I wanted to thank you all for your great comments and interest in the ongoing Chip Foose Interview. I fully acknowledge that most of his creations are not dyed-in-the-wool HAMB material, but the man has incredible drawing & building skills, a good eye for details, and a truly kind heart. Settle in for my last few questions with Chip as we talk about more traditional hot rod & custom projects both he (and his dad) have tackled.
JW: Your really known for the high end, Rider-award winning rods, but I recently saw the white ’53 Ford truck you did for WD-40 (CF: With the stock flathead still in it!) and it shows you can do a very simple, traditional custom that just works. People don’t realize you do that stuff too.
CF: I love the simple, period customs. Like my dad’s ’48 that he built back in the 70s to be the kind of car he really wanted back in 1953: A 1948 Ford chopped with the flathead and checkerboard firewall and under the hood. I just bought that car back because I love that car. The guy that I got it back from had changed the wheels and done a few things, and I’m actually taking it back to the way my dad had it. And I’m putting steel wheels on it with ’53 Cadillac hubcaps, but I’m building the caps right now to put the rings on the outside. I’ll put the whitewalls back on too.
JW: What year did your dad build it, that you are taking it back to?
CF: Originally, it started in 1974, but built to look just like he wanted to build in 1953.
JW. And that was pretty uncommon then. I mean 1974, nobody was really doing many 50s correct ‘kustoms’, especially in the US. Not until the 80s revival, WCK, and all those guys getting back into that. 1974 that was not en vogue to build a period car- They were just an outdated custom at that point.
CF: I know. My dad didn’t have the money he needed to build a car like that for himself when he was in high school, so he did it when he had a business and could afford it. He built the car that he always wanted to. And I have it back now… But I remember when Gray Baskerville put it in Hot Rod Magazine, he called it “Newstalgia”. And I love those original 50s cars, and looking back at what the craftsmen who started this industry, what they were doing is phenomenal.
JW: There are some things to learn from them, for sure.
CF: I did a (GG Gazette) interview 20 years ago asking me what trends would eventually come back. When the guys were customizing cars in the 1940s, they had almost no aftermarket parts available. In the 50s they started to get speed equipment and few different things. Over time we started seeing customs evolve and in the 60s you started seeing chrome wheels and different things, and then the 70s you had the mags, and then the 80s you had billet wheels. Now we see all these elements coming back in different ways, influencing new builds in an updated way, which is what I guessed would happen in that article 20 years ago! Its kinda cool that you can look at these different eras and mix it up a bit and do something new.
JW: Yeah, and if you do it well, if you mix the *right* elements, you car can work for what it is. And yes, your right, it doesn’t hold up as the absolute ‘nothing newer than 1955 aesthetic’, but at the same time the whole car works and you get the message without it being weird.
CF: Right. And by the mid 90s, when building professionally-built hot rods had gotten so expensive, they asked me about the growing popularity of the ‘rat rods’, and why that was. I told them this is an inexpensive way of building something and being part of the whole thing. Now I knew that the guys building these low-buck rods were going to get more and more successful in their careers, and they would build better and better cars, which is what we are seeing today. Jimmy White, Bobby Walden.
JW: Yes, I remember being one of those guys being scoffed at the Good Guys shows in the 90s for my car being in primer. Bt to us they were as good as we could make them on the budgets we had.
CF: But you had the same passion as the guy that could afford to have something really slick built.
JW: And we built ours ourself. We probably had more passion because we knew our cars even better because we built them.
CF: Exactly. And I love that about all the low buck rods.
JW: What about your P-32?
CF: When we had just built the Impression for Ken Reister, it was based on a ’36 Ford Roadster, but completely built from scratch. We spent 6 years building that car, and the last thing I wanted to do to the guys working at the shop was say, “OK, it’s done, now we’re building another one!”, so that’s when I built the P-32. It’s a old-style hot rod, but with some modern engineering, done safely. The whole theme behind that car was, what if a WWII fighter pilot had come home from the war, and decided to build a roadster styled after his P-40? That’s were post-war hot rodding came from- Those military guys coming back.
JW: The aircraft gauges, disc brakes, the old fighter pilot seats…
CF:I got really lucky on the seats for the P-32. We’ve got the Lyon Air Museum, and I went down and talked to the guy running the place and told him I was looked for a few aircraft seats, and he said, “I think ‘ve got something in the back.”, and we walk around the back to this storage container, and the first one was right by the door, and he pulls it out. It’s still got the original fabric on it, the seat belts, the whole bit. Everything was there. I was amazed, and then he said, “I know I’ve got another one around here somewhere.”, and he finds it in the very back. “Here it is”, and he pulls out the perfect match.. These two identical seats, a matched set that both came out of Lyon’s B-17 bomber. It was amazing. And I did was take them back and change the base of the seat mounts in the car to match the bomber seats. I installed them just the way they were- Didn’t change the fabric, didn’t paint them. Nothing.
JW: Very cool. Anything else you wanna cover? You started to talk about the younger guys who have grown up building old style hot rods since that first 90s era revival- Guys like Jimmy and Bobby, and many others.The guys who are now build traditional style cars with a very high level of craftsmanship- Who else come to mind?
CF: I think Cole Foster’s work is beautiful and engineered. Always Impressive. Like you said, its the names you mentioned and many more. These guys who got in a while ago that keep getting better and better and better. That’s what this industry is all about. Learning from each other and taking it forward and doing something new and different.
JW: Anything else you wanna add?
CF: I may be know for doing some of these really high end show cars, but I love the traditional stuff as well, and I’ve got a few cars in my collection of things that I want to do someday that are traditional cars. I’m actually building a ’32 right now that way, and I’ve got parts for a ’29 Roadster that I want to do very traditional. That will be very fun…