Continuing the ‘Eyes’ Vision

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From left, Mooneyes owner Shige Suganuma and Chico Kodama, with Kodama’s Bonneville Salt Flats modified roadster. (Photos by AYAME KOUSAKA/Rafu Shimpo)

By AYAME KOUSAKA
Rafu Staff Writer 

Gary “Chopit” Fioto’s multiple award-winning 1955 Ford Custom “Beatnik Bubbletop,” fitted with a spaceship-style glass dome.

The Mooneyes open house and car show was held on July 14 in Santa Fe Springs.

Since the 1950’s, Mooneyes has been associated with hot rods and racing, just as founder Dean Moon became the name of speed and top innovator of racing parts.

This public event was hosted at Mooneyes headquarters. It gave people the chance to tour the inner workings of their famous garage.

There were many hot rods and custom vehicles on display in their parking lot and car clubs parked all along the streets and neighboring shops. Free hamburgers, live band and music made the event more festive.

World renowned pin striper Hiro “Wildman” Ishii works freehand and on the fly.

Moon was an avid automotive enthusiast, mechanic and professional photographer. He was also involved in the dry lake races and speed equipment.

He founded Moon Equipment Company in 1950. His mission was to improve and refine the quality, safety and speed of each of his race products.

In 1963, Moon was one of the original founding members of Specialty Equipment Market Association.

Moon built and raced cars at El Mirage Dry Lake, Bonneville Salt Flats and drag strips, and established a company that became an icon in the hot rod industry.

Moon started his business behind his father’s cafe in Norwalk and grew it into an internationally recognized brand name.

Dawn Rabonza of Long Beach sports her leather vest full of patches commemorating 20 years of people, places and memories.

Moon became a well-known and innovative name in speed and racing parts.

Shige Suganuma met Dean Moon in the fall of 1983. As a young man, Suganuma frequented the shop and became close friends with Moon. Suganuma later became a dealer in Yokohama of Mooneyes products.

Kitty Rogers of Long Beach on her custom Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey-influenced ’06 Harley-Davidson FXDB Street Bob.

“I only knew Dean Moon for a short time, from October 1983 until his death in June 1987,” Suganuma wrote in an essay published in the 2012 Mooneyes catalogue. “Dean shared and showed me so much within this period. It was like a condensed version of all kinds of information from many years. At the time, inside the Moon offce was like a mountain of treasure. Particularly, the mountain of professional quality photos he had taken over the past 30 years because of his photography training in the Air Force.”

Suganuma learned a great deal about Moon’s business during the course of their friendship.

“One evening I said to him, ‘I’m going to quit my job and start selling Moon in Japan. Then Dean asked me, ‘Will you regret it? I re-plied with, ‘No regrets.’ Then Dean replied with, ‘OK. You are Japan’s Mooneyes.’ It was like having a conversation with my father, he was very kind and that feeling has remained with me.”

Shige Suganuma and Yoshi Morishima of Boyztoyz.

Moon’s wife Shirley took over the company after his death on June 4, 1987. But after her passing in 1990, the company was put up for sale.

Sugnauma proceeded to purchase the company and after two years in 1992, Moon Equipment Company was renamed Mooneyes.

“Every effort was made to hold on to and keep what Dean used intact. From the telephone number, desks, building and everything,” Suganuma said. “Unfortunately, the landmark eyeball sign and tower that represented Moon Equipment Company and the front office was ordered to be torn down by the city. After not operating for two years, the property was desolate. Every single piece, photo, paper, etc. that was scattered on the floor was saved. I collected anything and everything I could during clean-up.

“One thing was certain, Dean was well organized with filing. He categorized his files and everything by events. This helped plan and use the same base structure for both Japanese and USA locations. The organization was almost as if it were for someone to take over later. Again, I learned another part of Dean Moon, the way he did things, the way he thought was simply brilliant,” said Suganuma.

The legacy of Dean Moon is showcased in the “60 Years of Excellence Moon Equipped” exhibit at the NHRA Museum in Pomona, now through January 2013. Call (909) 622-2133 or visit NHRA Museum for more information.

Rucksters at 2012 Mooneyes open house with "GFO," their hot rod custom turbo Ruckus. From left, Johnny Hang, Rick Tucker, Tony Lac, Sonny Truong, Andy Vien, Mark "Hook" Johnson, Hai Truong.

For more information: MOONEYESNHRA Museum

Photo gallery: MOONEYES

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1 Comment

  1. For some strange reason those Moon Eyes decals were very ubiquitous during my childhood years in the 1960s in Brookpark, Ohio.

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