He was born in Los Angeles, California to parents who were both Japanese immigrants: Kiyoshi Shinoda arrived in the US when he was 12, and Hide Watanabe when she was 1. Larry had a sister Grace that was six years older than him who was also artistically inclined. He grew up in Southern California where he started developing his artistic talents in grade school. Kiyoshi passed away when Larry was 12. He was interned with his sister, mother, uncle, two aunts and a grandmother by the U.S. government during WW II under U.S. Executive Order 9066 into a "War Relocation Camp" at Manzanar.
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. After being released from camp on spring 1944, the family moved to Grand Junction, Colorado to help out at the farm of the paternal side of the family who had escaped incarceration by fleeing California.
As a young man, he built hot rods and drag-raced them on the streets of Los Angeles. With his 1924 Ford roadster, he won the first National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals that were held in Great Bend, Kansas, in 1955.
Shinoda attended the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles (before it moved to Pasadena) but was kicked out, and went to work first for Ford Motor Company in 1955, then briefly with Packard, then General Motors in late-1956. Working with GM design chief Bill Mitchell and Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov, he refined work on concept cars that eventually translated into the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray and the 1968 version, patterned after Shinoda's Mako Shark show car and earlier XP 819. He also participated in the 1965 redesign of the Chevrolet Corvair, giving that car its sleek "Coke bottle" shape.
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 a high-performance Mustang known as the Boss 302 Mustang. Reportedly Shinoda chose the name "Boss" as a homage to Knudsen. He led design for the Mustang models for 1970-1973 as well, but when Knudsen was fired from Ford late in 1969 Shinoda left as well.
Shinoda later opened an independent design firm and did work for GM, Ford, and aftermarket companies. In addition to its in-house team, he was one of three designers under contract with American Motors Corporation (AMC) to create and build clay models of a vehicle then known as XJC, which later became the Jeep ZJ (Jeep Grand Cherokee) after Chrysler's buyout of AMC in 1987.
Shinoda began to have kidney problems in 1996, yet continued to be an active designer. Before a transplant surgery could take place, he died in 1997 at his home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan of heart failure at age 67. His daughter, Karen, formed Team Shinoda (now Shinoda Performance Vehicles) a tuner and performance parts company.
- "Manzanar ID Card: GRACE AIKO SHINODA; Family # 20983; Camp: Manzanar, CA". National Park Service.
- Koveleski, Oscar. "The Designer". Pasadena City College. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
- "Larry Shinoda - 1998 Induction to the Corvette Hall of Fame". National Corvette Museum. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
- "Manzanar ID Card: LAWRENCE KIYOSHI SHINODA; Family # 20983; Camp: Manzanar, CA". National Park Service.
- Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (9 February 2007). "Larry Shinoda: Creator of the Ford Mustang Boss 302". Retrieved 16 November 2010.
- Rothenberg, Al (1 March 1998). "Design Debate - Who's the father of the Jeep Grand Cherokee". Ward's AutoWorld. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
- "About Us". Team Shinoda. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
- Development of the Sting Ray[dead link]
- Ellwood, Wayne (1995) Interview with Larry Shinoda
- Ellwood, Wayne (1995) Mako Shark Interview with Larry Shinoda
- Ellwood, Wayne (1995) XP-819 Interview with Larry Shinoda
- Larry Shinoda at the GM Heritage Center
- Larry Shinoda at the National Corvette Museum Hall of Fame
- Larry Shinoda at the Mustang Club of America Hall of Fame
- Larry Shinoda at the Pasadena City College alumni history site
- Team Shinoda, company co-founded by daughter Karen and named in his honor