When Dr. Dan texted me last week and asked if the rumor was true, I had no idea what he was talking about. I then texted Jimmy Shine and was absolutely shocked to hear it was. Pete Chapouris had passed away at the age of 76.
In my mind’s eye, Pete was much younger – 60 at the oldest – simply because Pete never acted his age. He was a fire plug. A kid. An adventurer of sorts…
I don’t have a long and detailed personal history with Pete. In fact, I only talked to him a handful of times, but each left a vivid memory. The first time was around 1995 and he was getting ready to start the short lived Pete Chapouris Group. He called me, then a young college student, and asked if I would be interested in helping him with a website for his new business.
I was so giddy with the idea that I was talking to THE Pete Chapouris, that I agreed to build the website for free. And when he called a few months later to say he didn’t need the site any longer because he was about to bring back the So-Cal Speedshop name, I didn’t care in the least. I was just excited to see such a big guy bringing back such a big name.
I didn’t talk to Pete again for three or four more years, but the next time I did sort of sold his legacy to me personally. We were having a very awkward problem with an employee of So-Cal Speedshop on the H.A.M.B. which was made even more awkward by the fact that So-Cal was a sponsor. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to act. I was lost.
And then, Pete called again. I remember the very first thing he said when I picked up the phone:
“Man… Ryan, this is a tough deal. I’ve got a business to keep legitimate and you’ve gotta website to protect and the two seem to be at odds with each other. But if both of us refuse to let other motivations get in the way, you and I will still be pals once we get this resolved. That’s a promise and not a ploy.”
Pete kept his promise. We worked together to resolve the issue and a few months later we grabbed lunch at the Grand National Roadster Show. Honestly, I saw it as a chance to pick someone’s ear that I had always admired… but I think Pete saw it as a more substantial thing – a chance to get to know someone that he didn’t. He was super gracious and down to earth and after that lunch I felt like I had done a lot more than simply meet a hero. I had made a pal.
I don’t know that I’ve really hung out with Pete much since then. But we exchanged emails a few times and shared a few trade secrets. The last time I talked to him was this past October. I just went and looked at the email. It was short and sweet:
“Japan. Mooneyes. This is the year. Come on boy! PC.”
I didn’t go to Japan. I wish I would have now, but I’m really glad that Pete did. The idea that Pete was so active to the very end kind of cements the idea in my mind that he lived life to the fullest. And that idea makes it a little easier to accept the fact that he’s gone now.