If you’re even remotely interested in classic cars, then Chip Foose is probably a familiar name and a familiar face. He was involved in cars long before he graduated from The ArtCenter College of Design and penned some of the most influential custom cars in the last 30 years. He’s also hosted the successful television show Overhaulin’ that brought car owners dreams to reality.
Chip Foose began drawing cars when he was three, inspired by the cars that his father, the late Sam Foose, was building. Sam’s business of building hot rods meant that he was often showing them at the Grand National Roadster Show, which was in Oakland at the time. Chip would often go along, meaning he’s been attending since the 1970s. We sat down with him at the 2019 Grand National Roadster Show to talk to him about being the show’s Builder of the Decade and his history in designing some of the most prestigious hot rods in the custom car world.
Since we were in the middle of the show, only a few feet from the cars that were vying for the title of America’s Most Beautiful Roadster, the first thing we asked Chip was how many AMBR winners he’s had a hand in. “Starting with Boyd (Coddington), to date I’ve been involved with nine cars that have won the AMBR.” With that sort of a track record it’s no wonder that Chip was receiving this first-of-its-kind tribute.
“This is really a nice honor, and the greatest thing was the phone call that I got from John Buck, the owner of the show.” John had assumed that Chip had been honored by some of the Grand National Roadster Show’s previous owners. He told Chip that he’d like to make him not a Builder of the Year, but the Builder of the Decade, the first time the GNRS had given such a distinction.
We asked Chip to take us through a few of the dozen cars that were assembled at the 2019 Grand National Roadster Show to honor his work as a designer, host, and custom-car ambassador. The cars all mean so much to him that he didn’t know where to start. The cars on display cover only a portion of Chip’s vast automotive career, yet they including two previous AMBR winners, two Ridler winners, and some that hold even more value to Chip because of the relationships they represent. Here they are, as Chip described them to us.
Chip’s personal 1956 Ford F100 is especially important to him. Not only was it his first vehicle, it was a part of his show, Overhaulin’. “Bud Brutsman, the producer of Overhaulin, he stole it from my shop, stole my drawings, duplicated my drawings, and put them back. Then he hired my dad to build my truck.” Not only did Chip get his truck build just as he’d wanted, “It was now a piece of my dad’s artwork.”
Chip’s P-32 is an homage to the post-war hot-rodding spirit. “What if, in the late ’40s, a WWII fighter pilot missed his warbird and themed his roadster to represent that?”
“We’ve got the Hemisfear here, which is a car that I designed as a senior at Art Center. It was done for Chrysler, which then became the production car, the Plymouth Prowler. That was the inspiration for it. The original sketches of the car were based on the ’70 ‘Cuda side view and the plan view of a ’33 Plymouth.”
“Madam X is a ’39 Cadillac that we built for Wes Rydell. It started as a four-door sedan and now it’s a two-door convertible. It’s highly, highly modified, but the greatest thing about that car is that it looks like a production car. I didn’t want it to look like a custom.”
Chip recently finished this ’32 five-window for himself. “That car was so nice when I got it, basically I restored the interior and just hot-rodded the chassis only. The car was so nice I didn’t modify the body at all, I left it be because it was a survivor.”
If you want to keep on top of Chip’s current projects and see photos of his previous builds, there’s lots to see on his website. You can even pick up some prints of his sketches to get a little piece of Madam X or the P-32 of your own.