The Art of Chip Foose




I find myself scanning the internet, reading books and talking to people about good design and what that is. “Good Design” has as many definitions as there are people to ask but whatever the answer, hi brow or low, from either an artistic or a functional point of view, an object’s design must satisfy the needs of the owner. Garage Mahal designs around the client’s brief. It may be the clients ideas are based on current fashion trends but where fashion is fleeting, style and quality will endure. As a designer, my job is to interpret the client’s wishes and create designs that will fulfill the dream and stand the test of time.

One designer who I admire greatly is a custom rod designer, Chip Foose. It is not my intention to start a debate over the pros and cons of customising cars here. I simply want to point out that here is a designer who has attained the ability to interpret the originality of the subject matter and re-interpret it in a way that leaves you guessing where originality ends and custom begins.

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“Chip Foose is one of the most respected custom car designers in the world. Chip wondered what a returning WWII pilot would like to drive, and set out to answer the question and build the car. He shares with Lance Lambert, host of TV’s Vintage Vehicle Show, how he got started designing cars, his years at the Pasadena Art Centre on how and why he came up with the “P-32″ design.”  Vintage Vehicle Show


“What if a WWII fighter pilot say in 1948 or 49, missed his airplane which would have been a P38 or P40 and turned his roadster into his war bird.  What I’ve used is a Lincoln Zephyr V12 flat head.  We clay modelled the nose to look like one of the war bird noses, it’s got the spinner on it, that’s going to get cut out where there would have been blades coming out to let a little more air in for the radiator but I want the car when it’s finished to look like we found it in a barn that maybe this car was built back then. …  I want it to look like we found it in a barn, dragged it out, it’s going to be all patina’d.  I can’t wait to actually get it out and drive it.”

When asked about the methodology of design inspiration Chip stated:

“As far as what I have in my head, I’ve got tons and tons of ideas about cars that I’d love to build.  I’ve got sketches in the office and a lot of times a guy will come in and say yeah I wanna build a car another car and I’m not sure what I wanna build…  …I want him to focus in on a theme and then I want to design his vehicle for him exclusively based on conversations that we’ve had so we can create a car that is his and not designed for somebody else that he bought, it’s his car and what we’re going to do to it in the end. The drawing is just a tool to build the car, all the design criteria or shall we say, final decisions are based in 3 dimensions. 2 dimensional sketches a just a theme to build the car. We may do dimensional drawings and sketches that we can build all the car from but I want all the decisions to be based on the car itself” Chip Foose


As a designer who is passionate about automotive design as well as architectural and interior design, I appreciate Chip’s philosophy, and if you read my blog on Ralph Lauren you will see that these two designers, who seem worlds apart, are in fact much closer than you think.