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Chip Foose: Maestro of Metal, Magic, Mind-Blowing Machines
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By Dean Kirkland
Published 1 month ago on
May 17, 2024
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Legendary car builder Chip Foose (GV Wire Composite/Dean Kirkland)

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I recently had the privilege of hanging out for a couple of days with Chip Foose, the man, the myth, the legend himself at his Foose Design headquarters in Huntington Beach, California. And let me tell you, it was an experience I won’t soon forget.

Dean Kirkland Portrait

Dean Kirkland

Central Octane

From the moment I stepped into Chip’s sanctuary of style and innovation, I knew I was in for something special. The air buzzed with the energy of creativity and the unmistakable aroma of automotive excellence. And there, at the center of it all, stood Chip Foose, looking like a cross between a mad scientist and a rock star, ready to unleash his next four-wheeled masterpiece upon the world.

As we settled in for our chat, Chip’s infectious enthusiasm and passion for all things automotive quickly became apparent. He spoke of his childhood spent at AMT and his father’s shop with a twinkle in his eye and a grin that could light up the Huntington Beach Pier. “I don’t remember becoming interested in cars,” Chip laughed. “I was born into this.”

Starting Out Building AMT Model Kits as a Kid

And boy, did it show. Chip’s earliest memories are filled with the roar of engines and the gleam of chrome.

“My earliest memories are when I was about three years old,” he recounted. “I would go to the AMT shop, which was Gene Winfield’s shop in Phoenix, Arizona. My father worked for Gene, and I would go on the weekends with my dad, and I would watch him and the crew build these fantastic custom cars that later became the plastic AMT model kits.”

It’s no wonder that Chip’s destiny was forged in the fires of automotive passion. With a father who worked alongside legends like Gene Winfield and Alex Tremulis, Chip was practically born with a wrench in one hand and a sketchpad in the other.

“My father and Gene were building these wild cars, but when my dad left Gene and started his own shop, he began working with Alex Tremulis,” Chip explained. “Alex designed the Tucker, worked for Auburn Cord Duesenberg, and was the head of Ford’s Advanced Studio. Together, they were building beautiful, timeless custom cars. That’s what really influenced me the most – to this day, if something seems trendy, I’ll turn and run 180 degrees from it. I don’t want to be trendy because trendy dates something. I want to do good design that is timeless.”

Timeless design is exactly what Chip Foose has become known for. From his early days at the Art Center College of Design, where he casually mentioned designing the Plymouth Prowler (as one does), to his time working with the legendary Boyd Coddington, Chip’s career has been a masterclass in automotive artistry.

Chip Foose examines the work on a current Mustang project
Chip Foose examines the progress on a current Mustang project at his shop in Huntington Beach, California, May, 2024. (GV Wire/Dean Kirkland)

Designing Mustangs for ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’

But it was when Chip struck out on his own with Foose Design that things really shifted into high gear. He regaled me with tales of his Hollywood adventures, like the time he built a fleet of jaw-dropping Mustangs for “Gone in 60 Seconds.”

“It was an awesome job,” Chip grinned. “And the greatest part about that is Jeff Mann, the art director for the movie, comes to me one day and says, ‘Hey, do you know where we can get some sheet metal equipment?’ I was just starting my shop, and I knew of a gentleman who had passed away, and the family was selling all of his tools. Long story short, I bought all the tools with the movie’s money, they used them in the auto shop scenes, and when they were done filming, everything got delivered back to my shop. I outfitted my entire shop by being at the right place at the right time!”

Most Passionate About ‘Overhaulin’

But amidst all the glitz, glamour, and fortuitous tool acquisitions, what really struck me about Chip was his unwavering commitment to making a difference in people’s lives. When he spoke about “Overhaulin’,” his hit TV show that surprised deserving individuals with the custom car of their dreams, his passion was palpable.

“Let’s go find cars that are in garages and side yards of people who have them but don’t have the money or means to restore them, but it’s their dream to do it one day,” Chip explained, his eyes alight with excitement. “Let’s go get those cars and rebuild them and give them to these folks as a gift.”

And that’s exactly what Chip and his team did, for a staggering 170 episodes. “We made a lot of people’s automotive dreams come true, which is really what motivates you to do it again,” Chip said, his voice brimming with emotion. “When you can move somebody to the point of tears with a car, you know you’re making some people happy.”

This, my friends, is what sets Chip Foose apart from the rest. He’s not just a car designer or a builder; he’s a dream weaver, a metal magician, and a force of nature all rolled into one. His passion for automobiles is matched only by his dedication to using his talents to bring joy and happiness to others.

Graphics at Foose Deisgn
Chip Foose and team members attend to the graphics for a car build, May 2024. (GV Wire/Dean Kirkland)

Like a Willy Wonka Factory for Gearheads

As our interview drew to a close, I couldn’t help but feel inspired, energized, and maybe a little bit jealous (I mean, come on, the man’s garage is like Willy Wonka’s factory for gearheads). But more than anything, I felt grateful for the opportunity to peek behind the curtain and witness the passion, dedication, and sheer genius that goes into every Foose creation.

So, if you ever get a rare glimpse at a Chip Foose masterpiece rolling down the street, don’t just admire the sleek lines, the flawless finish, or the way it seems to defy the very laws of physics. Take a moment to appreciate the man behind the machine, the maestro of metal who pours his heart and soul into every nut, bolt, and custom-crafted panel.

And if you ever have the chance to meet Chip in person, be prepared for a handshake that could crush a crankshaft, a smile that could light up the Las Vegas Strip, and a story or two that will leave you laughing, crying, and marveling at the incredible journey that is Chip Foose’s life.

In a world where trends come and go faster than a nitrous-fueled dragster, Chip Foose remains a constant beacon of creativity, passion, and automotive excellence. His legacy is etched not just in the metal of his creations, but in the hearts of the countless individuals he’s touched along the way.

So here’s to you, Chip Foose — the maestro of metal, the sultan of style, and the automotive alchemist who turns sheet metal into pure, unadulterated magic. May your wheels keep spinning, your imagination never run dry, and your passion for making the world a little brighter with each custom creation never fade.

And to all you aspiring automotive dreamers out there, take a page from Chip’s book: chase your passions, build with heart, and never, ever settle for anything less than timeless perfection. Because in the end, that’s what truly matters — leaving a legacy of love, laughter, and mind-blowing machines that will be remembered long after the last engine falls silent.

About the Author

GV Wire Producer Dean Kirkland is the founder and director of Gas and Gears, an independent film production company that has produced numerous television series and feature films, including the award-winning documentary “Racing Through The Forest” (2014).

 

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