The Love of Cars: Designer Chip Foose, musician John Oates share their passion
We know them both so well. Chip Foose, custom car designer and star of Velocity’s Overhaulin’, and John Oates, one half of the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame duo Hall & Oates, both fell in love with cars at any early age—and that love never waned. Foose turned his passion for cars into a career, while Oates turned his passion for music into an opportunity to pursue more cars.
The two legends were guests of co-hosts Justin Bell and Tommy Kendall on the latest edition of The Love of Cars, presented by Hagerty.
Foose’s inspiration? His father, who put him to work at his California company Project Design, and Tucker designer Alex Tremulis, whom Foose met at the age of 7. “I knew,” Foose says, “that’s what I wanted to do.”
Encouraged by Tremulis, Foose attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, where he caught the eye of legendary hot rod builder Boyd Coddington, who hired him—part-time at first, then full-time. Foose worked for Coddington for eight years before starting his own company in 1998. In the 22 years since, he has grown into a leading custom builder and television personality.
“I just felt lucky and blessed that I got to work with some really talented people, I had some great customers, and it just snowballed,” Foose says.
He went on to explain the secret of Overhaulin’s success: “There are certain cars that get into a family and become a family member. And no matter what happens, their intention is to keep that car forever and keep it running. What we do with Overhaulin’ is we try to find that type of car and those owners. Maybe those owners don’t have the money or means to get it back to that point. We like to grab that car and then build it beyond the point of being able to drive it … Let’s build it into something that they may have never been able to have in their lifetime, and just make their dream a reality.”
The car that Foose would most like to get his hands on? A Duesenberg. He’s partway there, having recently purchased a Deusy engine. He says it’s going into a stretched ’32 Ford, but we aren’t sure if he’s joking or serious, especially after he suggested calling it a “Foosenberg.”
Oates came on the show with his Emory 356 Porsche Special serving as his background image. He says when Emory bought the car, the front had been crushed, so Oates suggested “putting an A nose on a B Cab.” The collaborative design escalated from there. “Every time I see it, I actually can’t believe it’s mine,” Oates says, praising Emory. “We took the best elements of the 356 and made a great car.”
Oates attended the Amelia Island Concours in March, and just days before that he and musical partner Darryl Hall performed in front of a sellout crowd at New York’s Madison Square Garden. It was supposed to be the first on a 38-city tour. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic changed all that.
On the bright side, Oates says he and Hall, who have sold an astounding 80 million records in their career, have been collaborating a lot during the nationwide shutdown—virtually, of course. That could lead to a new record, Oates says, their first in about 10 years.
Oates says his passion for cars was ignited when he found a a box of discarded Road & Track magazines as a kid and marveled over the European cars. “To me, living in this little town in Pennsylvania, it was so exotic and so romantic. That really became the catalyst.”
He says he’s always been a fan of small, lightweight sports cars; his first cars were an MG and an Alfa Romeo. Once he began earning serious money as a musician, he was introduced to the wonderful world of Porsche.
“The first serious car I bought was in 1977, a Porsche 930 Turbo,” he says. “I was recording in L.A. and cruised past a Porsche dealership on Wilshire Boulevard. It was sitting in the corner of the showroom. It was red and had gold BBS wheels. I mean, it was flashy.” He walked into the showroom and “my jaw dropped. I had heard about the turbo, but I had never seen one in person.”
When Oates and his manager returned to buy it, the salesman told them that Rod Stewart had already put a deposit on it. “My manager put his arm around him … and the next thing I knew I was signing papers.” (We’d love to hear about Stewart’s reaction to the deal.)
Oates “remembers distinctly” that he paid $34,000 for the car. One of his favorite memories is driving the 930 across the country with a buddy. “It was one of the most epic drives of my life.”
Asked to describe life as a rock star in the 1970s, Oates chose his words carefully.
“The ’70s were a free-wheeling time of lots of, you know, people indulging themselves … Whatever weakness they had, it was available to you, let’s put it that way.”
Including Porsche 930 Turbos.
There’s much more in Episode 4 of The Love of Cars, so check it out. If you want to watch live, the show airs every Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET. Next week’s guests are four-time IndyCar champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason.