Chip Foose - He's Out To Foose It Up - Lifestyle

Sport Truck Goes In-Depth With The Man Himself

May 1, 2006
Photo 2/2   |   chip Foose chevrolet S10 Side Front View
If you do not know by now, Chip Foose is the man when it comes to designing and building custom vehicles. He is a living legend that is on the quest for the ultimate build. He is always looking forward and striving to put out the finest quality vehicles around. And unless you've been living under a rock or in a deep cave, then you should already know the extent of his workmanship.
This month, Sport Truck spent many hours working on our feature story, covering the complete buildup of the Overhaulin' Napa truck. We camped out in the garage, while Chip and his team of fabricators turned a plain delivery truck into a blown modern-day pro-street terror. Foose was the chief designer of this crazy Chevy S-10 project that was fully revamped on the latest episode of the television show. During that time, we watched a man who is not only an excellent customizer but a natural leader, corralling a team of 30 to achieve the unbelievable in just seven days.
Mr. Foose was the product of his environment. He was born and raised in the shoreline city of Santa Barbra, California. His father was heavily into cars, and Chip watched his dad wrench on old-school hot rods, which sparked his interest in the automotive world. Chip helped his father work on cars, and he later met up with Alex Tremulus, who inspired him to attend the Art Center, where he majored and graduated with honors in automotive product design.
After graduation, Chip went to work in the automotive industry, and as his talents progressed, he gained a full-time position at Hot Rods by Boyd. That led to a management position, which ultimately made him president of operations there. Chip was responsible for famous vehicles like the Boydster 1 and 2. In 1998, Chip went out on his own and opened up Foose Design in Huntington Beach, California. He now builds amazing custom cars for private and commercial clientele.
After going into business for himself, the company and his name grew to new frontiers. In 2000, he and MHT Luxury Wheels signed an agreement to produce a line of Foose Wheels. Then, in 2002, The Discovery Channel decided to film a documentary on building a vehicle for the SEMA Show, and the television bit was played frequently on the network. Overhaulin' was born as a result of that first documentary's success and scheduled for air on the TLC network. Since then, Foose has been ripping them loose on the show and building frame-up restorations for real people.
Foose has had an incredible career so far that has included several prestigious awards, such as the AMBR (America's Most Beautiful Roadster) and inductions into the Hot Rod Hall of Fame and Rod and Custom Motorcycle Hall of Fame. We wanted to gain some in-depth information on Foose and his design work, so we called our contacts and managed to get a chance to talk to Chip and find out the story in his own words.
Sport Truck: Who originally got you into cars and trucks and can take credit for your hands-on interest?
Foose: My father who liked to draw and started his own shop in Santa Barbara, when he was 14. I watched him, and from age 3 on up, I started drawing with him, and it led me to building when I was 7 years old.
Sport Truck: How would you describe your design style?
Foose: Timeless. I like to build vehicles with good design that are not trendy.
Sport Truck: What is your favorite color to paint a vehicle?
Foose: I don't have a particular color that is my favorite. I generally pick a color that fits the needs of the car and owner. Each owner has a character that I go along with and tailor to their needs. The color is not the statement, the design comes first.
Sport Truck: What was your favorite vehicle that you have built?
Foose: The next one. I am always trying to make my client happy and expanding from there. If you go backward, you are getting lazy.
Sport Truck: What difficulties have you run into with your career?
Foose: That you are only as good as your clients. Limitations are how far your client will let you go.
Sport Truck: What have you learned from your experience in the business?
Foose: Teamwork. Everyone needs to get along and have the same goal. It's all about the different personalities that pull together for the same objective. I always want to use professionals who are having fun building something that they like.
Sport Truck: What do you think was the key to your success?
Foose: It's going to show if the builder oves what he is doing or not. For me, it would be loving what I do. You can't see it as another job or the quality of the work will show that in it. I choose my builders by those who are passionate about working on their projects.
Sport Truck: What advice would you give someone who would like to build and design vehicles like yours?
Foose: Follow your heart, as I have done throughout my career.
Sport Truck: How old is your son, and is he influenced by you in the same way you were by your father?
Foose: My son Brock is 6 years old and is extremely into cars and likes to draw. I don't take him to my shop, and I haven't put him to work either, but eventually I can see him being influenced by me, like I was by my father.
Sport Truck: What vehicle would you build if given unlimited money?
Foose: At the time when I was working for Boyd, I tried to build something with a European flavor. I would build something with a Mercedes or Bugatti influence. A design like that would be like my "Hemisphere" design that I came up with in 1990, when I was at Art Center. It was a rendition of the modern early '30s coupe with a fast-back, and when you looked through the back glass, you would see a 426 Hemi with a Pantera trans axle. When I drew it at Art Center, one of its renderings went to Chrysler and was developed into the Prowler. But, I always wanted to build my coupe version of it. Now, RC2 (Racing Champions/Ertl) is now helping me fund the build of the car as a cross-promotional vehicle. It should be done and debuted at the '06 SEMA Show along with RC2's die-cast version of it.
Sport Truck: How are things with you and Boyd?
Foose: Boyd has chosen to not have any relations with me, since I stopped working at his shop.
Sport Truck: Why did you stop working for Boyd?
Foose: Everyone always asks me why I quit working for him. That is not true. The truth is that I simply lost my job there. Back then, Boyd's company was publicly held, it went bankrupt, and I was forced out of there. After that, it took me 3-1/2 years to recover and gain a good crew again. I enjoyed what I was doing there and thank him for my experience that I have gained from his shop.
Sport Truck: How did you get involved with Bud, the producer of Overhaulin'?
Foose: I met Bud a year before Overhaulin'. He came to me as he wanted to do a show on cars but had nothing to come up with. I pitched him the idea of a show based on building cars for the SEMA Show. He sold the video to the TLC network, which became Rides, a show that is basically a video magazine for the automotive enthusiast. With his success with that, I went to him with the idea of a Monster Garage-style of show with real cars built for real people. In the end of the show, I wanted the cars to be appreciated and not just stored away. In a sense, they would really serve their purpose, and it was Bud's idea to steal the cars, which just added to the realism and drama.
Sport Truck: In what aspects has the show benefited you?
Foose: Meeting different people and developing their talents in a project. During the time with the show, we have created a system to fully restore a car in seven days. We have a list, and we break up the several stages and assign everyone to do a part. In the first few shows, it was a different crew every week and going through these times we saw people on the crew that we liked and asked them to stay and they have become full-time regulars.
Sport Truck: Where do you end up spending most of your time?
Foose: If I'm not at Overhaulin' or at my shop, I'm at home with my wife and kids. I don't get to spend hardly enough time with my family as I would like to.
Sport Truck: How often do you do the show? What is your scheduling like at that time?
Foose: In our third season, we are doing three episodes in a month. It is very tiring because after the shows I am beat and want to take time off, but then I have to go back and play catch-up at my shop.
Sport Truck: Has this affected how you run your shop?
Foose: It has definitely affected how I run the shop. It means that I am out for a long period of time, and I have to make people accountable when I am not there.
Sport Truck: What is it like when you finish a vehicle for someone on Overhaulin'?
Foose: In the end there is nothing better than the feeling of making these people's dreams come true on the show.
Sport Truck: Thanks for talking with us, Chip.
Foose: Thank you.
There you have it. Twenty minutes with the one and only Chip Foose. He is a very busy man and it was difficult to catch him for an interview, but our staff would like to personally thank him for his contributions to this issue.
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