Imagine going to another country where you don't know a single word of the language, immersing yourself in one of that country's most unique home-grown traditions, and doing it so well you receive awards for doing so. Well, in a nutshell, that's what Dice Kobayashi, from Bardstown, Kentucky, was able to do.
But Dice hasn't always been from the Bluegrass State-he's a recent transplant from the Land of the Rising Sun: Japan. In fact, he's spent most of his 37 years there, including his youth, going to school, getting a job, and living the first three decades of his life. And while growing up in Japan, he and his friends were into cars or, more accurately, mini trucks.
The customized mini truck craze in the '90s was very popular in Japan as the Japanese took what was happening in America at the time and created a style all their own. In fact, one of Dice's buddies in Japan had a custom shop, and all they worked on were American cars. It wasn't long before Dice had his first taste of American iron with the purchase of an '89 Trans Am.
Much of the interior is original-just the roof is lower. Trim for the '47 Ford dash has be
But it was a collection of "little books," both new and old, that stoked the kustom fires inside Dice. Those diminutive automotive magazines showed Dice a world that was very different from his own, and he wanted to be a part of it. As it happened, the company he worked for was opening a branch in the United States, and Dice was picked to be a part of that team. But instead of falling into Southern California, where the custom car craze had had its greatest history, Dice found his new home in Kentucky.
Nonetheless, and without being able to speak a word of English, Dice and his wife, Sayuri, made the move and settled into new digs and surroundings. Dice's love of American autos only grew once he was stateside, and he bought an '83 Dodge pickup and started going to swap meets and buying pieces that he knew would make good parts for a custom.
By the time he'd found a '47 Ford coupe in 2003, he was ready to go. But there was another nagging element in the formula that Dice needed to address: he didn't know how to weld, let alone chop a top. Undaunted, Dice hooked up with a local body shop and worked for free while he learned what he could by doing.
Dice's Ford has a perfect stance-no doubt attributed to the many hours he spent pouring ov
The coupe that he'd bought for $1,300 was more or less a shell, but it was a great place to start. Someone else had started it as a project, but it had no floor or firewall, and it was full of body putty and rust holes. Over the next four years, Dice worked on each section until he felt he'd gotten it right, teaching himself how to weld, and even chopped the roof three times before he felt the rear window laid over at the right angle.
The chassis is a combination of a '68 Nova front clip and a 2x3 rectangular tubing configuration Dice made up himself. To get the car to sit the way he wanted, an eight-inch notch was necessary in the rear and air bags were installed on each corner, as were 15x6 chrome steelies and Coker wide whites. A basic rebuilt 350 Chevy was installed, but Dice learned the hard way on how to break in a motor. No one ever told him about breaking in a cam so, after about 400 miles, the engine was junk and needed to be gone through. Bored .040 over, the new engine was topped with Offenhauser valve covers and a Mooneyes air cleaner and dressed up with more polished aluminum and performance goodies (such as a Powermaster alternator and dual 11-inch electric fans).
Dice also figured out how to suicide the doors, using parts he'd gotten from Suicide Doors.com (they supplied the latches, poppers, and hinges, as well as the air bag suspension parts). As with any custom, the body is where most of the work was done. Besides the six-inch chop, the body was channeled six inches and sectioned two. The nose was reshaped to have a lower profile and a '49 Dodge grille was installed. Out back the trunk was extended one inch, the fenders raised 1.5 inches and widened four, and a bumper from a '68 Impala was cut into two-inch sections and reassembled to fit the '47's contours. Up front a '72 Camaro bumper was modified to fit the same way. The headlights were next and are the combination of Lucas spotlight bulbs and '56 Oldsmobile bezels (Dice made his own taillights).
Once the body mods had been carried out the way he wanted, Dice then prepped the car for paint before Gregg Figg (After Hours Body Shop, Bardstown, KY) covered the ride with a white Sherwin Williams pearl. The all-white theme was carried over into the interior where Joe Bacon of Bacon's Upholstery covered the custom rear seat and front buckets (from a '62 T-bird) with the same pleated white vinyl, accented with blue piping. The steering column is a '56 Olds 88 unit and the wheel came from a '62 Olds 88. The dash remains stock, though all of the trim was rechromed before being reinstalled.
After it was finished Dice took it to a local show in Louisville early last year, but was surprised and elated when, after entering it in the 2008 Detroit Autorama, that he won first in his '38-47 Early Custom class, and then followed it up soon after at the NHRA Reunion in Bowling Green with a Best Custom award. Finished four years after starting the project, Dice will tell you (in as much English as he's picked up over the past seven years) that he believes it turned out better than he ever could imagine, and he's happy living his dream in the land of opportunity.
The bumpers and grille on Dice's '47 received a fair amount of attention. The grille came
A basic 350 Chevy, bored .040 over, powers Dice's sled. Backed to a TH350 trans, the V-8 i