Car designer Larry Shinoda

When you walk into the museum now, one of the first things you notice as you enter the front doors to the Pavilion is a 1963 Corvette Sting Ray. I pass by the car every day on the way to my office, and I always see visitors stopping to admire it.

Photo by Gary Ono

But why a Corvette in the Japanese American National Museum?

It’s because it was designed by Japanese American automotive designer Larry Shinoda, and it’s part of the Drawing the Line: Japanese American Art, Design & Activism exhibition on view through February 19, 2012.

Untitled drawing (Stingray), Larry Shinoda. Pencil on paper. Gift of the Shinoda Family, Japanese American National Museum (2003.124.3).

Upstairs in the exhibition galleries, we also have a number of his original drawings and sketches of various other cars he designed like the Mako Shark concept car, and the Boss Mustang. There’s also a bunch of historic photos, trophies, and other memorabilia that were donated to the museum by his family after his passing in 1997.

I have to admit that I don’t know much about cars, but the aerodynamic sporty style is very cool to see, and his personal story is very interesting too. His father died when he was a young child. From early on, he was always interested in cars and in drawing. He and his family were incarcerated at Manzanar during WWII. After the war, he grew up in Southern California where he built and raced cars, leading to his work designing and building cars.

The Watase Media Arts Center created a video about Shinoda for the exhibition with interviews with his sister and a long-time good friend:

The video is included on the exhibition DVD available for purchase through the Museum Store: Drawing the Line: Japanese American Art, Design & Activism in Post-War Los Angeles (DVD) >>

By the way…Shinoda didn’t just design cars. He also worked on pretty much anything that moves such as Roger Penske’s race trailers, motor homes, tractors, big rig trucks, and even the Goodyear Blimp logo. And for those who were wondering…no, he’s not related to the other famous Shinoda that we have featured at the museum!

One more bit of trivia…the wedding dress currently on display in our Common Ground exhibition was made by Larry Shinoda’s mother!

Vicky Murakami-Tsuda

Communications Production Manager at the Japanese American National Museum. I coordinate printed publications, manage web-based projects, and lots of other stuff. I also write an occasional column for our DiscoverNikkei.org project.

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