A few weeks ago, I talked my wife into hopping on a plane to go to a punk show in LA and visit a few guilty pleasures across Southern California. I knew going into this trip it was an opportunity to visit a few places I drool over online, and actually get to experience their shops, trade some stories and stock up on some goodies to take home. At the top of the list of must do’s for our short trip was get to MOON.
Mooneyes has been a fascination of mine since I was a child. I vividly remember seeing their logo hanging from rearview mirrors at hot rod shows I went to as a kid. The classic “LOOK! But please don’t touch” signage drilled into my head, echoing the words from my parents as I tried to peek into the cabins of old Chevys and Fords. Mooneyes was everywhere, almost any show I went to I remember seeing those eyes looking back at me, and to be honest I didn’t learn about their story and products until much later in life.
Their operation in Santa Fe Springs is a parts store, machine shop, shipping and receiving operation, and what I would consider a museum. It’s all rolled into what I would guess is a 0.4 acre lot, the same location where it all started way back in the 50s. There is so much history packed into this space that you get lost looking at everything. From odds and ends in the shop showcases to the beautiful cars parked on the property, it’s the best kind of overwhelming.
Mooneyes was started back in the 50s by Dean Moon building fuel blocks, which you can still buy today, and eventually grew to manufacture all kinds of products for going fast. Their current operation is run by 3 guys who help produce all of their Moon Fuel Blocks, Moon Tanks, Moon Discs and Moon Valve Covers. All of this happens in a machine shop across the driveway which I was eyeing up as soon as we parked our rental. On this Saturday morning, I got to meet Chico, who invited me for a tour of the machine shop and put up with all my questions while we were visiting.
The machine shop housed everything the team needs to keep bumping out MOON products. Chico explained the process to me around how their tanks and discs are all spun and pulled into shape. The prevailing trend in this shop is that everything was done by hand, the old fashioned way, there were no CNCs. I can imagine that the way these parts are made today can’t be too far off of how Dean did it back when he founded MOON. But even better than the tooling in the shop was the two land speed style cars parked inside.
Chico shared some stories of the two cars housed inside. A recent pass in the one pictured above had him reach a speed of 247 MPH. We talked a bit about the design of the car and I tried to wrap my head around the power and seating position. Chico is nearly laying down in this, hurling across the salt flats, chasing every mile per hour he can squeeze from the V8 screaming behind his head. The blue car had its own wild story, with him recalling a spin at 206 MPH, and at that point you are at the complete mercy of the machine you built to achieve those speeds. Thankfully he walked away and was able to share that tale with eager listeners like myself.
On our way out of the shop Chico grabbed the center cut out of a motorcycle moon disc for me to take home. It’s currently living on my desk, my only regret was not getting him to sign it as I excitedly thanked him for the gift. I racked up quite a bill inside of the store grabbing some parts for my recently acquired drift car and some souvenirs for friends and family. We said our good byes and got back into our rental to take on more of what California had to offer.
As we drove off to our next location all I could think about was how places like this just don’t exist anymore. The knowledge and skill housed in this plot of land is a fleeting thing. While we visited I watched Chico talk to several customers, they would give a car and a year and he immediately knew what they were looking for. A few moments later he would pop out from the storage room with exactly what they needed to get their kustom up and running. He was passionate about what he did and was eager to share that passion with some tourists from the east coast. I’ll hold onto the memory of visiting MOON for a long time, as well as the other treasures California has that we only get to dream about a few thousand miles away (I think I ate In-N-Out 3 times in the span of 4 days). I’m glad the history of Dean Moon is still alive and well here where it all began, and I hope it stays here for many years to come.