While Japan is the land of advanced four-banger engines and drifting, there is a culture they take very seriously. Hot rodding in the land of the rising sun is just as impressive as what we have here in the US and Rod-riguez is just one of those amazing examples at the Hot Wheels 50th Kick-Off Party.
You’ve probably not heard of the shop, but Paradise Road was started by Junichi Shimodaira in Nagoya, Japan in 1987. From that point, he’s built a wide variety of hot rods with lowrider and other custom themes to create some unique cars. Hot rodding in Japan isn’t new but it really didn’t get a proper scene until about the early 2000s. It was around that time that Junichi purchased and began to create Rod, here.
Rod-riguez is Born
As you can very clearly see, Rod isn’t exactly just one car. It’s several, starting as a 1930 Ford Model A two-door. While the body is still in the familiar shape of the “Tudor,” it’s also radically different. The first thing done was boxing and Z-ing the chassis ends, four-inches up front and six in the rear to help drop the body down. However, its true street scraping look was done by channeling the body eight-inches over the frame. You can see this just by how tall the floor is versus the bottom of the doors.
To give it that fast while sitting still feeling, the body was then wedge chopped by four-inches. So, instead of dropping the whole roof down, it’s raked to create that very low looking front window. Now, you can’t have a wild looking custom “Tudor” with a normal looking nose, so Junichi fabricated a new grille shell. If those headlights look familiar, that’s because they from the ends of a 1959 Cadillac front bumper and welded together in the shape you see now. The rear lights, however, are a pair of parking-light bezels from a 1958 Chevrolet. They are not only turned upside-down, but frenched into the rear pods where a bumper might have been on the original car.
The engine is a classic 303-cubic-inch Olds Rocket V8 iron block, a generation one V8 with an oversquare bore to stroke ratio. That means it has a 3.75-inch bore and 3.4375-inch stroke to create its displacement and get close to a true 5.0-liters. It also features a forged crankshaft, aluminum pistons with floating wristpins, and a dual-plane intake manifold.
Even though it hasn’t lost any of those features in this build, it does have a lot of custom touches done like the chromed and painted valve covers, chromed and painted two-barrel carburetor, and custom painted engine block and heads. It’s bolted to a unique Hydra-Matic known as the “Slant Pan,” in which the transmission pan is angled to the side rather than up and down as a traditional transmission.
It also does not have a park position, instead it just has Reverse, Low, Drive, and Neutral in that order, so the shifter bezel is not weird or incorrect from a poor translation. To “park” it, you had to shut the engine off and put the transmission into reverse as it was locked to the input shaft. This also means these early Hydra-Matics didn’t have a torque converter but a two-element fluid coupler like you see in heavy industry vehicles now. You could also push-start these cars, too, as the rear pump was driven by the output shaft. The only catch was that you had to get it to 15- to 20-MPH to achieve this.
Suspension on the Low
The front suspension is a Total Cost Involved (TCI) Drop Axle, which comes with Energy Suspension polyurethane busings and Big Bore calipers on 10.5-inch rotors. The leaf-spring is dampened by a set of SoCal Customs shocks in chrome. Out back is a Chevy 10-bolt rear end with a Posi-Traction unit on airbags. Those white-wall tires are mounted on a set of Cragar Star Wire Wheels with Bullet Center Caps.
The most striking feature of Rod are the running boards and integrated fenders. From the sides, it seems like the whole piece is floating and not part of the actual chassis. However, it is attached to the sides of the body, but are done in such a way that you don’t notice their attaching points right away. In combination with that custom front grille, Rod is a very eye-catching car before you start to pay attention to the paint.
The original color of Rod was Tequila Gold Metallic, but now sported a Candy Copper blend with some great looking pin striping by Makoto Kobayashi of M&K Custom Signs. Those colors and strips carry inside with the custom dash, but those seats are a fully custom set that you won’t find anywhere else. The fabric that wraps the seats and interior panels is a print called “Tijuana” style, reminiscent of the blankets from the famed part of Mexico and a classic Hot Rod interior choice.
That steering wheel is a 1960s two-spoke Ford steering wheel and cut down into its “aircraft shape.” The steering column is held in place by a steel rebar that has been chromed. Behind the seats rests the fuel tank and battery, but you wouldn’t know that because they are underneath that show-rod carpet.
A Winning History
Before Chuck Schauwecker purchased the car from Junichi in October 2005, it entered several hot rod shows in Japan and even here in the US. Just after Rods completion in November 2003, it entered the 2003 Yokohama Hot Rod and Custom Show and was awarded Best of Show.
It also awarded the Gene Winfield Pick award (Winfield was a hot rodder who was stationed in Tokyo, Japan in 1950 and opened a shop while stationed there until 1951), the Street Rodders Pick Award, and the Herb Martinez Pick Award (named after legendary pin stripper, Herb Martinez, who tours the world thanks to his incredible talent) during the 2003 HRCS. It’s also seen time at the 2005 Grand National Roadster Show and 2005 West Coast Customs Cruisin’ Nationals before Chuck purchased it. Even though it now is driven by and belongs to Chuck, he admits that it doesn’t feel like he really does. “Even thought I bought the car in October 2005, I don’t feel like I own it. It’s merely in my possession till I pass it on to someone else.”
A Display of Cultures
If there is something that Rod-riguez does well, besides being a hot rod, it’s the display of mixing cultures. Not only do we see the blend of low-rider, hot rodder, and show car arts, but also the meticulous detail of the Japanese culture. While we may no speak the same languages, the one thing we have in common is building amazing cars. You don’t need to speak any language to appreciate that.
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