Fifty five years ago, in the northern spring of 1962 in Los Angeles, Carol Shelby had a problem.
He’d just inked a deal with the British AC company to shoehorn Ford V8s into their smallish sports car.
A test vehicle was in a plane on its way to LAX and Shelby had nowhere to work on the car once it arrived.
So Shelby went to see his old mate Dean Moon and asked if he could use a part of Dean’s workshop to assemble the Cobra.
Moon, who was already a hot-rodding identity on the dry lakes and in drag racing, readily agreed.
Once it was unloaded from the plane, Shelby towed the AC to the Moon Speed Equipment workshop on Norwalk Boulevard in Santa Fe Springs – south east of Los Angeles Airport.
Inside of eight hours Dean, Carroll and the Moon crew had inserted the Ford V8 into the AC, cut larger openings for the bigger wheels and shod them with some ‘humper’ style tyres.
Shelby named the car “Cobra” which he said came to him in a dream.
The rest is the stuff of automobile legends
At the time, Dean Moon was barely in his 30s but the Moon Equipment Company was already attaining an awesome reputation among the street and strip community for providing strong and reliable speed equipment.
If you were “Moon Equipped” you had an edge.
His Moon disc wheel covers sold 10,000 in the first month of production.
And even if your car was not Moon equipped, at least you could buy the “Moon Eyes” decal, put it on your car and dream – so many did.
Starting the business from small beginnings at the back of his father’s diner, the Moon Cafe, Dean grew it into a worldwide name and made the “Mooneyes” logo an iconic part of automotive history.
Many of the products he devised are still used today and sought after by the restorers.
Moon’s workshop was, and still is, at 10820 Norwalk Blvd, Santa Fe Springs.
No visit to Los Angeles is complete without making the pilgrimage to this historic address and to stand outside the MOON EYES Company building
His fame even stretched to Australia.
Sixties speedway star Bill Warner had Dean’s speed equipment in his V8 super modified, with a big Moon Eyes logo on the bonnet.
The race wining car was known universally as “the Moon Eyes Chevy”.
Along with such automotive luminaries as Ed Iskenderian (camshafts), Phil Weiand (superchargers and other speed parts) and Vic Edlebrock (exhaust and manifold systems), Dean Moon helped found the Speed (now Specialty) Equipment Manufacturing Association — SEMA.
The annual SEMA show has become the biggest after-market parts and suppliers event in the world.
Sadly, Dean Moon died in 1987 – he was only 60.
David Burrell is the editor of retroautos.com.au