Larry Shinoda

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Larry Shinoda
Black and white portrait of Larry Shinoda, a Japanese-American automobile designer. In the photograph, which is cropped to show his head and shoulders, Shinoda is smiling and wearing a dark suit, white shirt, and dark tie. This image was originally posted to the National Corvette Museum upon Shinoda's induction in 1998 (one year after he had died), and from appearances, may date back to the 1980s or 1990s, meaning that Shinoda appears to be in his 50s or 60s in the image. Shinoda is wearing his hair parted on the left, swept back from his forehead; the hair is almost uniformly black in the photograph.
Kiyoshi Lawrence Shinoda[1]

(1930-03-25)March 25, 1930
Los Angeles, California
DiedNovember 13, 1997(1997-11-13) (aged 67)
Occupationautomotive designer
Years active1955–97
Notable workChevrolet Corvette (C2), Chevrolet Corvette (C3), Boss 302 Mustang

Lawrence Kiyoshi (Larry) Shinoda (March 25, 1930 – November 13, 1997) was a noted American automotive designer who was best known for his work on the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Mustang.

Early life and internment[edit]

He was born in Los Angeles, California to Issei parents who were both immigrants from Japan. Shinoda's father Kiyoshi arrived in the US when he was 12 and graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in electrical engineering. His mother, Hide Watanabe, was born in 1906 and emigrated to the US with her parents when she was less than 1;[2] she graduated from Woodbury College. Both of his parents were members of the Union Church of Los Angeles, where they met and were married. Larry had a sister, Aiko (Grace), who was three years older than him and was also artistically inclined.[3]

Shinoda grew up in Southern California where he started developing his artistic talents in grade school.[4] Kiyoshi died when Larry was 3. He was interned with his sister, mother, and maternal family (an uncle, two aunts and a grandmother)[5] by the U.S. government during WW II under U.S. Executive Order 9066 into the Manzanar "War Relocation Camp" in California.[6][7] According to his internee data file, he was in grade 7 and spoke English only when he entered Manzanar; he had never attended a Japanese language school.[1]

At camp, he snuck past the barbed wire to play and fish. His first recorded functional design was a set of reclining back chairs for his mother and grandmother at the incarceration camp that attracted the admiration of other incarcerees.[6] The family was released and moved to Grand Junction, Colorado in spring 1944 to help out at a farm owned by his paternal grandfather; that side of the family had avoided incarceration by fleeing California.[3]

Shinoda completed his high school education at Eagle Rock High School in Los Angeles.[7] While working for Weiand, Shinoda earned an associate's degree from Pasadena City College; upon graduating, he enlisted with the Air National Guard and served for two years, sixteen months of which were spent in Korea. Upon his return, he attended the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles before it moved to Pasadena, but made a "negotiated" exit before graduating;[8] he had been told (mistakenly) that attendance was optional if he turned in the assignments.[9]


As a young man in Los Angeles, he built hot rods and raced them on the streets.[4] One of the first cars he built was "Chopsticks Special", a 1932 Ford deuce coupe equipped with a 298 flathead V8, which he acquired from a coworker at Weiand, Bob Lee. Shinoda sold the Deuce coupe in 1953 to Don Montgomery and built a 1929 Ford roadster;[10] the coupe has since been identified and restored.[11] His '29 Ford, named "Chopsticks Special IV", was powered by a flathead V8 with Ardun OHV heads.[9] Shinoda won the "A" Hot Roadster class at the first NHRA U.S. Nationals held in Great Bend, Kansas with Chopsticks Special IV in 1955.[4][12][13] Shinoda sold the '29 Ford as parts to his partner in the car, Jack Powers, in 1956.[9]

General Motors[edit]

"[Mitchell] had a Pontiac with a supercharger on it, and he had been driving home from work one evening. At the time, I had this white '55 Ford that had a 352 Ford stock car racing engine in it that had been shipped to me by Bill Stropp. I installed the engine in it, along with all the other goodies, and I basically had a street-driven NASCAR stock car. Well, I pulled up next to Mitchell at a red light one evening, the light changed and Bill took off, smoking the tires. I waited until he hit second gear, and then I passed him in first. He turned off at the next light. Then he came into the Chevy studio and he's telling McKeegen, the boss, about this white Ford that blew his doors off; he said he thought it must have had a Cadillac engine in it. And McKeegen says, 'Hey, Larry - you have a white Ford, don't you?' and I answered, 'Yeah'. Mitchell wanted to see my car, so I brought it into the garage, and when I popped the hood open he just about had a heart attack."

Larry Shinoda, Vette magazine interview (1997)[14]

Shinoda met Ford vice president Gene Bordinat in late 1954[12] before his time at the Art Center was cut short after he "saw no value in watercolor and life drawing classes";[8] he then went to work for several different automobile manufacturers, first Ford Motor Company in 1955, negotiating with Ford to cover the cost of moving "Chopsticks Special IV" to Detroit, then briefly with Packard, and finally joining General Motors in September 1956.[8][9] During his brief stint with Packard, Shinoda met and befriended John Z. DeLorean and designed the body and paint scheme for the 1956 Indianapolis 500-winning car campaigned by John Zink.[8]

Initially, Shinoda was assigned a six-month orientation class after being hired at GM, but was pulled early and assigned to the Chevrolet studio after one of his designs attracted attention; there he was credited with designing sharper fins, including the manufacturing process, for the 1959 Impala.[14] According to Shinoda, he was recruited for GM design chief Bill Mitchell's "special styling projects" Studio X after beating Mitchell in an impromptu drag race from a stoplight in 1958.[8][15] For the rest of his twelve total years at GM, Shinoda primarily designed concept cars, including the Mako Shark show car and CERV I. Working with Mitchell and Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov, he refined the XP 819 and other concept cars that eventually translated into the original 1963 Corvette Sting Ray design. Shinoda also led design work on the revised 1968 version that borrowed heavily from his Mako Shark concept. He also participated in the 1965 redesign of the Chevrolet Corvair, giving that car its sleek "Coke bottle" shape.


"One of the first things I did on coming to Ford was straighten out the Boss 302. They were going to call it the SR2. They had all this chrome on it. They were going to hang big cladding on the side, big rocker moldings. It was going to be more garish than the Mach 1. They had a big grille across the back and a great big gas cap and fake cast exhaust outlets and big hood pins and a really big side scoop. I took all that off, went to the C-stripe decal and painted out the hood, did the rear spoiler and the window shades and front airdam."

Larry Shinoda, Consumer Guide interview[16]

In 1968 Henry Ford II hired former GM executive Bunkie Knudsen to be president of Ford. Knudsen recruited Shinoda to come to Ford in hopes of improving the styling and sales of Ford's lineup. Shinoda's first project at Ford was the Boss 302 Mustang high-performance homologation special.[17] Shinoda is credited with taking the original design, then designated SR-2, and removing much of the chrome ornamentation.[12] Reportedly Shinoda chose the name "Boss" as a homage to Knudsen. He led the design that was used for the succeeding Mustang models for 1970-1973 as well, but after Knudsen was fired from Ford late in 1969, Shinoda was dismissed a few days later.[18]


After leaving Ford, Shinoda and Knudsen co-founded Rectrans in November 1970, which built recreational vehicles in Brighton, Michigan.[18] Rectrans was working with fiberglass composites and monocoque chassis,[19]: 40  techniques used by Shinoda to design the Rectrans Discoverer, one of three planned models (Discover, 25'; Discoverer 27'; unnamed, 22').[20] The Discoverer was based on the contemporaneous Dodge B-series chassis and sold for three model years (1971–73).[21] White Motor Company acquired Rectrans in 1971 as a condition of naming Knudsen as its chairman;[22] Shinoda followed him again and was named White's design vice president.[23]

While working for Rectrans, Shinoda designed the "American Dragster" slingshot streamliner dragster.[19]: 40  This car had a fully enclosed wedge-shaped body, with only the front wheels, fitted with lakester-style wheel discs (Moon discs), exposed.[19]: 40  Little is known about the project; it is likely interest was sparked by Shinoda's pre- and post-WW2 experience racing roadsters in the Los Angeles area.[19]: 40 

Shinoda later opened an independent design firm and did work for GM, Ford, and aftermarket companies. In 1985, he was competing with an American Motors Corporation (AMC) internal team, and two fellow contractors (Giorgetto Giugiaro and Alain Clénet) to style a vehicle under development, then known as XJC; that vehicle later was released in 1992 as the Jeep Grand Cherokee (ZJ) after Chrysler purchased AMC and its designs in 1987. The contract included styling four different versions of the XJC (a 4-door, 2-door, and two pickup trucks). According to Shinoda, AMC product design executives entered his rented design studio without him and said his "design was 'terrible, brutal'"; they ordered him to destroy the clay model and return AMC's wheels and tires. However, the next day, AMC sent a crew of workers to the design studio to confiscate his drawings and wood templates, and Shinoda was later told privately that AMC was proceeding with his design. Under the terms of the contract, Shinoda was to be paid $354,000, but AMC only paid $135,000. He was placed under a non-disclosure agreement and not allowed to speak publicly about the contract for five years; Shinoda did not protest the theft of his design until 1992, when the Grand Cherokee made its debut at Cobo Hall. Shortly before he died in 1997, Chrysler, the successor of AMC, settled with Shinoda for more than $200,000.[23]

Shinoda developed kidney problems starting in 1996, yet continued to be an active designer.[6] Before a transplant surgery could take place, he died of heart failure on November 13, 1997 at his home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, aged 67.[4] His daughter, Karen, formed Team Shinoda (now Shinoda Performance Vehicles), a tuner and performance parts company.[24]


Notable designs by Larry Shinoda:[25][26]


  1. ^ a b "Display Full Record: Individual no. 20983G | Shinoda, Kiyoshi L". Japanese-American Internee Data File. The National Archives. 1946. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  2. ^ "Display Full Record: Individual no. 20983E | Shinoda, Hide". Japanese-American Internee Data File. The National Archives. 1946. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  3. ^ a b "Manzanar ID Card: Grace Aiko Shinoda; Family # 20983; Camp: Manzanar, CA". National Park Service.
  4. ^ a b c d Koveleski, Oscar. "The Designer". Pasadena City College. Archived from the original on 12 February 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
  5. ^ According to the Japanese-American Internee Data File, the Watanabe family interned at Manzanar also includes Aiko, born 1909 (20983A); Toshihisa, born 1911 (20983B); Teru, born 1914 (20983C); and Masano, born 1882 (20983D).
  6. ^ a b c "Larry Shinoda - 1998 Induction to the Corvette Hall of Fame". National Corvette Museum. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Manzanar ID Card: Lawrence Kiyoshi Shinoda; Family # 20983; Camp: Manzanar, CA". National Park Service.
  8. ^ a b c d e Teeters, K. Scott (February 16, 2018). "Corvette's Founding Fathers Pt 5: Designer Larry Shinoda". Motor Trend. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  9. ^ a b c d Larry Shinoda (1995). "The Designer's Story: Larry Shinoda". Corvette Action Center (Interview). Interviewed by Wayne Ellwood. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  10. ^ "Larry Shinoda's 1932 Ford". Kustomrama. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  11. ^ Strohl, Daniel (August 2011). "1932 Ford Three-window Coupe". Hemmings Motor News. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  12. ^ a b c Strohl, Daniel (April 2010). "Larry Shinoda". Hemmings.
  13. ^ Burgess, Phil (27 October 2021). "Reliving NHRA's first race: the 1955 National Championship Drags in Great Bend". NHRA. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  14. ^ a b Larry Shinoda (December 1997). "The Studio X Years". Vette (Interview). Interviewed by Tom Benford. Archived from the original on May 28, 2013.
  15. ^ Casey, Forest (2020). "Customized vehicles as material culture: a tale of two hot rods | Less is more: Larry Shinoda's 'Chopsticks Special' coupe". In Stiefel, Barry L.; Clark, Jennifer (eds.). The Routledge Companion to Automobile Heritage, Culture, and Preservation. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. ISBN 9780429423918. Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  16. ^ "Larry Shinoda: Creator of the Ford Mustang Boss 302". How Stuff Works. Archived from the original on March 20, 2007.
  17. ^ Heasley, Jerry (June 15, 2015). "Larry Shinoda's First 1969 Boss 302 Mustang Concept Car: Most Amazing Barn Find Ever?". Motor Trend. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  18. ^ a b "Ex-Ford Head Forms New Firm". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, Kentucky. AP. November 1, 1970. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  19. ^ a b c d Taylor, Thom (April 2017). "Beauty Beyond the Twilight Zone". Hot Rod. pp. 30–43.
  20. ^ "Knudsen Brings New Shape To the Motor Home Market". Detroit Free Press. November 11, 1970. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  21. ^ "Larry Shinoda Design: 1973 Rectrans Discoverer RV". Bring a Trailer. August 13, 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  22. ^ Whittaker, Jeanne (August 26, 1971). "Bunkie Makes His 'Debut' in Cleveland". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  23. ^ a b Rothenberg, Al (1 March 1998). "Design Debate - Who's the father of the Jeep Grand Cherokee". Ward's AutoWorld. Archived from the original on 2 December 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
  24. ^ "About Us". Team Shinoda. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
  25. ^ Burton, Jerry (26 February 2018). "Larry Shinoda: Looking back at a legend". Hagerty Media. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  26. ^ McAleer, Brendan (28 March 2019). "Know your designers: Larry Shinoda". Hagerty Media. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  27. ^ Larry Shinoda (1995). "Rick Mears Corvette" (Interview). Interviewed by Wayne Ellwood. Corvette Action Center. Retrieved 10 February 2022.

External links[edit]