EYE BALLIN’ #VW-Polo
A Belgian modifier pays homage to Dean Moon – whose products hold legendary status within the hot rod community – with this fantastically cool Mk1 Polo. Words: Louise Woodhams. Photos: Tony Matthews.
From pedals, to gas tanks, to hubcap covers, most of you reading this will have at some point owned, or know someone who has, a part brandishing the famous Mooneyes name. But how many of you actually know about the brand’s origins? I must confess that I knew Mooneyes products and logos were an indelible part of the hot rod scene and were located in California, but that was about it.
I hope, having made this admission, that I’m not alone. I guess I’ll soon find out when I find myself ostracised at the next #VW
car show, or worse still pelted with stones and bricks if I accidently bought an old Beetle with the number plate G945 WWZ and took it to the annual Tuning World Bodensee event in Germany, say. If I did, I assure you it would be coincidental… Anyway, when a note from Elliott dropped into my inbox about this amazing Mk1 Polo modified to pay homage to the MOON Speed Equipment business (as it was known when founded in 1950), and that he needed the feature turned around in less than a week, I thought I’d better educate myself a little more about the subject. And fast. So for those that are as naïve as me, here’s a quick, but truly fascinating little history lesson!
It all started with a chap called Dean Moon, who came to California with his parents from Minnesota in the early 1930s. His father owned Moon’s café, in Santa Fe Springs, which became a hot-bed for young petrolheads from Whittier and other surrounding towns. As a speed-obsessed 16-year-old, Dean and his buddies spent many an hour in the dusty yard of the café building roadsters and coupés for the street and the dry lakes. Little did Dean know that this would later become his grounding in the creation of hot rod technology.
After his early years building parts for local hot rodders, Dean served with the US Air Force during the Korean War. He attended Air Force photography school and took a liking to the subject. Following the war he made quite a name for himself, documenting the burgeoning hot rod lifestyle for automotive magazines around the country.
After Dean returned from Korea, now aged 23, he decided to start his own business, which was based in a small garage behind his father’s café. MOON Speed Equipment was set up to evolve and improve the quality and safety of salt flats, dry lakes and drag racing products. Impressively, Dean was also one of the original founding members that created SEMA in 1963. Among the brand’s early products were the foot-shaped gas pedals which sold 200 units in their first month on the market, and the spun aluminium Moon Tank. A fantastic product, it solved a problem for the early ’50s racers who struggled to find safe and effective small capacity gas tanks for their cars. The aluminium Moon Disc, first introduced in 1955, similarly became a staple among hot rodders. By the late ’50s 10,000 of these discs were being sold in a single month. By this time, the company had moved into its current location on Norwalk Blvd in Santa Fe Springs.
As well as being an innovator of parts, Dean was a committed hot rodder. He also built and raced cars across the States, taking in numerous drag strips, the infamous Bonneville Salt Flats and El Mirage Dry Lake. He was wellrespected in tuning and motorsport circles, and his company soon became an icon. Having come from humble beginnings, Dean grew the company into an internationally recognised brand name and logo, which he had redrawn in 1957 by a Disney artist that is still used to this day.
This was a guy who brought showmanship to drag racing. His cars were not only built for outright speed, but they looked awesome wearing the signature Mooneyes decals, yellow paint and chrome plating. Dean was the people’s champion, introducing better products with a reputation for quality and innovation. His infectious enthusiasm ensured that the even his team were well turned out in all white uniforms with the MOON Logo and cowboy hats. He was the Richard Branson of the car scene, if you like. And just like Revell made scaled down versions of Virgin Atlantic’s airbuses, it too made a plastic model kit of the Chevrolet-powered Mooneyes dragster, which Dean brought to England in 1963.
We wonder whether Branson will still be a name familiar to aviation enthusiasts, or indeed entrepreneurs, in 65 years. It’s safe to say that Mooneyes is firmly part of hot rod history. However, when Dean died in #1987
at the age of 60, its popularity halted momentarily until the early 1990s. When Dean Moon passed away the hot rodding community had lost a legend and the future of the company was uncertain. Fortunately, not long after, the brand was reorganised under direction of Yokohama drag racer Shige Suganuma and Chico Kodama.
Shige had been distributing Moon products in Japan since the early 1980s and had become a close friend of Dean Moon after coming to the area for school, but ending up immersing himself in America’s rich car culture with one of its all-time legends as his guide. Shige saw to it that the Moon tradition was preserved, and like so many modifiers today, Belgian-based Robby Oroh also wanted to play a part in ensuring the legacy of Dean lives on.
Robby has been on the scene for years and you may have met him at a show before – you certainly wouldn’t forget him. A little eccentric (in a good way obviously), and super enthusiastic, the 34-year-old loves Mooneyes.
He too lives and breathes cars, having been a fan of hot rods, lowriders, and need we mention, highly customised retro VWs, since he was a small boy. “I never liked modern cars,” he confesses. “In fact, I think the first generation Audi A4 is the newest car I’ve ever owned. My first car was a #1974 #Beetle-1303
– I loved the clean lines and how cool it looked – and my current daily is a 1983 Golf 1600cc diesel fivedoor hatchback. In between that I’ve had a Mk1 Golf, Mk1 Jetta and Mk2 Caddy. It’s the quality, character and pure craftsmanship that attracted me to old VWs.”
It goes without saying that all the aforementioned cars were ‘hopped up’ by swapping out the engine for better performance or restyled with chrome rims, metal flake paint jobs, and a heavy suspension drop. The deep-seated passion for Mooneyes came from one of his dad’s car magazines which featured an article about the Californian car company, and he’s been a fan ever since. So, as soon as he clapped eyes on this Mooneyethemed Mk1 Polo, owned by Davy De Rycke (whose cars have already starred in Drive-my), he fell head over heels with it and had to have it.
Despite needing a little love, the base car gave Robby plenty of inspiration to return the old Polo to its former glory over the next six months. The first job was to get the engine bay cleaned. That meant that he could colour match the entire thing in the hues that we associate Mooneyes with. To that end it’s been resprayed yellow, along with the rest of the car, whilst the engine casing is painted brown and all other visible parts painted black (including the strut brace). We love the superb touches such as the yellow HT leads and Mooneyes logo on the cylinder head. “I put my heart and soul into the engine bay, it’s my favourite part of the car,” he admitted.
The only way to deal with rust is by cutting it out and welding new metal in, and as a result the MIG welder became Robby’s best friend for a few months as he took on the extensive job of repairing all of the bodywork. It was then just a case of getting the exterior styling back to how it was. Again, we love how the two-tone yellow and white paint scheme is broken up with a black line that curves beautifully along the flanks, and also ties in with the grille and surrounds of the petrol cap and windows. Retro touches, such as the Mooneyes vintage style door mirrors, 13” disc wheel covers with white wall tyres, decals and aerial topper, together with the Fiat 500 turn signals and shaved bumpers complete the look and feel of the car perfectly. And thanks to new suspension, the car sits just right too.
Besides the Mooneyes tachometer, the interior is as it was when Robby bought it. We think you’ll agree that the Mooneyes wooden wheel blends in beautifully with the standard dash trim and door pulls. You’ll also spot those famous pair of pupils adorn the pedals, gear knob, window winders and mats! The front seats have been treated to a retrim, with diamond stitched brown Alcantara centres and brown leather bolsters, whilst the rear has been completely stripped out leaving nothing but bare yellow metal, a spare wheel, black lug wrench and OMP rear brace.
The appeal of the Moon brand spans several generations and many international borders, and in a time where much of today’s scene has gotten so moneyed, this car is a reminder of the grass roots from whence it came. This isn’t a five figure garage queen with a long spec list; it’s a celebration of pure rodding culture. And we’re sure Dean would have been a big fan.
Dub Details #VW-Polo-I #Volkswagen
ENGINE: 900cc, engine bay resprayed yellow, engine casing, nuts and bolts resprayed brown, all other visible parts (including strut brace) resprayed black, yellow HT leads, Mooneyes logo on the cylinder head.
CHASSIS: 13” Moondiscs and white wall tyres, lowered 9” (front) and 5” (rear)
EXTERIOR: Shaved bumpers, Fiat 500 turn signals, white and yellow two-tone paint scheme, Mooneyes vintage style door mirrors, 13” discs with white wall tyres, decals and aerial topper.
INTERIOR: Front seats retrimmed in brown leather and Alcantara, Mooneyes pedals, gear knob, window winders, tachometer and carpets, rear completely stripped with spare Moondisc wheel and white wall tyre, black lug wrench and OMP rear strut.
SHOUT: Martin Eli, Arne Rooms, Mr Bo, Lee Crouch, Mooneyes.
Interior is a nice mix of OEM Polo parts, retrimmed front seats and yep, more Mooneyes parts. It’s safe to say our Robby here is a bit obsessed with Mooneyes!
Mooneyes details are everywhere on Robby’s Polo, the famous eyes logo and that classic font adorning the grille, the doors, the engine bay, the aerial topper, the interior… pretty much everywhere!