Featured: Chip Foose On Staying True To Yourself While Becoming An Automotive Icon

Chip Foose On Staying True To Yourself While Becoming An Automotive Icon

By Ted Gushue
April 4, 2016

There’s only one Chip Foose. I don’t mean that in the sense that there’s literally only one guy named Chip Foose who works in his space. I mean it in that there’s no “actor” side to Chip Foose. There’s no “artist” side to Chip Foose. There’s no “engineer” side to Chip Foose. There’s simply Chip Foose, a straightforward guy who values family, tradition, artistry and craft.

I’d never really been able to understand this fully until I had the pleasure of sitting down with the man at his Huntington Beach headquarters.

Ted Gushue: Chip, what was the first car you remember driving?

Chip Foose: First car I ever drove? It was that black ’56 pickup that I just showed you out there. When I was twelve years old, I used to ride to and from work with my father, and if I rode my bike to school then I’d ride to the shop after school; I’d throw the bike in the back of the truck and we’d drive home. One day he had noticed that when I was sitting next to him I was pretending like I was pushing in the clutch and shifting it and letting the clutch out and working the throttle. Air driving, shall we say.

One day after work, he said, “Come on, we’re going for a ride”. I started getting in the passenger side and he said, “No, no. You’re driving”. He had his shop on the airport property up in Santa Barbara. I drove all over the airport and didn’t miss a shift. Everything went smooth.

When he asked me to park in front of the shop, I was pulling in and the truck was just lowered with big wide tires and no power steering, and I’m using my body weight to try and turn the car, trying to pull that steering wheel. I remember I’m pulling on the steering wheel with all my might trying to turn this thing because we’re just creeping along, and I had my foot on the brake.

With my body weight pulling on the wheel, my foot slipped off the brake and I, standing, I stood on the throttle, lit the back tires up, truck lunges forward. There was a Rolls Royce sitting in front of the shop waiting to be picked up by the owner, and I smacked right into the grill and headlight of the Rolls. At twelve years old, that was my first accident also. I have that grill sitting upstairs right over here.

TG: No way! What happened after. Were you in big trouble?

CF: I hit the Rolls, and I shoved the Rolls into a Porsche. Yeah, we had to fix all three. The funny thing is my father was supposed to leave. That was on a Friday afternoon. He was supposed to leave the next Friday to go to a show with the truck, because it was a show truck at the time.

TG: Sure.

CF: It had been in Hot Rod Magazine and everything else.

TG: Talk about your father. Talk about his shop.

CF: My father has been on his own since he was fourteen years old. He started a shop in his garage that he was living in when he was just a kid. Grew up in Santa Barbara, and ended up getting a job in a body shop there. Went into the Army, ran a body shop for the Army and was also on the rifle team doing exhibition shooting. When he got out of the military, he went right back into doing body work.

If you’re familiar with Gene Winfield, when I was only, not even two years old yet, he went to work with Gene Winfield and ran his shop, AMT, down in Phoenix. Started out first up in Modesto. We traveled around and worked with Gene and then in 1968 my father left Gene’s. He worked for a company in Santa Barbara called Mini Cars and Lift, Inc.. One was doing government-funded safety programs, Mini Cars. Lift, Inc. was doing hovercrafts.

TG: Did you ever get to drive any hovercrafts when you were a kid?

CF: No, I never did. I have since, but not when I was at that age. The company was going bankrupt. They hadn’t paid him for some work that he had been doing.

TG: As most hovercraft companies have.

CF: [Laughs] My dad loaded his truck with all the equipment in the shop, drove around to the office and said, “I’ve got all the equipment. When you have my paycheck, I’ll bring the equipment back.” They never called him. He left and started Project Design, his shop. Started it in nineteen … That was end of ’69, early ’70. I was seven years old at the time and I started going to work with him. He was an amazing teacher. He’s my hero to this day. He taught me that anything you put your mind to, you can do.

TG: What was he known for? What was his style known for?

CF: He was custom cars. Back in the ’70s, if you picked up a Hot Rod Magazine, more than likely you were going to see some of my dad’s work in it.

TG: Very cool.

CF: A lot of those famous Winfield blends, the candy paint jobs that were all blended, some of those were my dad’s work. He was the painter at AMT.

TG: So you grew up in this world, full stop.

CF: I don’t ever remember being introduced to cars. I was just born into this industry. When I was seven working at my dad’s shop, I met Alex Tremulis. He was the head designer of the Tucker. He also worked Auburn, Duesenberg, was the head designer for Ford Motor Company’s Thunderbird studio through the sixties. When he retired he moved to Ventura, California. My dad being in Santa Barbara, he had met my father. They had a great relationship and a great friendship. When I was seven years old, I remember seeing Alex’s artwork and thinking, “That’s what I want to do”.

TG: Draw.

CF: Yeah. Alex actually wrote my letter of recommendation to Art Center College Of Design. Went to Art Center and graduated, and it’s been an absolute blast ever since.

TG: Are you still involved with Art Center at all?

CF: No, not at this point. I was after I graduated. I taught for a while. With traffic the way it is around here, it’s two hours to get there and back. I’d love to teach there again someday, but right now I’ve got a career that keeps me real busy. Hopefully I can do that because I really did enjoy teaching.

TG: So you were drawing prior to going to Art Center, right?

CF: Yeah. I started drawing when I was three years old.

TG: We all did, didn’t we? When did you start drawing designs that could be translated into a car?

CF: The first time I realized that I was actually doing design work was my father and I were painting our family van in the shop, and we were doing custom paint job. It was candy metal flake green and black, and he was painting a ribbon on it. He wanted to put some other scallops on it. I remember I was actually crying, telling him no—I didn’t want to do it. I thought I was going to look way too busy. When I think back, at I think that’s when I really knew that design was something that I was passionate about.

TG: So you go to Art Center, you come out of Art Center. Did you go back to your dad’s shop? Walk me through that time.

CF: I went halfway through Art Center and left. Couldn’t afford to stay, and started a business in Santa Barbara. I was still working with my father, but I was doing design work. I was working for some different Hot Rod shops and also doing magazine illustrations and thought I was busy. I had designed the…I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the helmet vehicles in the NFL.

TG: [Laughs] Sure.

CF: I designed those. If you talk to Rod Emory, he’s done the newer one, but I had done the last one.

TG: He did mention that, actually.

CF: Yeah, I had done the last ones. There’s another design firm in Santa Barbara. It was called Stehrenberger Clenet. It was Mark Stehrenberger, who’s an illustrator and designer, and Alain Clénet. Alain had seen this model that I had built for the NFL and offered me a job. I kept turning him down. He was calling me once a month. “Hey, you want a job yet?”

TG: So he was like, “I saw that helmet car you built. I just have got to have you.”

CF: We were building … I had done the model, but my father and I were building the full-size at our shop. I was busy on that project. Then when the project ended.

TG: What inspired you to make that? Was it commissioned?

CF: It was a company called Baker Sportronics that commissioned me to build it. Joe Baker is his name. He had gone to Gene Winfield’s shop and saw some of my artwork on the wall because I had worked with Gene on Sleeper 2 and also on Robocop.

TG: You were doing movie cars?

CF: Movie cars. Some of my art was on Gene’s walls. He said, “Well who’s this?” Gene said, “It’s Chip Foose,” and gave him my number. Joe Baker called me, and wanted me to design the helmet car so I did that. I ended up doing a baseball car and a couple other things. We were building that full size car, and when we finished with that project, I ended up going to work at Stehrenberger Clenet, which later became Osher corporation. I had been working there for, let’s see…that was in eighty six. I had been working there for about two and half years, almost three years.

I had been dating my girlfriend for a year and half. The subject of marriage came up one night, and she said, “Well I’m not going to marry you”. So I said, “Why are we together?” “Well, you have potential.”

I said, “What does this mean?” She had graduated from UCSB. It’s my wife, Lynn. She says, “I want to marry my intellectual equal. I would like my husband to have a college degree”. I knew I needed to get back to Art Center.

TG: That’s a smart girl.

CF: [Laughs] I knew I needed to get back to Art Center. I was working for a company called Prince Corporation through Stehrenberger Clenet, which had become Osher Corportation. They had been trying to hire me away. I called them up and they made me a real nice offer, and I thought, “With this offer, I can go back and save my money for three years and get back to Art Center.” Marriage was a long ways off. I told my boss I was leaving because I accepted a job there. He asked me why, I told him that truth, that it was Alain Clenet . He says, “I’ll send you to school now if you give me three years after you graduate.” A month later, I was at school. They advanced me a few terms and then I graduated, went back to Santa Barbara, ended up marrying my girlfriend. My senior project was the Hemisfear. I designed that, and built that model for Chrysler Corporation, which was the inspiration for the Plymouth Prowler. Boyd Coddington had seen that model because I took it and displayed it at the senior show.

TG: What year was this?

CF: This was in 1990. Boyd saw my model and he asked me to start doing some work for him. I left school, started working with Boyd as a side job, but I had my full time job working at Osher Corporation. I was working an average of thirty to fifty hours a week for Boyd, just as a hobby. I did that for two and a half years and never gave Boyd a bill. If I needed a set of wheels for a car I was building, I’d just trade him. I’d say, “Give me some wheels”.

I was building cars, having fun, and doing Boyd’s design work, and thought it was unbelievable. Got married, and three months later, Osher Corporation was becoming more of an engineering firm rather than a design firm. I was doing engineering work there and projects were dwindling. Alain comes to me and says, “Hey, can we start billing Boyd for your time and you can start doing his work during the day?” I said, “Well, I don’t bill him for my work. This is just my hobby”.

“I can’t do that,” he says, “is there something that you can do for the next six months?” Because they were waiting for a big project to come in from China, I said, “Well, let me look”. Andy Jacobson, who is the head of the Ford Truck studio, I had done some work for, so I called Andy and he made me an offer to come to Ford for six months to work on a project.

I had an offer from Ford, and then I get a phone call from J Mays who was running Volkswagen design at the time.

TG: In Santa Monica?

CF: Right. Yeah. He let me know…Actually, at that time it was Simi Valley. He said, “Hey, I heard you might be going to Ford”. I said, “Yeah, it’s only for six months”. He said, “I have a project I want to put you on,” he wanted to put me on the new Beetle project. This is in 1992.

I’m weighing which way do I want to go, and I called Boyd and let him know that I may be going to Michigan, or I might end up working at Volkswagen. He said, “Come down and talk to me”. I went down to talk to Boyd and he made a better offer than both Ford and Volkswagen and I thought, “Wow, now this is my hobby!”

TG: Was Boyd’s offer attractive because you could be a big fish in a small pond, so to speak?

CF: I had done both hot rod work and some OE work at this point. I always thought that I would be working in the design firms, and that hot rods would just be my hobby. I never thought that hot rods would end up being my career. What I love about the hot rod industry is that it is a lifestyle, not just a career.

TG: It’s a community. It’s a subset of the larger car community, but it’s arguably the most passionate community.

CF: It’s something people are very, very passionate about.

TG: Deeply. I mean, it was enough to start a whole entertainment career.

CF: That’s true. What I had learned in the OE world is…I’ve been involved with some really high-profile projects. My name never goes on these projects.

TG: Which? Can you give examples?

CF: I can’t tell you. It’s all confidential.

TG: Cars that I’d see on the road?

CF: You’ve seen here. [Smirks] I have been involved with some great projects, and I get to work on them, which is the great part of it. When they’re done, with OEs, you’re kicked to the sideline.

TG: Who takes the credit for all the work?

CF: It’s the brand or other designers in the manufacturing world. I do have some fun working on those projects. I mean, I get paid for him.

TG: You’re intellectually stimulated, but you’re not able to take ownership.

CF: No. I don’t get to share in the limelight. What I’ve discovered is even with OE projects that I’m known to have worked on…These projects go to a show, then that’s the end of their life. They may have been shown around for a couple shows. They get stuffed in a warehouse and they disappear. They’re forgotten.

In the hot rod world, you’re building somebody’s dream car. Then when they get it, they’re going to enjoy it for years and years. I’ll go to a show today, and I’ll see people that I built cars for twenty, twenty five, thirty years ago and they still have that car. They love that car. They’re enjoying it. That’s where I say it’s a lifestyle. Not only are you building a car, but you’re building a friendship and this family of friends and you get to share it for years and years and years. That’s what I really love about this.

TG: So back to the timeline, you’re with Boyd.

CF: I went to work full time January 1, 1993. That was when we moved from Santa Barbara to Orange County and I started working at Boyd’s. I ended up working with him for a little over five years before he went bankrupt. We had gone public, we had gone bankrupt. I had lost a ton of money, didn’t know what I was going to do.

The day I left Boyd’s, I had $700 in the bank and found out my wife was pregnant. Didn’t know how I was going to make my next house payment that was due in two weeks. We left, and that’s how we started Foose Design.

TG: Did you start with a client?

CF: No, I got a phone call from a friend of mine that I had helped out. He had worked at Boyd’s but he had left a couple months earlier when Boyd started downsizing. He went to work for PPI, Precision Power, Inc., which was a company that made car speaker and amplifiers. Three days after I had left Boyd’s and didn’t know what I was going to do, I was just trying to help some of the owners of the cars that we were building at Boyd’s.

I had moved every car to a different shop, and each guy that was working on that car went with the car and started working at that shop. I was the only one that didn’t have a job out of the hot rod shop. I positioned all the cars and the people working on them so we could continue. Then I helped each of those car owners and those shops get those cars done. I was the only one that didn’t have a job. A friend of mine that had gone to work for PPI called me up and said, “How would you like to design our entire line of ninety nine products?” I said, “Ask your bosses if they’ll do it on a royalty basis, and I’ll do it”.

He called me back and he says, “What would it be?” I said, “Here’s how I’d like to lay it out: I want three percent of what you sell it for, but I want an advance on royalty to pay me to do the design work. Send me a check for ten thousand, I’ll do the design work, and once you start to sell the product, you collect the royalty until the ten thousand is paid and I’ll start to collect it”. Three days after Boyd’s had collapsed, I got a check for ten thousand to start up Foose design.

TG: Very cool.

CF: It’s been a rollercoaster ride ever since, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

TG: At what point did the entertainment industry start to notice?

CF: Jesse James, who did Monster Garage, he had done his Motorcycle Mania. He called me up one day, and asked me to come to a meeting with him and some executives from Discovery Channel. He was asking me to be basically a co-host, be a designer on the show, and help him build these cars. They told me the first one was going to be a Mustang that’s going to be a lawnmower, and the second one is going to be a Ford Explorer that’s going to be a trash driver. I’m going, “I’m trying to build the most beautiful pieces of rolling art that I can build, and you want to put me on television building these monsters”. I didn’t see a value at the end of the show. That was the whole thing. I thought, “Great to build something, but what do you do with it afterwards?”

TG: Like a movie prop.

CF: Right. That’s what I didn’t like about the premise of the show, so I turned him down. It ended up being the best “no” I’ve ever said in business, because then another Discovery producer came to me and said, “What do you want to do?” Well, I never thought about doing TV. He told me he was going to follow me twenty four seven, go home with me, and do a similar show to Motorcycle Mania that they did with Jesse, they were going to do with me. I said, “No, that’s not going to work. I don’t want a reality show based on my life”.

I said, “Let me call J Mays,” who was now the head of Ford design and he was with Volkswagen when he wanted to hire me before but now he was at Volkswagen, or at Ford. He was a friend of mine, so I called him up: “Hey,” I said, “Discovery wants to do a show, and I want to build a car for the SEMA show. If you want it to be one of your cars, what would you like me to do” He said, “We’re about to release a Thunderbird. Let me send you a T-bird”.

I was supposed to get that car in March, and I didn’t get it until September 12. I basically had six weeks to get that car done. I spent the next six weeks working forty hours straight, not sleeping. I’d work for forty hours, then I’d sleep for eight, and work forty hours. I had the guys going in the shop and we finished that car in six weeks. I lost twenty seven pounds, but we made it to the SEMA show. We won best of show from Ford…they gave it that great honor.

We showed the pilot episode to Discovery. They loved it so much that they ordered a series. The producer came back to me. He says, “We got a series”. I said, “No, no no. That’s not my series. I’m not going to bust my tail like that to build these cars show after show after show”. I gave him a list, the producer Bud Brudsman. I gave him a list of twenty five different shops. I said, “Call these guys”. I gave them the owners’ names. I said, “Call them, find out when they’re starting their next build. You can go there and film it for ten months. Then after ten months, you could have twenty five episodes”. That’s where Rides came from.

While we were filming, I also, I pitched to them…now, Monster Garage had gone on the air. I said, “Let’s do a show that’s similar to Monster Garage”. I told them that what I didn’t like is there’s no value at the end of the show. I said, “Let’s go take cars from garages, and front yards that the people have a dream of one day building that car, but they don’t have the money or the means. Let’s take the car, let’s build it, and give it to them as a gift. Now we’ve got something with great value and it’s a feel-good show”.

Bud Brudsman had the idea of doing the pranking and stealing the cars, and messing with them and giving it back. He’d asked me if I could do a car in three days. I said, “No”. I knew that I could do it in about a week if I had the proper help. I used to build cars in high school by myself in three weeks, just sending the interior out and motor out and doing everything, working my full time job, and only nights and weekends working on my cars. I could do them in about three weeks. I knew I could get them done. That’s where the idea of Overhaulin’came from.

TG: Something that I’ve always kind of wondered on shows, is why there’s this artificial pressure that gets built-in by producers, “There’s no brakes in the car, but it’s going out tomorrow”. In the real world, you but the brakes in the damn car, and you drive it out when it’s safe and it’s ready to go. In TV world…

CF: On Overhaulin’, we did an unveiling. If the car was going to be driven, it was usually me driving with the owner in it. We had just gotten it together when they got to see it. What you saw was real. We had seven days and then D-day, which was delivery day, so actually eight days to build that car. Tear it completely down to a raw frame, fix the frame, straighten it, weld it, do whatever we needed to do, get it powder coated, start putting the chassis back together, get the body undercoated, get it back on, finish all the metalwork, get it painted, get it reassembled, and delivered…upholstery, if it was custom upholstery, whatever it was. What you saw really happened in eight days.

It was also just an unveiling to the owner. We didn’t give the car back to the owners that night. Everybody is sleep-deprived and everything else putting that car together. That’s why I was driving it. If something was going to go wrong, I wanted to be the one that would figure out, “Okay, how am I going to stop this?” We did a thorough safety check before that car went back to the owner. Sometimes that would be six months later, because that’s what it takes to build a car.

TG: Exactly. That was always the funniest thing to me. The image is just like, “Here you go”. It’s like, “Holy crap, is that car even safe?”

CF: Just an unveiling, but yeah, then we’d drive it that night. It was generally me driving, taking them for a ride. If it felt good, I said, “Okay, go ahead and ride it” Some of those cars, they were…a very minimal safety inspection. We did, I think it was 167-point safety inspection before that car went to the owner.

TG: Any cars that stand out from that period in your life?

CF: There’s a lot of cars that stand out, but I think it was more the owners that stand out to me than the car. The ones that when you get that car back, and they understand what we just did, are the guys that we made a lifelong dream just became a reality.

We did a ’69 Roadrunner for a guy named John. He had bought that car when he was fifteen years old. He was in his mid forties now, two girls in college. It was a long away dream that he was going to build this car. We built it.

When he bought it, it had a 440 in it, and his dream was to one day have a Hemi in it. We got a Hemi from Mopar and we put it in and built his car, and put a Hemi badge on the fender. When he looked at the car, he had a crack in his voice already. He said, “Does it really have a Hemi in it?” The producer said, “Go ahead and open the hood”.

He walked over, and John was a big guy. He’s about six four, probably two hundred and sixty pounds. He opened the hood, and he dropped to his knees and started to cry. In editing, you only got to see a few seconds of him getting real emotional and saying thank you too all of us. In reality, it took John about twenty five minutes to compose himself enough to say thank you, because we had just made his life-long dream come true.

That’s what it was all about for me, is moving somebody to that level. We were lucky enough to do that several times. It gives you all the energy to want to do it again. Then there’s other people that get their car back, who just say “Yeah, great, thanks”.

TG: They say, “You paid for this? Perfect. Give me the keys”.

CF: We had just busted our tails to get it done and they just want to smack them in the face and make them cry. You can’t do that either. You have the good with the bad.

TG: How has the entertainment landscape changed in the automotive sense? Shows like that that aren’t around as much anymore. Has the audience kind of gotten tired of them?

CF: There’s so many shops that want to do television now and with Overhaulin’, the network was actually paying to build that car. We were giving it to the people.

TG: Which gets expensive.

CF: They can go to any shop that wants to do TV, and all they’re doing is filming that’s actually being built. They don’t have to pay for it. It’s a much cheaper show for them to produce.

TG: What was each car costing on average on Overhaulin’?

CF: About a hundred and twenty grand.

TG: Yeah, that’s an expensive episode. Not even counting the cost of production.

CF: Pull that hundred and twenty out of it, all they’re trying to do is sell advertising. I don’t blame them. I’ve written five other shows, and they’ve been accepted now by the Writer’s Guild. In the next couple weeks, I’ll start doing my presentations to the networks.

TG: Sure. That would make sense. How was your deal structured? Were you just getting paid per episode?

CF: In the very beginning? I think I was getting paid twenty five hundred dollars an episode, toward basically eight days straight with no sleep. Get those cars done and I did seven episodes that way. The producer came back to me and he says, “We’ve got another season”. I said, “I’m not doing it”. He said, “No, you have to do it”.

TG: Did you have an agent by this point?

CF: No. No, it was just me. I met him and we talked about doing the show, and I said, “Okay, yeah”. He told me he had seven episodes and I agreed to do it. I was wore out by the time we’d done it. Like I said, I was doing eight days with no sleep. Seriously. Not even a nap.

TG: Were you profiting on the build at all?

CF: No.

TG: That was just pure construction cost.

CF: I was donating everything I had in my shop to try and get these cars done. I did not want to fail on TV. Anything that I had in the shop. Everything that I had was given to the show to make it work. Then he comes back and says, “Oh we’ve got a second season”. I said, “I’m not doing it. Not for that”. I really did not want to do it because I was burnt out after that.

TG: Yeah, I would imagine so.

CF: Then he gave me a raise. I think it went to seven grand an episode. I said, “Okay, I can do that”. I thought, “I’ll do it”. I think we did seven episodes the first season, then I want to say we did like sixteen or seventeen in the second season, then we did twenty nine in the third season.

It was interesting in the second season, I was called to a media training meeting. I was supposed to go to this meeting and the producer comes over and says, “You don’t need to go to that media training meeting. We just need to focus on this car”. I said, “No problem”. He said, “Chris will just fill you in”. Chris is the co-host, Chris Jacobs. “Chris will fill you in when he comes back on what you need to know” “Okay.”

We were still tearing this car apart. It was the first day of this episode that we were doing. The car left for a media blast and it was going to be gone for about four hours. I had nothing to do. I called Chris and I said, “Where is this meeting at?” I went and I joined the meeting. I’m sitting in the meeting, and the producer started talking about our contracts. I said, “I don’t have a contract”. They said, “No, Chris and Courtney have their contracts with Discovery. Yours is with Bud”. I said, “No, I don’t have a contract with Bud either”. They said, “No, bud’…You wrote your contract with Bud”. “No, I don’t have a contract”. I asked Bud about that, but he didn’t want a contract. That’s when things really changed quick. Now I had all the power. The network was furious, because Bud had told them that I was under contract with his production company.

TG: He had a handshake deal with you?

CF: Yeah. I could have left and done anything I wanted.

TG: Sure.

CF: It was interesting. Learned a lot.

TG: Now you have an agent.

CF: Yes. A very good one. [Laughs]

TG: Yeah, I would imagine so. What happened when they first cancelled the show?

CF: When the economy dumped, we lost our advertising from the banking and the automotive industries. That was in 2008. January of 2008 is when they cancelled the show. They put us on hiatus. They never “cancelled” the show, technically.

They called me five years later and said, “We’re ready to start the show up, do you want to go?” I said, “I’ll go, but I’m getting older and I need some sleep. I don’t want to do the cars in eight days. I’ll do them in three weeks”. We filmed for another three and half years. We just wrapped up last April because they’ve got other shops now that have said they’ll do the shows much cheaper. I’ve got other ideas that I think would be better than what Overhaulin’ was. Could be a lot of fun. But I’m back to my real passion, which is building cars from scratch. That’s what I’m getting to do here.

TG: How did this stuff suffer when you were doing the other stuff?

CF: Of course it suffered, because I was just gone. Things really slowed up. We weren’t getting cars done as fast as I would like to get them done.

TG: Did you lose or gain customers because of the whole thing?

CF: Both. The endorsement deal was much bigger. I make more money now, but I’m not doing the things that I am so passionate about.

TG: You are wearing a shirt that says 3M next to your name.

CF: I actually made a couple calls to a couple dealerships with the executives from 3M. That’s one of my larger endorsement deals where I tour twelve countries a year with 3M, promoting their products.

TG: You seem at once comfortable with all the endorsement stuff, but also uneasy. You’re just a guy that would rather be working on a car.

CF: I’d much rather be working on a car, but these pay the bills, and allow me the freedom to build these expensive cars. Sometimes you can’t charge what it actually costs to build these cars.

TG: You would never get to build it.

CF: No. I don’t charge for any of my time here in the shop.

TG: My dad’s an architect and he’s the same way. He like, “Sometimes you just want to see the thing built.”

CF: As long as the owners will pay for my guys’ time, my design work and my efforts here are a gift. These cars, in the end, they promote the Foose brand as much if not more than the owners of the garage.

TG: They’re out there on the circuit.

CF: I own the design work in the end.

TG: Sure.

CF: They own the car. It’s just as if you went to Cadillac and bought a brand new Cadillac today. You own that car, but you don’t own the design. I can license that to do t-shirts and models and diecast. It builds this bank of intellectual property that hopefully ten years from now I’m still getting paid for what I did today, but I didn’t get paid today for what I did.

TG: What’s something you’d like to see yourself having accomplished in ten years?

CF: The car that I really want to do is a Duesenberg. I’m working my way there. When you bought a Duesenberg you bought a chassis, and then you went to a designer. You designed a car, and then a coachbuilder built it. I want a chassis. I want to be the designer, and the coachbuilder, and build my own.

Thanks to Chip Foose for taking the time to sit down for this fantastic chat. His Instagram is a great way to see what’s going on in the shop, and there’s always his website, chipfoose.com.

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6 years ago

Maybe one of the longest but definitely most enjoyable interview I’ve read around here!

Tim Morgan
Tim Morgan
6 years ago

I was fortunate to briefly meet Chip at his shop. From watching Overhaulin’, he is everything you hope he might be as a craftsman and a human being. I started a business from scratch about 17 years ago in a very competitive, difficult to enter field. We have managed to be very successful, but I related completely when Chip said it’s been, and still is, a roller coaster ride. The challenges never stop.
Sometimes you have to be pragmatic to keep your business alive – that doesn’t mean compromising your principles, but it does mean having to devote time and effort to things that are not at the top of your list. Every day someone or something wants you to stray from your mission. It is so difficult to maintain that single-mindedness, that vision to keep you on your right path. And that is what I admire most about Chip. He has managed to keep his ego in check, extend kindness to people he doesn’t know, and follow his dream.

Felix Trzetrzelewska
Felix Trzetrzelewska
6 years ago

Great interview. I was always a fan of the show, and certainly his work. Glad to see he is as genuine as he appears on the show. Not too many of those kind of blokes out there, it seems, especially in TV land. Thanks for bringing this to us, guys.

Kenneth Geelhaar
Kenneth Geelhaar
6 years ago

Great interview Ted. I respect Chip Foose for taking time on his show to make someone elses car dream come true. No matter what the brand. His talent and skills are amazing to me. If Chip wants to help me in my garage he is welcome to come over anytime. Bring the camera’s I don’t care. LOL.

6 years ago

That was excellent. Very interesting..!

6 years ago

Great Interview. It filled in some of the details I’ve always had about him and the show. Also nice to learn from others experiences. Nicely done.

John Dingivan
John Dingivan
6 years ago

I had a chance to meet Chip several years ago in Orlando one morning at a car show. We talked about his cars, my car. He’s very down to earth, a genuinely nice guy. I wish all the car shows on TV were half as good as his.

Ronnie M
Ronnie M
6 years ago

Is that a Vector W8 that he’s turned into a roadster?

Jochen Hörcher
Jochen Hörcher
6 years ago

Obsessive nitpicker here. The former head of Ford Design is named “J Mays”, not “Jay Mays”. Wikipedia claims he is named after his granddad SJ Mays. Seems to be a very frugal family…

6 years ago

Incredibly talented and has probably contributed more to hot rod culture than almost anyone else still alive. Thanks for the article and thank you Chip for continuing to amaze us.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
6 years ago

Errr … hate to be the one to state the obvious seeing as how I do have a great appreciation and respect for ( most of ) Mr Foose’s creations …. but ..

The minute you sell your soul to the Media Monster / Entertainment Industry and especially Television ;

Yourself becomes what ever the media writing the checks wants you to be . To quote the ‘ bard ‘ Jim Morrison ;

” No One Here Gets Out Alive ” * .. or at the very least … intact !

* though many think Morrison was talking about substance abuse in reality he was railing against the entertainment/media trap he himself was trying to escape

6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

So errr eek ack ooohhh…(cough) If someone asks you to blog your ever time consuming multiple paragraph pep talks on bashing FIAT just because and putting a constant downer on everything for reactions for some extra money you would stay true to your craft and not accept? You’re doing it anyways, why not make a little extra cash… Stop being a hater… Someone is doing well for themselves doing what they love to do… Good on them… Besides bashing anything that you yourself can’t do any better is not criticism… It’s jealousy…

6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

P.S: xoxo