1 Hot Rod + 2 Countries = 3 New Friends

Sapporo, Japan is NOT what people think of as a center for hot rodding car culture and they’re right, its not.  But, there is a cool dude from Japan who’s a real hot rodder living the hot rod life.   Kiyoshi Tanomura (aka Tano) and I became Facebook friends a couple weeks ago.  I accepted Tano’s request solely because of his Profile Picture.  It was a picture of this 1926 Ford Model T roadster, built in the Traditional rod style.  I saw his Japanese name with that American hot rod picture and said to myself, “I need to find out about this guy!”

1926 T roadster hot rod in Sapporo, Japan

Just looking at the roadster, would you expect this to come out of Japan?  As you can imagine, the hot rod parts came from the States.  The build is a well thought out, period correct hot rod that few could achieve.  Japanese car nuts are just the type to achieve such a build.  Why?  From what little I know about the Japanese culture is they have great respect for their ancestors and history, they are very detailed oriented, even passionate about the details and seem to be natural engineers.

Tano mentions two friends from the USA who he said I needed to talk to, partly because his English is not too good and partly because Dave and Tony have played a big part in Tano building his hot rod.

Unfortunately, before Tano and his early American hot rod building buddies got the honest help they needed from Dave and Tony, they had to deal with the greedy Americans who would either not ship the parts that Tano paid for or dishonestly send crap that was unsafe or unusable.

I called Tony on the phone to get his thoughts on Tano and his hot rod since he’s  known Tano for about 4-5 years now.  Tony’s a Circle Track guy who builds modern Oldsmobile racing engines through his company called Lombardi Motorsports where he also builds hot rods and street cars in addition to racecars.

1926 T roadster with a 324ci Oldsmobile V8 in Japan

One of the parts Tony sold Tano was this rare Edmonds Oldsmobile intake manifold from the 50’s.  This manifold does not just bolt on to Tano’s 324ci V8.  Tony had to customize it some to mount it to the Olds engine while looking like a bolt on affair.  You guys ever seen this manifold before?

Tano is running Stromberg 97’s atop this Olds Rocket engine.  Ok, so the 324 was not the original “Rocket Oldsmobile” engine you say?  You are correct.  Check out this picture below showing how Tano customized and made to look period correct using these 324ci valve covers.  So cool!

Olds rocket valve cover swapped onto a 324 Olds engine

As you dig on this “Oldsmobile Rocket” valve cover emblem swap, Tony pointed out that Tano is NOT your usual Japanese loyal car guy.  Duh!!!  Tano drives American, like his old F150 that Tony had to send parts to Japan to keep running.  Tano does not drive Toyotas, Nissans or Hondas, that’s for sure.

Tony says that Tano’s hot rod is more period correct than most hot rods built in the USA today.  Having been to the Salt Flats, Tano’s car would definitely fit in.

Tano teaching Joe how to drive stick in a 50's Chevy convertible

Speaking of Bonneville, I asked Tano if he had plans to attend Bonneville Speedweek someday.  He said he’s waiting for his 12 year old son Joe (pictured here learning to drive in a Custom 50’s Chevy convertible in a Japanese parking lot!!!) to get his drivers license so that he can make some runs down the Great White Dyno.  I love this picture, father and son bonding time in a 60+ year old custom!  What a cool dad you have Joe!

Tano driving his 26 T roadster on a long Japan road trip

Here’s Tano himself, chillin’ in his rod.  Tano has done exactly what he should do with a car like this… which is drive the crap out of it!  Tano’s taken his ’26 hot rod from Sapporo in Northern Japan on a roadtrip down to the southern end of the island country and back.  Whoa!  Wicked cool!  I’m running out of adjectives here Tano.

Map of Tano's Japan roundtrip

Tano put together this image of a map next to his hot rod.  That red dot up in the north is Sapporo, where his “rod trip” began.

Tanosan's 1926 Ford Model T interior with P-38 custom "bomber seats"

I will say, one of my favorite parts of traditional hot rods are the bomber seats.  Tano says these babies are from a P-38 Lightning, a WWII fighter/bomber.  Tony mentioned that these seats were chopped up and customized exactly like the boys from the late 40’s did to fit these seats in their roadsters.  Man this car oozes traditional style.

You can see in this picture below that the seats are too wide as is.  So, what do hot rodders do?  They get out the cutting torch or saw and welder and their buddies shoulder (no joke) to bend and shape the seats.  What?  Is this guy for real?!

P-38 Lightning bomber seat modified for Tano's hot rod

Here you can see the old bomber seats are chopped up and will be welded back together and painted army green.

Father and son in Japan cruising a 1926 hot rod

Here’s one more shot of Tano and his boy Joe.  Man!  Joe is gonna have some awesome memories!

I asked Tano when did he first become interested in American hot rods.  He said since Kindergarten or about 6 years old.

In process build picture of Tano's 1926 T roadster

Here’s a shot taken back when the ’26 T was a work in progress.  Reminds me of Larry Volks garage, don’t you think?  Love those roadster bodies!  The frame was hand built by Tano and friends as well.

IGKNIGHTERS Japanese hot rod club plaque

Tano and his friends are members of the “IGKNIGHTERS” club.  He’s not only a member, but he named the club and designed the club plaque.  The plaque even looks a lot like the plaques of US clubs like the Gear Grinders or Sidewinders.

Geez, I was so into Tano’s story, I almost forgot the specs:

Motor : 1956 Oldsmobile Rocket 324 SP
Carb : Stromberg 97  Tranny : Muncie 4 speed WWII P-38 Chopped Seat
1950s Aluminum Merlene Steering wheel

Front end : 42~48 Wishbone 40 Spindle 40 Drum Brakes  Model-A Leaf  Hanger  32~34 Dog bone
Rear end :  42~48 Banjo  Curtiss Hanger

Oldsmobile Rocket powered T roadster in Japan

Here’s some kind words from Tano’s friend Dave.

“I crossed paths first with a gent named Yoshio Nakazawa, who bumped into pics of my rail on the internet and contacted me.  He is a fanatic for mid-60’s AFX Falcons in general and the ones of Hubert Platt and Phil Bonner in particular.  Just so happened that I know them both so was able to put him in personal contact with both men… which gave him a completely wrong picture of my importance (I ain’t!) in the general scheme of things.  He gave my contact info to Kiyoshi Tanomura (call him ‘Tano’) and we went on from there.  One thing that amazes me is that these guys have huge, HUGE obstacles in their way… and they are touchingly concerned that we won’t consider them ‘real’ hotrodders!  I’ve told them both any number of times that they may be the only REAL hotrodders left.  As far as actually helping, I did very little that I can recall… buying some things for Tano that he couldn’t get here and shipping them to him.  I did put him in touch with Tony Lombardi, a wizard engine builder nearby and an Olds specialist who hand-made a lot of drive train parts for him.  In fact, I made out well on that deal anyway, because I came up with several new friends, including Tony, that I otherwise wouldn’t have had.”

It doesn’t matter where you live, if you have hot rodding in your blood like Tano does and the right friends like Dave and Tony, you can build a traditional hot rod.

Any other readers from Japan or other parts of the world who want to share your hot rod car culture experiences with us?  We want to hear about it.  Please comment below or email me at moc.emsiedirymnull@deepsthceh so we can share your story!


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