Exclusive Q&A with Chip Foose

By CRM Staff

World famous hot-rod builder Chip Foose and Mike Davey, editor of Collision Repair magazine (left).  

Toronto, Ontario — November 13, 2013 — Chip Foose may be the world’s top hot-rod designer. He’s got an incredible number of accomplishments under his belt, including his own TV show, Overhaulin’, and appearances on Ultimate Car Build-Off and the documentary series American Icon: The Hot Rod. That’s not to mention the long list of customized vehicles that turn heads wherever they go. He also racked up 15 years of experience as a body tech and painter before turning to design and fabrication.

3M Canada has brought Chip Foose to Canada to deliver presentations on his life, work and television  show. The event is strictly by invitation and takes place at Toronto Congress Centre in Toronto, Ont. on November 12 and 13. Foose was kind enough to sit down with Collision Repair magazine’s editor, Mike Davey, for an exclusive interview in advance of the event. 

Collision Repair magazine: How did you get into the hot-rod building business? 

Chip Foose: I was born into it. My dad started a shop when he was 14 years old. His parents left him  on his own and moved back to Long Beach. His girlfriend’s mother let him live in their garage, and he started customizing cars there. The owner of a local auto body shop saw some of his work and gave him a job. 

CRM: Do you have a favourite project? 

CF: The next one. Some of the most notable are probably “Stallion” for Ron Whiteside, “Grandmaster” for Wes Rydell and “Impression” for Ken Reister. Probably the most famous would be “Eleanor,” designed and built for the movie Gone in 60 Seconds. We built 15 of those Mustangs. 

CRM: Say a kid came to you and said they wanted to build hot rods. What advice would you give them? 

CF: Learn surfacing first. Learn how to prep a panel for painting. If you can become an auto painter in a shop first, that’s what it is all about. You’ll learn how light reflects off all parts of the panel and how different colours work together. If you can learn repair as well, you’ll learn to keep an eye on tiny details, how the body fits together and how it will look when painted. 

CRM: What about someone who has those skills, someone who is already a professional painter and body tech? What advice would you have for them? 

CF: The first question you have to ask yourself is, “Do you want to fabricate or do you want to design?” They’re two totally different animals. When it comes to design, I would strongly recommend attending a good automotive design school, such as the College of Creative Studies in Detroit, or the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. 

CRM: Do you consider yourself an artist?

CF: I know other people do sometimes. I consider myself more of a designer and fabricator. “Artist” sounds a little too much like someone who needs to get in the mood and wears a funny hat. Artists need inspiration. 

CRM: Speaking of which, where do you get your inspiration? 

CF: I draw inspiration from everything I look at. I’ve been on a jet, looking at the air ducts over my head, and it sparks something. For wheel design, one of the most inspirational trips I took was through the Henry Ford Museum, back when I was working for Boyd Wheels. Some of the older automotive wheels were great, and also the wheels on farm equipment. The way the spokes were laid out is beautiful design by itself. 

CRM: Is there anything else you’d like to share with Canada’s collision repair and paint community?

CF: I feel lucky and blessed that I make a living doing what I do, and that I have customers that have the money and passion for these cars. I don’t do restorations. I want to build something new and different. As long as I’m doing that, even if I lose money on the build, I’ll make it back in the end. The customer owns the car, but I own the design.

Check out the gallery below for some of Foose’s designs on display at the Toronto Congress Centre. 



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