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Backyard Engine Rebuilding Shop – Los Angeles, California, 1945

This pair of War Relocation Authority (WRA) photographs were taken on May 31, 1945, by the US Government agency that relocated and detained Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast during World War II. Photographers working for the WRA documented both the internment of these citizens starting in the spring of 1942 until their release in 1945 and re-entry into society after the War.

The lead image shows the young man on the far-right, who started an auto repair business in the driveway of a home he rented in the Los Angeles area. His brother in law and son on the far-left assisted him along with his sister, the older man is his father. The white male on the far left in the image below was friend and a private in the US Army who sponsored the families early release and helped them get started. The backyard open air operation was necessary due to a Wartime shortage of materials needed to construct a building to house the business.

The two men were overhauling Ford “Flathead” V-8 and Lincoln “Zephyr” V-12 engines on wooden work benches at the time. The 1930 or ’31 Ford Model “A” roadster hot-rod in the lead image, and a 1935 or ’36 Ford sedan and the Lincoln visible on the far right in the photo below appear to be the repair jobs underway at the time. In front of the early Ford is a Model “A” 1930-’31 roadster body that may have been slated for use to build another early Ford “gow-job.”

The photos are courtesy of the OHC of California.


  • Enlargeable images of the family backyard auto repair operation.


9 responses to “Backyard Engine Rebuilding Shop – Los Angeles, California, 1945

  1. I just read the Classic Car article on Vic Edelbrock. It said that a lot of the pre-war stock car racers in California were of Japanese descent. When they were put into the camps, Vic stepped in, gathered their cars and tools, and put them in safe storage until they were freed.

    It’s nice to see these little flashes of humanity at the time.

  2. As much as I relish a well lit and fully equipped shop, I do sometimes work outside in the Big Bay of God’s Garage . Fresh air and sunlight are enjoyable supplements to automobile work.

    • Jerald’s Muffler in National City, CA is still around, they were hot rodders in the old days. Before the business was completely remodeled and the shops rebuilt sometime about 1980, they had a couple of those rickety outdoor cable-operated car lifts out behind the shops, where the muffler jobs could be done out in the light of day.

  3. The Lincoln is a 1942 Zephyr Club Coupe. The combination of ribbed bumper guard, taillight, and cover to the gas tank filler pipe was unique to that year.

  4. The best thing about the picture demonstrates the drive and spirit of a people from another land, in spite of what they had been put through.

  5. The guy on the far right standing with his family bears a striking resemblance to Yam Oka. This could be him and his brother Harry. He fought with the 442nd in ww2. Post war he was a successful dry lakes and track roadster racer.

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