Foose Rollin’ Out Art, Making Dreams Come True
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas – There probably isn’t a “Car Guy” with remote-in-hand who hasn’t fantasized about having his hot rod/muscle car/collector car brought back to life by designer Chip Foose.
The star of the long-running reality TV series “Overhaulin’ ” has turned many an idle and often hopeless project vehicle into what he likes to call a “rolling piece of art.” With the aid of key industry vendors, Foose and his A-Team also have displayed plenty of heart toward male and female car-owners without the time, money and/or ability to transform their dreams into real rides.
Along those lines, Foose teamed-up with the 3M Hire Our Heroes program and Roush Fenway Racing to design a paint scheme for the hood of Greg Biffle’s No. 16 Ford Fusion for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend.
Recognizing the need for qualified technicians in the collision repair industry, 3M’s Hire Our Heroes initiative raises funds throughout the year to help offset the costs of tuition, books, tools and equipment for returning veterans and their families.
Approximately 60 grant winners, including military members and family members of veterans, were selected from applications across the country. Each recipient received a financial grant to purchase tools and equipment needed to start their careers in collision repair. 3M partnered with the Collision Repair Education Foundation to award and administer the grants.
At TMS, 26 veterans who work in auto body repair shops, and the shop-owners who nominated them,
attended the AAA Texas 500 to experience pre-race ceremonies from pit road as well as meet Biffle, team-owner Jack Roush and Foose.
Fans interested in contributing to the program can do so at HireRHeroes.com to donate to either the Collision Repair Education Foundation or to Operation Comfort’s “Automotivation” program, an automotive skills-based rehabilitation initiative.
Here’s a transcript of RacinToday.com’s interview with Foose, which began with Chip lamenting the sale of a beloved 1969 Chevrolet Camaro.
RacinToday.com: How did you get involved with the Hire Our Heroes program and this special paint scheme?
Chip Foose: “When 3M came to me and asked me if I would like to do the graphics on Greg Biffle’s car, I was honored. But also to be associated with Jack Roush is amazing. And when they told me it was to celebrate the Hire Our Heroes campaign _ you can’t ask for anything better. I was touched, nothing better than I’d like to do. Without our military fighting for our freedom I couldn’t do the job that I do now. I appreciate what they do and I wanted to help out. For 3M to take a bit of the sales from their products and put that towards the training and tool grants and support of the veterans returning and their families, developing a career for them, that’s great. And we get two things. Not only do they get a career but we get talented craftsmen in the industry.”
RT: It seems that the collision repair industry would be a natural fit for many young veterans with an interest in cars, right?
CF: “It’s difficult to find people that want to put the passion and the patience into doing this type of work. The one thing you have to remember in this industry is if you’re doing automotive body and paint repair work, you have to take pride in what you’re doing. And the veterans really do. Everything you do with your hands on a vehicle, when you put paint on it and start to polish it, if you haven’t done the perfect job it’s going to show. And with 3M’s products getting better and better, it’s easier for us to do that job.”
RT: Logically, working in a body shop would be the entry point for anyone looking to move onto custom cars, whether it’s body work and/or paint, correct?
CF: “Well, most of the people in the custom car world actually started in a body shop, because you’ve got to learn surface development and the paint work before you can start actually building things and developing surfaces that will eventually get painted and finished like a mirror.
“There are 26 veterans here, and 60 in the program. And as you’re talking to each of these veterans, you discover that they are passionate about cars. They have the same passion that I have. I don’t look at anybody else in this industry as a potential, shall we say, competitor or rival. They’re a potential best friend, because they have the same passion I do.”
RT: So, how did you get started in an industry that, before the creation of the reality TV series, certainly wasn’t very glamorous?
CF: “My father was in this industry. I started going to the shop with him when I was 7. I’d like to say I was helping him but I know I destroyed a lot more than I actually helped. But my father was a great teacher – Sam Foose – very well-known in the custom industry as well. It was a custom shop when we started with my father. In the late 1970s, when the gas crunch hit, we became more of a body shop. So for 15 years I was a body and paint guy working with my dad and we had the custom shop in the back. And nights and weekends I was in the custom shop with my dad, in a suburb of Santa Barbara, Calif.
“And then I started building stuff for myself, and went to the Art Center College of Design (in Pasadena, Calif.) Always thought I’d end up in the automotive design world (in Detroit) and that hot-rodding would be my passion and my hobby. But when I graduated from Art Center, I did a project for Chrysler which became the Plymouth Prowler. And Boyd Coddington had his (Hot Rods by Boyd) shop, he saw my model and asked me to start doing some work for him. I worked for Boyd for almost three years as a side job. I gave Boyd an average of 30 to 50 hours a week doing his design work on the cars that were being built and the products he was building. That was fun. I had a blast with Boyd and I would have never left there but he went bankrupt in 1998, and that’s when I started Foose Design with my wife (Lynne, in Huntington Beach, Calif.)”
RT: “Car Guys” around the world are familiar with you via the “Overhaulin’ ” series that originated on Discovery Channel. What was the genesis of that series?
CF: “It’s crazy. I was approached originally…it by was Jesse James. He came to me and told me he was going to start this show called “Monster Garage” and he wanted me to be the designer on the show and he wanted to run the team. And when they explained to me that the first car was going to be a Mustang that would be turned into a lawnmower and the second project was going to be a Ford Explorer that would be a trash truck, I thought…you know, I’m trying to build the most beautiful show cars that I can build, rolling pieces of art. And now we’re going to do these monsters that are going to be on television. It was going to out-shadow what I was trying to do with Foose Design, so I turned them down.
“And it was the best thing I did. Because then Discovery Channel came back to me and said, ‘Well, what would you like to do?’ I wasn’t planning on doing television, I’m just trying to build cars. They sent a producer and he wanted to do basically a reality show following me around 24/7. I said, no, that’s not going to work. I get along with everybody, I have a great time but my wife’s an attorney and I don’t win any arguments and that’s what you’re going to end up seeing because I always do everything that she wants me to do.
“So let’s just call J Mays at Ford and see if he wants to give us a project…and we built a SEMA vehicle. And that was the pilot episode for a show call “Rides.” While we were doing that show, which became a series, I was talking to a producer and said…you know, what would really be great is a show similar to “Monster Garage” – because that was up-and-running now. I said they’re building a car in a week; we can build a car in a week. But rather than just create something that performs a task, let’s go find a car that belongs to somebody where they don’t have the money or the means to restore it themselves and make the ultimate gift and give it back to them.
“He went and pitched the idea to Discovery; they ordered seven episodes without a pilot and we were rolling. We did 87 episodes in five years but when the economy tanked we lost our two biggest advertisers – the banking industry and the automotive industry.
“Two years ago Discovery called me back up and said we want to start the show again. I said I’d do it but not in the eight days that we used to do it. We need about three or four weeks. I’m getting old and I need some sleep. I just turned 50. But when we were doing the show before in eight days there were a lot of those eight-day builds that I never even took a nap. I don’t want to do that again. It was crazy.
“Now we’re doing them again. We finished Season 6 and we’re in the middle of Season 7 right now. When we came back we were on Velocity and Discovery and they decided to pull it off Discovery to drive viewership to Velocity and we’re gaining some room there. We just finished filming new episodes for half of Season 7; the second half starts in early January.”
RT: As an aside, you crossed paths at TMS earlier today with Texans Richard Rawlings, co-star along with Aaron Kaufmann of “Fast N’ Loud” on Discovery Channel. Does one “Car Guy” watch another’s reality TV show?
CF: “Actually, Richard and Aaron’s first time on television was on “Overhaulin’ ”. They came out and did some work for us and Richard has been a friend of mine for years. Probably 2003 is the first time I met him. When he sold his printing company and started Gas Monkey Garage, he started it just to develop a clothing line, basically. Became friends and I promoted him with “Overhaulin’ ” and I’m really proud of them. They’ve done some great stuff. He’s got the same passion I do.”
RT: It’s no exaggeration that you and your A-Team turned many project cars into what you describe as rolling pieces of art. And once all the trickeration with the owner was over, you guys created some really emotional moments for the majority of owners and their families and friends. Got a favorite build?
CF: “I get asked all the time what was my favorite car on “Overhaulin’ ”. It’s not the car, it’s the people that we’re building for – the reveal. When we did the first episode of “Overhaulin’ ” the producer came back and said, ‘OK, I want you to go in the backroom and we’re going to introduce you after he sees the car.’ And I said, ‘Absolutely not! I built this car to see the response by the owner.’ That’s my favorite moment when I’m building a car at Foose Design or “Overhaulin’ ” – I’m out on the set when the people see the car for the first time because I want to their face. That’s the best moment for me.
“Probably the most dramatic reveal we ever had was for a guy named John. We did a ’69 Roadrunner for him. John was a giant-of-a-man, about 6-foot-4 and probably 280-pounds. He had owned this car since he was 15-years-old, a ’69 Roadrunner convertible. When he got it it had a 440 in it but his dream was to have a Hemi motor in it. We put the Hemi in it and when John came out and saw his car for the first time, he saw the Hemi badge that we had put on the fender. And with a crack in his voice he asked, ‘Does it really have a Hemi in it?’ And usually, we would introduce the people that built the motor and show him the car. We just said, ‘Go ahead and open the hood.’
“On the show you only get to see a few moments of their response because we only have 46 minutes of content to show you a one-hour show. But when John opened the hood on his rebuilt Roadrunner, he dropped to his knees and started to cry. And it took him about 25 minutes just to compose himself enough to say ‘Thank you’ to the A-Team. We had just made his lifelong dream come true.”
RT: Back to the design on the hood of Greg Biffle’s No. 16 Ford _ a saluting solider flanked by the Stars and Stripes down the side. What was the inspiration?
CF: “What are these soldiers fighting for? They’re fighting for America. So I used the American flag as the basic theme of the car. All that blue in the front, the graphic of the flag with the red-and-white stripes, that’s what it’s all about. They showed me the solider saluting as the logo that they have for their campaign, used that on the hood, and then inside the stars on the side of the car. And I think we’ve hit a home run here.”No Comment