An interview with Shige Suganuma of Mooneyes

Published on June 27th, 2013

MOONEYES, as it is known today, first began life in Southern California around 1950 as MOON Automotive. The founder, Dean Moon (May 1, 1927 – June 4, 1987) grew up in Southern California. He was an innovator in hot rodding and speed parts as he was heavily involved in the early years of land speed racing. In the beginning, he made and sold parts from his parents’ garage but quickly outgrew that and set up shop at 10820 S Norwalk Blvd in Santa Fe Springs, California. This is the exact location where Mooneyes is located today. Dean Moon began selling his original parts, which included MOON Fuel Blocks, MOON Wheel Discs, MOON Fuel Tanks and MOON Foot Pedals under the name Moon Equipment Co. Soon, more products were introduced into the lineup. Moon would keep growing and focused on anything that had to do with speed from drag racing cars to speedboats. These products are still made in USA and available today.

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Today, Mooneyes Japan and MOONEYES USA coexist together under Shige Suganuma. To date, MOONEYES has lifestyle outlets in California and Japan as well as authorized dealers throughout the world. They also had recently celebrated their 21st Annual Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show in Yokohama. The event saw 15,000 spectators, over 500 from all over the world and almost 200 international media representatives not to mention participation of local and international custom builders.

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During the previously held Art of Speed 2013, which dominantly invaded the outdoor parking area of Citta Mall, we had the privilege to have quick chat with the godfather of Kustom Kulture and Hot Rod scene in Japan, none other than renowned Shige Suganuma. He’s a friendly chap who were more than willing to entertain our questions as well as the hoarding crowd who fancy a touch of Shige’s magic on their machines, apparels and a whole lot more.

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Being dubbed as the godfather of the Kustom Kulture and Hot Rod scene in Japan, what is your view of the scene in Malaysia and how do you foresee its development in the next decade?

Shige Suganuma : Well, you know, as long as the people enjoy it, that is the key. It doesn’t matter how nice or how bad the custom scenes here. You cannot really compare, say, with the other country. Every country has a different style of doing things and different cultures and I like it that way. The differences. You can just style it anyway you want and keep it the custom scene going.

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Mooneyes products has caught on very well among the local customisers and hot road fans. How would you compare the progress of the Malaysian scene compared to other countries in the region (ie; Thailand and Indonesia)?

Shige Suganuma : That is what like I said earlier, it is hard to compare because in the USA, they have custom modification history up to more than 60 years and in Japan is about 30 to 40 years now so here is not that long, probably more than 10 years right? So it is kinda just started and you have to make it grow, so it is pretty hard for me to compare here and there, maybe not just yet. So for the customisers here, don’t give up and keep it going, that is the only way.

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Among the cars in your personal collection which is your favourite and why? Any projects that you are currently working on for your personal collection.

Shige Suganuma : Yeah, we’ve just finish a Volkswagen Beetle race car that is going to Belgium for a show. An European Bug meet which is a pretty huge event over there. We are going to ship the car for the race event there. And my personal favourite is, of course, my 1969 Chevy Camaro GTA. I kinda keep it to its functionality by keeping it simple for now.

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What is the next big thing from Mooneyes and how does the product development team work in USA/Japan?

Shige Suganuma : Next month we are going to have the Mooneyes Open House, it is a kinda big get together party where there will be a lot of customisers with their rides are going to come and gather and swap ideas. It is rather simple and keeping it simple is how we do things. The fans like that way too.

Steve Sare : It is going to happen in Santa Fe Springs, California in July 13 so come on over!

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What are the traits of a world class custom vehicle and have you seen such vehicle at the Art of Speed today.

Steve Sare : I don’t think you can label any as world class in the custom scenes. This is because, the machines, the rides, it could be super basic or super extensive but definitely something or someone’s ride is going to stand out amongst the rest and that will make the car special and that is always the hard part in the customising scene everywhere. It is very subjective really. But any car has its potential to stand out.

When Dean Moon passes on in 1987 you took up the challenge of continuing the business rather then seeing it sold away for profit. What were that challenges faced by the company back then and given the chance would you have done anything differently.

Shige Suganuma : When he passed away in 1987 the wife took over the business. And when she pass away in 1990, I took over the business from her to continue the legacy. I did it like the rain that flowed down to the river. So I just keep it running and flowing.

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Japanese and American working cultures vary, which influence does the staff in Mooneyes take after. What is your personal working style, likes and dislikes in the business and also personal aspiration for the future of Mooneyes?

Shige Suganuma: I used to work with Dean Moon for five years, before I started in this business in Japan, It is kinda complicated for a while, you know Japanese style and American style, it is really a big difference as he, as an American with a Japanese employee, understood our own ways of working and myself understood his ways of working as well and both of us took the good ones… and the bad ones too haha. It is up to me. For me, its all good.

Steve Sare : A lot of times there is a confusion like me being an American in Japanese company, I don’t really understand Japanese working ethics and then the Japanese employees does it in an American style in an American company, they don’t understand it either but it does get kinda hard but we manage to blend over time.

Shige Suganuma : There is once a guy walks to me in the US and say ” Those are Americans right? They don’t really understand the Japanese way right?” I said ” Yeah, It is kinda tough” but this is all in the past now.

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How much was the most expensive customising project that you have worked on and what was the highest price someone paid for any of your creations.

Shige Suganuma : The key is always money. The customs is money, you know what I mean. It is not cheap. If you need to make up a really nice car, you’ll have to pay a lot of money. The most expensive project was about hundred fifty thousand dollars on a 1960 Toyota Crown. That was the most expensive and it happend a long time ago but it was done in the 90s. Now, it has got a V8 in it, with a MuscleTwo front suspensions and air conditioned and the body is all nice and straight, painted in yellow. It is a really nice car. I love it! And I sold it!

And one last thing, you want to know why i started the shows in Japan? I gotta make some fun in my life. No one can make that for you. That is why i do it myself. You know what I mean? No one can do that but yourself. Before all of this, there is no shows, nothing like it from what you’ve seen now. So I’ll keep on doing this. So you guys just do it, that’s it. But if you quit, that’s it. Its over. So keep up the good work and keep our customs scene survive.

words: Jeo  pix: Hazwan Najims & Faiz Zakariah

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