The Mooneyes logo is an indelible part of kustom culture history, easily recognized by gearheads all over the world. Whether it’s on a hod rod or a Hot Wheels diecast, once you’ve seen the ‘eyes’, you simply can’t forget them.
Dean Moon, the man behind the Mooneyes, was heavily involved in hot-rodding and dry lake racing from his youth, and in the 1950s started Moon Equipment Co., a speed shop based in Santa Fe Springs, California. Since Moon’s death in 1987, Shige Suganuma and his close friend Chico Kodama have continued the Moon legacy.
Suganuma-san first met Dean Moon in 1983 when he became not only the Mooneyes dealer in Japan, but also a close family friend. After Dean’s passing, Shige restarted the company as Mooneyes USA. Today, Chico carries on the traditions at Moon Equipment Co.’s original location – a hot rod mecca for 70 years and counting.
Shige continues to run the Japanese side of the business at Mooneyes Area-1 in Yokohama, having resided in the same Honmoku neighborhood for more than 30 years.
Filmmaker Ming Lai and his team – co-director of photography Tuan Tran, sound supervisor Jeff Hutchins, audio engineer Bruce Greenspan, and design director Sven Igawa – is currently working on a Mooneyes documentary titled Craft of Speed. This feature-length film will tell the story of the business and the visionaries behind it. You can check out the first trailer above.
“I was introduced to Mooneyes by my father-in-law, who used to own a ’32 Ford Roadster, in bright yellow and equipped with Mooneyes speed parts,” director Ming Lai says. “Later, I had the honor of meeting Chico Kodama, the President of Mooneyes USA, and I was inspired by his and Mooneyes owner Shige Suganuma’s incredible story. With their full support, my team and I are making a feature documentary about their lives and work.”
Lai adds: “The film is an epic origin story of legendary Mooneyes founder Dean Moon and his worthy successors, Suganuma and Kodama. It spans from Moon’s creation of Mooneyes as an iconic American speed equipment and custom accessories company to Suganuma and Kodama’s growth of it into a coveted international brand. We’re deeply honored to be able to tell this important story to inspire new generations of hot rodders.”
As independent filmmakers not supported by a studio or network, Humanist Films are currently seeking crowdfunding support to bring the documentary over the finish line. If you’d like to contribute, you can do so via this link.
Here at Speedhunters, we’re very fond of Mooneyes. Dino attends the Mooneyes Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show every year – an event I’ve also attended in the past, while Brad chose the Santa Fe Springs workshop as a ‘must see’ during a visit to Southern California a few years back.
There are plenty of fascinating stories to tell about Dean Moon and his contributions to car culture. To touch on a few, he appeared in movies, built racing engines for the Nissan R381 Group 7 car in Japan, helped Carroll Shelby V8-swap the first AC Shelby Cobra at the Moon Equipment workshop in February 1962, and was one of the original founding members of the Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) in 1963.
There’s also a long-standing rumor that some ‘Mooneyes’ are on the actual Moon. According to folklore, Dean asked an unnamed astronaut on the second Moon mission to leave them there. Real or fake, it’s a typical ‘Dean’ story. There are many more of those too.
If Craft of Speed’s first trailer is anything to go by, this is going to be a great documentary – one that helps us better understand the amazing contributions Dean Moon, Shige Suganuma and Chico Kodama have made to the hot rod world.