinstriper Hiro ‘Wildman’ Ishii painting. It was a family affair, a day-long tailgate party.
As much as cars shape an event, it’s the people themselves who come out that really make them what they are.The People
This leads me to what felt most unique about this event: the people. Nobody in attendance seemed to question any of what was going on. It was just a day full of good vibes all around.
It’s hard to characterize this without making sweeping generalizations, but often shows cater more towards a certain group – namely either young guys or old guys. But seeing as how Mooneyes is a brand that’s simply cool (in everyone’s eyes), their Christmas party brought in a wide demographic.
If you ask my wife, she’ll say that one major downside of car events at large is their lack of female interest. Having said that, Mooneyes managed to bring in more ladies than just about any other event I’ve attended. Whether they were driving on the drag strip or dressed in pin-up style, the ladies really had a presence at the Xmas Party.
Eventually the sun started to fall in the sky, signalling the end of the good times.
Year after year, I always worry that classic car events are going to begin to die out, but time and time again I’m proved so wrong.
Mooneyes brought out all of the best aspects of California’s vintage community and, just as Dino’s already marked his calendar for next year’s Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show, I’ve marked mine for this one.Cutting Room Floor