The Junji Nakamura Photo Collection
Junji Nakamura of Long Beach, California. Junji was introduced to hot rods and customs in 1955, when his brother James purchased his first car, a James Nakamura's 1951 Oldsmobile Sedan. Junji was 11 years old, and in 2020 he told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that he Olds was pale yellow when his brother bought it. "He was 15 and everyone laughed at him for being a 15-year-old kid buying his own car. Of course, my dad had to co-sign, but it was my brother’s saved up money and choice." By the time James was ready to sell the Olds, he had painted it lime green. A friend bought it late in 1957. Junji's brother bought a brand new black 1958 Chevrolet Impala he could race at Lions Dragstrip.
Since 1955 Junji and his brother have been involved in hot rodding and mildly customizing their daily drivers, "as most teens did back then." They also started a backyard speed shop/engine building shop to make some money for their builds. "In 1959-60 we built a 1940 Willys Coupe with a 671 supercharged, 292 c.i. small block Chevy. That scenario got us started in our side business of Precision Racing Engines."
James and Junji were listed on the first dealer and speed shop list when the SEMA group was first started. "Our cards were sent out to the manufacturers of the parts we wanted to sell to our friends. Ours was not in competition with the known speed shops. We were just a backyard speed shop that sold discounted stuff to our friends and made some money in the process."
When James started racing his 1958 Chevrolet Impala at Lions Drag Strip, he gave Junichi the job of filming all of the action. "I was 13 at the time. But, I learned to point and shoot the 16mm color camera at our favorite hot rods and drag racing vehicles." After college Junji started a photography business that catered to photojournalism. "My main clients were hot rod guys and girls, and custom motorcycles. We drove all over So Cal and into our favorite San Francisco bay area numerous times to get the build shots or finished photos for a possible magazine article." Junji's stories made it into some magazines back in the days. Unfortunately, most of Junji's photos went missing in the many house moves he has been through the past 40 years. The few he has been able to locate he has shared with Kustomrama for us all to enjoy.
- Joseph Ramirez
- Junji Nakamura
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