With Southern California the origination point of the hot rod movement, there are an abundance of historically significant vehicles tucked away in garages and shops. Once a year, at the Mooneyes Open House and Car Show, these vehicles are rolled out to the delight of attendees.
As Dean Moon began developing racing parts and became the name of speed in the ‘50s, his company, Mooneyes, has been associated with hot rods and racing. Moon was an avid automotive enthusiast and mechanic that was obsessed with speed. He was involved with building and campaigning drag cars or land speed vehicles at the dry lake races till his passing at the age of 60 in ’87.
Once a year Mooneyes opens the doors to the company’s annual open house and car show at its Santa Fe Springs, California headquarters, to give fans and loyalists an opportunity to tour the facilities and view many of the historic vehicles that brought Mooneyes to automotive stardom. From rat rods to classic cars, custom bikes, and top fuel dragsters, there was something for everyone at this year’s event, including plenty of food on hand. A collection of custom vehicles was jam-packed inside the venue and alongside the streets and neighboring parking lots surrounding the premises.
The term “gasser” was used to describe a type of hot rod developed to compete in NHRA Gas Class events beginning in the early ’50s; these vehicles were campaigned into the ’70s. Gassers are easily identifiable; their austere appearance is marked by the stripped interior to remove excess weight. Another visual clue is the use of a truck beam axle in the front of the vehicle to provide better weight distribution on acceleration – the nose of the car will often be jacked way up in the air when compared to today’s slammed drag cars. The “gassers” are often thought of as the predecessor to the modern funny car. This ’59 Rambler Cross Country wagon is powered by a 410 cubic inch Oldsmobile V8 that outputs 573 hp and 529 lb-ft of torque with the aid of nitrous. The patina exterior provides an era-correct build. A set of Foresight Ventures 15-inch skinnies up front and wide Halibrand Sprint mag wheels are installed in the rear complete with Hurst slicks to add some additional flair to the build.
Mooneyes pin stripe artist Hiro Ishii, also known as “Wildman”, came all the way from Japan to work his magic by free-handing a few cars at the event.
This ’62 Dodge Dart drag machine in the top three photos – dubbed The Monrovia Missile – was built by Mopar Super Stock aficionado Bob Mosher of Mosher Mopars Performance Restoration. Mosher also displayed Missile II (seen above) at the event. Although the second example was a bit rougher around the edges in comparison to the original, this unpainted drag car was also packin’ some serious heat under the hood and shouldn’t be taken lightly when approached on the streets.
The Mooneyes Land Speed Racing Modified Roadster #533 was built and piloted by Mooneyes’ own Chico Kodama, who began the project in July of 2006. He completed the build a year and a half later with aspirations of competing at Bonneville to set a new class record and propel the roadster into the 200 mph club. The streamlined machine is powered by a destroked and sleeved 183 cubic inch small block Chevy ingesting alcohol fuel through a 4-71 supercharger. The roadster competes in the F Class, which is limited to 3 liters of displacement. Within the same year of completion, the roadster posted a top speed of 196.458 mph with an average of 190.333 mph, crushing the class record of 180.499 mph in the process. By 2012, with continuous refinement of the program, Kodama blasted a record speed of 220.898 mph and reset the record of 219 mph in his class.
If you’re old enough to remember the 1986 movie Cobra starring Sylvester Stallone, you’d recall Lieutenant Marion ‘Cobra’ Cobretti’s 1950 Mercury Monterey tearing up the streets on a set of Moon Discs. While the solid wheel covers added some flair to the movie car, they also serve more purpose than looks alone. Dean Moon, the imaginative creator of the Moon Discs, was always adamant that these one piece covers served an aerodynamic purpose and set out to prove their claims. In May of this year, Mooneyes tested the #533 LSR Roadster seen above with and without Moon Discs. The test results were documented, showing that installation of Moon wheel discs were worth an increase of 20 horsepower to the engine on this particular application due to improvements to the vehicle’s aerodynamics.
Dean Moon’s Classic Supercharged V8 “Mooneyes Dragster” was one of the most famous of Dean Moon’s classic vehicles. The A/Dragster was used to bench-test the latest Moon Performance technology. Built as a replica of the original Mooneyes dragster (currently on display at Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing), this dragster – like the original – was built on a Dragmaster chassis and is powered by a supercharged Chevy V8 engine. In 1962, the original dragster took home the title at the Indy US Nationals in the A/Dragster class with a time of 9.52 at 153.06 MPH.
Sitting just adjacent to the Mooneyes Dragster stood another timeless classic. Powered by a 392 Chrysler Hemi, the Dunn & Reath AA/Fuel Dragster has been fully restored back to its original race condition. Back in the late ’60s, the D&R dragster – piloted by Jim Dunn – took home multiple wins including the 1968 Irwindale Grand Prix, 1969 Bakersfield March Meet, and the championship in NHRA Division 7 in 1969. The dragster was eventually retired, and sat in Bruce Farrow’s garage for the next 40 years before making its triumphant return.
If you missed out on this year’s Open House, the Mooneyes Christmas Party Show And Drag 2016 is held on December 10th. For more information be sure to check out the Mooneyes website. Hope you enjoyed our look into this nostalgic event!