As we stood around Shuhei Oshita’s 1930 Ford Model A admiring its rich patina and exposed V8 engine, an elderly gentleman with a well-behaved whippet stopped to give his opinion. Those comments were not what I expected.
When Oshita-san asked the old chap “what do you think about this kind of car?” the gentleman replied “it’s amazing! How old is it? Does it still work?” Now, this passer-by was by no means an ex-hot-rodder or even a classic car fan, just a regular man out walking his dog.
Oshita-san asked, “what is it that bothers you about these kind of modified cars?” The gentleman replied, “I dislike when people drive at high speeds,” which I think is fair enough. To that, Oshita-san clarified, “actually, this car is all about enjoying the mechanics of the machine. Driving fast in it is simply terrifying.”
While the speed itself is easily achievable, physically being there takes balls made of the same steel as the Model A itself. Imagine sitting in a bathtub strapped to an angry V8 and rolling on four giant marshmallow biscuits at 100km/h… Lucky there’s not a stitch of upholstery on the seats.
It’s probably wise to leave the high-speed larrikinism to the Bugatti and McLarens of the world. Or failing that, anything with a closed roof and windows would also be good. But don’t think for a second that this old girl is as rickety as she looks. She’s actually been rebuilt from the chassis up by hot rod expert Voodoo Larry Kustoms in Elk Grove, Illinois in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
Being 91 years old means being entitled to the odd makeover at least once in your life, and the Model A was put under the knife before arriving in Japan.
She was in fact a one-owner car back in the United States, which means that if the owner was 18 when they bought her new, they would’ve been 62 when they parted ways and let Voodoo Larry work his magic.
For her 80th birthday, the Model A underwent a facelift, full skeletal surgery and multiple transplants including heart, knee and lung.
Cosmetically, she had her cabin chopped seven inches and reattached, giving her a new identity as a proper hot rod. A 1928 Studebaker grill was added for extra cred, while the rear end has been beautifully pinstriped by Kandystriper.
A completely new chassis was fabricated from steel in order to mount the rebuilt 350ci Chevy V8 and custom suspension setup. That new heart was upgraded again in 2017 with an SBC stroker kit, increasing the bore to 383ci, and with an increased compression ratio of 10.28 it’s now beating out an estimated 450hp. The heart of the beast is being fed oxygen by four Holley 94s built by Vintage Speed via some rare Weiand manifolds.
Out back, you’ll find a 4-link setup with coilovers. The rear axle is a Positraction unit from a ’79 Chevy and the steering rack and brakes are from a 1954 F100 truck. Stopping power should always match engine power and F100 callipers do a decent job here.
So, while she may look as though she’s just been dragged out of a river, this old girl is as actually as fresh as she was on her sweet sixteenth.
The intrigued bystander continued to comment on how interesting the Model A’s various custom parts were and was genuinely surprised it was still on the road after almost a century.
What surprised me was just how accepting the old chap was of this obnoxiously loud and visually confusing beast of a car. In other parts of the world it may well be accepted as a modified classic car, but then in America or the UK it may not look so out of place as it does in Japan.
There aren’t as many people like Shuhei Oshita here as there are in the US, that’s for sure.
Oshita-san has been into rockabilly and hot rod culture since he was a teenager and got his first tattoos. His past rides have included a 1960 Ford Thunderbird and 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air, and while both of those were beautiful cars, Oshita-san wanted to find a proper hot rod with a bit more attitude. Around that time, hot rod specialists Artsbody in Aichi Prefecture had imported this Model A into Japan and Oshita-san knew it was the car for him.
All things considered, it was a pretty bold purchase. You have to remember that the Japanese are extremely conservative people, and showing restrain, being reserved and quiet in public is seen as an admirable personality trait. Japanese people are usually softly spoken, shy and humble. This Model A is none of those things.
It always perplexes me, this strange duality that seems to exist in Japanese culture. On the one hand people live quiet, shy and introverted lives, but on the other hand, places like Akihabara in Tokyo and Minami in Osaka tell a very different story.
When people see this chopped Model A rumbling noisily down the street, it’s almost as though it goes unnoticed. By power of deduction, you would assume that considering the Japanese social norms, that this custom creation would send people running for shelter in the nearest Shinto shrine.
I’m not sure if such wildly different cars are necessarily embraced by society, but they are perhaps tolerated, purely out of the desire to not cause a commotion. It may just be a kind of ‘if we ignore it for long enough it may hopefully go away,’ approach. Or perhaps people just accept things for what they are and don’t kick up a fuss when something annoys them.
The social quirks of the Japanese people are what makes the modified and custom car scene here so unique, and those quirks certainly don’t stop wild rods like this from roaming the quiet streets of this wonderful country.
I was lucky to meet Shuhei while at a charity event in Nagano, purely by chance. It turns out he’s actually a member of the Kappaers Kar Klub Japan, a collective with some wild hot rods that make Oshita-san’s Model A look like Mitsubishi Mirage. So, who wants to see a club feature soon?