Paradise Road: Home To The Wild Galaxian 1927 Ford Model T Roadster Hot Rod

Words: Craig Metros Photography: Luke Ray

Paradise Road, outside of Nagoya, is a full-service hot rod, custom and lowrider shop owned and run by Junichi Shimodaira and is unlike any of the other custom shops we visited. The shop’s interior is a visual explosion of ‘50s and ‘60s Americana including signs, photos, posters, toys, car parts, and cars that Junichi purchased and collected over time from various American swap meets and car shows. Upstairs above the garage area is a jam-packed retail shop full of new and new old stock parts, accessories, collectibles, magazines, T-shirts, and stickers.

Paradise Road gets its name from the film, American Graffiti. Those who love that classic movie from the 1970s will remember the climactic scene in which John Milner (Paul LeMat) in his yellow five window deuce, drag races Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford) in a black ’55 Chevy on Paradise Road.

“I have watched American Graffiti more than a hundred times,” Junichi confesses with a smile ear to ear. It’s obvious he is a huge fan as hints of American Graffiti are found on the walls and in display cases as I walked through the shop. If that isn’t enough, the name of Jinichi and his friends car club is none other than the Pharaohs.

Junichi opened his shop in 1987 and was selling American toys, antiques and old car parts.  As his business grew and Junichi acquired more car parts to sell, he eventually started customising cars. “I loved the style of show cars that were built by George Barris and Darryl Starbird in the ‘50s and ‘60s,” explains Junichi. As I walk around the shop and admire a few in-progress cars, that inspiration is evident. The L.A. lowrider culture is also a huge influence from Junichi’s countless experiences in Southern California.

In 2002, Junichi started a ground-up hot rod build based on a 1930 Ford Model A Tudor. Known as Rod Riquez, the heavily modified Model A Sedan that resembled a show rod from the ‘60s made its debut at the 2003 Mooneyes Show in Yokohama and put Junichi and his Paradise Road shop on the map. After Yokohama, he tore down the car and completely rebuilt it.

Additional modifications included a unique wedged chop. The rear of the roof was left at stock height, while the A and B pillars were cut down at staggered heights to achieve a raked roof line. Junichi hand-crafted uniquely, sculpted fenders without running boards. A new nose, incorporating canted quad headlamps, was made from ’59 Cadillac front bumper ends, round tubing and more hand sculpted sheet metal.

Originally finished in matte gold, the rebuilt Rod Riquez received a gloss Tequila Candy Gold paint job. The wide white wall tires and chromed steelies were replaced by Cragar Star Wire wheels with 1960s style white stripe tyres. The second version of the Rod Riguez returned for the 2003 Yokohama Hot Rod Show and won Best of Show.

In 2005, Junichi shipped Rod Riguez to the U.S. so he could enter it in the 2005 Grand National Roadster Show, and drive it to the 2005 Cruisin’ Nationals in Paso Robles. The car attracted attention everywhere it went in Southern California. After many inquiries, Junichi sold Rod Riguez to Chuck Schauwecker of Carson, California. 

In 2006, Junichi began his second ground-up build that would become the Galaxian. Based on a 1927 Ford Model T roadster, the overall look is psychedelic ‘60s show rod meets L.A. lowrider. Like the Rod Riquez, Junichi built the Galaxian twice. The first version of the car ran topless and sported a solid gold paint job. The hinged top and multi-layer metal flake paint was part of the the second iteration.

The Galaxian was on display just inside the shop entrance. I could clearly see the aesthetic connection between Junichi’s outrageous creation and the overflowing eclectic environment it was produced in. Though I have seen the car countless times on the web, standing next to it, hearing it, and watching it tear down the road is a whole other experience. Meeting the happy, multi-talented, and very humble builder, completed that experience. I could see much of Junichi-san’s character and humour in the car.

As soon as we arrived, Junichi was quickly moving tyres, signs and other bits of memorabilia that surrounded the car and had it outside in no time. Always with a huge smile, he lit up the tyres every time Luke requested a reposition of the car during the photo shoot. The 348 cubic-inch motor that came out of a ’59 Impala sounded great and spun the rear tyres effortlessly.

As we were wrapping up the shoot, we realised the combination of intense sun and heavy humidity had taken its toll on us. “You came to Japan at the wrong time of year,” Janichi announces with a chuckle and his permanent smile. Once Luke had finished the shoot, Janichi fired up the Galaxian one last time, and did a burnout on it’s way back into the shop.

Before leaving, we made a few purchases in the retail shop and Junichi gave us posters of the Galaxian. We all stood in front of Paradise Road for a final group shot and then it was time to depart. Until we meet again Jun!

This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 18.

Follw Jun: @old052.

Craig MetrosJapan, Hot Rod