February 26, 2008
Custom car designer Chip Foose with the Foose F-150. Click image to enlarge
Article and photos by Chris Chase
Toronto, Ontario – Chip Foose hates the word “why.”
As a custom car designer, he says it’s the word he dreads hearing the most when revealing his latest creation.
“With my designs, I want to avoid making people question why I chose to do this or that to a car,” he said. “I’d rather draw people’s attention to the elegant-yet-simple lines in my designs. I consider those two of my trademarks; sure, I go for the “wow” factor, too, but quality always comes first.”
Foose comes across as very down-to-earth for someone who hails from the image-conscious capital of the U.S., California. While Foose has achieved significant success and fame in a field that’s mostly about vanity, that fame isn’t the reason he became a designer.
“I’ve been drawing since I was three years old,” he says. “By seven, I was helping my dad in his shop. Admittedly, I probably ruined more stuff than I improved, but that was where I realized I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps.”
While those early days with his dad planted the seed, Foose says he was inspired to go to design school after meeting Alex Tremulis, the man responsible for the Tucker 48/Torpedo.
Since those humble beginnings, Foose’s name has become one of the most recognizable in the aftermarket industry: he has 26 or 27 (he couldn’t remember the exact figure) licensing agreements that sees his FOOSE wordmark attached to a variety of products. Then, there’s his cable TV show, Overhaulin’, and the legions of fans who think Foose’s designs are the best in the industry.
Recently, Foose partnered with Ford to create customized versions of selected Ford models. Five hundred examples of the Foose F-150 will be built and sold, and Foose has also put his trademark touch on one of the company’s newest models, the Flex crossover.
“That was the greatest compliment, when Ford asked me to customize the Flex,” said Foose. “The Foose Flex is the first one to be customized with Ford’s blessing.” So far, the sharp-looking Foose Flex is a one-off, with no plans for production. “Our goal with the Flex was to create a car that looks like it came that way from the factory.”
While Foose enjoys working with new vehicles, modifying classics is where his true passion lies. The reason, he says, is that it’s more gratifying to work on the cars that so many people have lusted after for decades.
“People don’t get emotional over their new car like they do about the ’65 Mustang they’ve wanted to own for 40 years.”
As for the future of his TV show, Foose says he’s just finished filming a fifth season, and is currently hammering out a deal with the Discovery Channel for a sixth.
“I want to expand the show and travel across (the continent).” He says that will mostly depend on the network’s budget. “We’ve done 80-some episodes so far; we could keep going and syndicate it, but it might be more advantageous to follow some other opportunity.”
Following opportunities is a key to Foose’s approach to his work.
“I like to run lean so that I can take advantage of a cool opportunity that comes my way,” he explains. “I’ve got people coming to me all the time asking me if I’ll work on this or that or put my name on something, but I say no to a lot more than I say yes to. I don’t want to get into simple ‘logo slapping’ and just put my name on anything. I only like to associate myself with products that I’ve actually worked on.”
For information on Chip Foose, his projects and his Overhaulin’ TV show, visit ChipFoose.com.