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The Start of Something Big

On November 11, 2003, after 24 weeks of Foose and his team’s furious fabricating, the Deora II was ready for its breakout party. At the opening of the Hot Wheels Hall of Fame at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, television star and renowned car collector Jay Leno fired up the Proch-designed, Foose-built Deora II and drove it into the star- studded gala event.

Under an agreement with Mother’s Wax, The Deora II was used in a series of promotional events to highlight the company’s line of premium car-care products. In May 2004, Mattel moved the vehicle to the Petersen Automotive Museum, where it is now united with the original Deora and the full-size Twin Mill as part of the Hot Wheels Hall of Fame exhibit.

To date, the Twin Mill and the Deora II are the only drivable, full-scale cars that originally started as die-cast models. As Hot Wheels’ 40th anniversary approaches, however, there’s no telling what Mattel might bring to life. As Nathan Proch sharpens his pencils, Foose is clearing shop space. When these two worlds collide, anything can happen.

Catching up with CHIP FOOSE

Chip Foose can be credited with designs and accomplishments well beyond his years. He was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California, and automobiles played a major role in his upbringing. His father was the shop foreman for Gene Winfield and AMT models in Arizona. “I would go down there as early as age 3. There was a shop dog-the watchdog of the place, and I used to sleep in the doghouse with him when Dad worked late,” Foose recalls. At age 9, Foose worked for his father’s company, Project Design. By the ripe old age of 12, Foose had 5 years of experience under his belt and had already painted a car: a Porsche 356. Before he was of legal driving age, he bought his father’s shop truck: a 1956 Ford F100. “The truck was a full-blown show truck. I bought it when I was 14 and started rebuilding it. At 16, I started driving it to high school,” Foose said with a special longing in his eye. “I still have the truck. It’s been sitting outside for years and needs to be redone again.”

With gasoline and lacquer thinner in his blood, Foose took inspiration from his father and advice from Alex Tremulus, who designed the Tucker, to attend Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. With a major in automotive product design, Foose graduated with honors in 1990. While attending college, he pen-and-inked a car that caught the eye of Chrysler’s Tom Gale. A few years later, a car based on those drawings was put into production as the Plymouth Prowler.

It didn’t take long for companies to see that this Foose kid had true talent. Before he graduated from Art Center, he had already been hired as a staff designer and fabricator for Asha Corp., and he was promoted to its director of design in 1989. Foose was responsible for conceptualizing new ideas and for the fabrication of prototypes for the O.E.M.s. During those years, he also continued to work with his father at Project Design; he helped design and build street rods, customs, studio vehicles and show cars for films such as “Blade Runner,” “Robo Cop” and “Gone in 60 Seconds.”

In late 1990, Foose began working part-time with Boyd Coddington at Hot Rods by Boyd. He was soon promoted to managing director and eventually became president of the company. During this time, he developed what has come to be known in the industry as the “Boyd look.” Among the most famous Boyd cars are the Roadster, Sportstar, Boydster I and II and Boyd Air. Foose’s involvement with Boyd Coddington ended in 1998 in a whirl of industry scandal that had nothing to do with Foose. Foose and his wife, Lynne, started Foose Design, in Huntington Beach, California.

In November 1997, 31-year-old Foose was inducted into the Hot Rod Hall of Fame at Petersen Publishing’s 50th anniversary held at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade show in Las Vegas. This induction made history for Chip and the Petersen Automotive Museum because he was (and still is) the youngest member ever inducted into the Hot Rod Hall of Fame.

In 1999, he won the prestigious America’s Most Beautiful Roadster (AMBR) Award at the 50th anniversary of the Grand National Roadster Show with Fred Warren’s “Shock Wave,” and he earned a repeat honor in 2000 with Chuck Svatos’s “0032.” Overall, Foose has been involved with six AMBR winners, including the 1995 “Smoothster,” the 1996 “Boydster,” the 2001 “Impact” and the 2003 “Boydster II.”

In 2002, Foose also won the coveted 2002 Riddler Award at the 50th anniversary show of the Detroit Autorama for Bob and Wes Rydell’s 35 Chevy “Grand Master.” In 2003, he was honored once again with an induction into the Grand National Roadster Show Hall Of Fame. These days, Foose can be seen each week in “Overhaulin'” on the TLC network.

In addition to building and collecting full-size cars, Foose remains hooked on the die-cast versions. “I usually collect the cars I think are really cool,” he says. And even though he has a connection with Mattel, his collection doesn’t consist exclusively of Hot Wheels’ items. “I’ve got stuff that’s not Hot Wheels. I’ll collect anything that’s a real hot-rod.”

With all his awards, fame and fortune, you might think that Foose would be particularly proud of a signature accomplishment. This isn’t the case. “When someone asks me what’s my favorite car I’ve done, I tell them it’s the next one. It’s what I’m thinking of that becomes my signature car. It’s about where I’m going-not where I’ve been.”

Updated: June 30, 2011 — 11:22 AM
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