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SEMA Seen: The Chip Foose Experience

20 of the custom-car creator’s works displayed together for the first time

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Combine the Las Vegas Convention Center adding an enormous new showcase building and the restrictions on foreign visitors because of the coronavirus pandemic and the organizers of the SEMA Show of aftermarket automotive parts and customized vehicles were left with some extra space.

Filling one portion of that space in the North Hall is the Chip Foose Experience, the largest gathering to date of Foose-designed custom vehicles, including all four of the Ridler Award winners he’s done. The Ridler Award is presented each year at the Detroit Autorama and is the custom car equivalent to winning Best of Show at a major concours d’elegance.

Also on display was the Foose-crafted 1932 Ford roadster, “oo32,” which in 2000 was acclaimed America’s Most Beautiful Roadster at the Grand National Roadster Show, the highest award available for such a vehicle, and one that Foose designs have won eight times.

SEMA, SEMA Seen: The Chip Foose Experience, ClassicCars.com Journal
Hemisfear began as a design project when Foose was studying at Art Center. Some think it may have inspired the Plymouth Prowler that Chrysler put into production in 1997
SEMA, SEMA Seen: The Chip Foose Experience, ClassicCars.com Journal
‘Impression’ was a Ridler Award winner
SEMA, SEMA Seen: The Chip Foose Experience, ClassicCars.com Journal
Foose’s own ’32 Ford and its sketch

Foose grew up in Southern California and worked as a pre-teen with his father, Sam, in Sam’s custom-car auto shop, Project Design. After meeting car designer Alex Tremulus, who had done the styling of the Tucker, Foose set his career goal and studied transportation design at the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, graduating with honors in 1990. 

But Foose also was working while in college, as a designer and fabricator for the Asha Corporation, which promoted him to design director a year before his Art Center graduation. 

Foose designed vehicles for such movies as Blade Runner and Robo Cop. In 1990, he started designing for hot-rod builder Boyd Coddington, but ended up leaving twice, first in 1993 to work for Ford Motor Company, and again in 1994, this time to open his own custom-design and car-construction business. 

At age 31, he became the youngest person inducted into the Hot Rod Hall of Fame.

SEMA, SEMA Seen: The Chip Foose Experience, ClassicCars.com Journal
People line up to get Chip Foose’s autograph
SEMA, SEMA Seen: The Chip Foose Experience, ClassicCars.com Journal
‘Grandmaster’ among the Foose designs on display at SEMA Show

Though well-known within the custom car and hot rod communities, Foose became famous in 2004 when the television series Overhaulin began its 5-year run and put Foose Design in the national spotlight. The series was relaunched in 2012 for a 4-year run, and again in 2019.

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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