The Inspiring Story of Chip Foose

The Inspiring Story of Chip Foose

We’ve all heard the adage, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try again’, but have you ever considered the amazing things that can happen when you don’t give up on your goals? We’d like to introduce you to Chip Foose – a car designer who went from financial struggle to world-famous success to becoming a household name—literally. Chip is an American icon in the hot-rodding world. Starting with humble beginnings, he’s achieved tremendous success, both technically and financially. However, his story isn’t one of overnight success and fortune; it’s been a series of trials, tribulations, and hard work that led him to where he is today. In this presentation, we’ll explore the inspiring story of Chip Foose: how he got started, his struggles, and how he achieved fame and fortune. Stay tuned!

Who is Chip Foose?

His early life, family, and educational background

Samuel ‘Chip’ Foose was born on 13th October 1963, in Santa Barbara, California, USA to Sam and Terry Foose, the oldest of three children, having a younger brother named Brock and a younger sister named Katie. Chip’s father was an automobile designer and had a shop- Project Design, where he customized cars. Consequently, he spent a lot of time in the garage, working alongside his father and learning a lot in the process. In fact, his first official job was at his father’s company when he was just seven years old. By the time he reached twelve years old, he already had five years of experience working on cars; he’d even painted his first car. Impressive!

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For most of his early life, Chip and his family lived in Huntington Beach, where he attended the local primary school before matriculating from Edison High School. Still a car enthusiast, he had a chance to meet with renowned automotive designer, Alex Tremulis (designer for Preston Tucker and Ford ) which cemented his decision to pursue his passion for automotive design. In 1982, he decided to attend the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, majoring in automotive product design. While there, Chip honed his skills as a designer and fabricator, and he soon became known for his exceptional talent.

Unfortunately, his family was facing financial difficulties two years into his studies, prompting him to drop out of college. For the next four years, he worked various odd jobs to help stabilize the financial situation at home, before returning the college. Ultimately, he graduated in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree with honors.


Hot Rod Design

After graduating, Chip was determined to make a name for himself in the auto world, and he eventually found his calling in hot rod design. He relocated to Pasadena, and was immediately hired by the well-known Boyd Coddington Hot Rod Shop. At Boyd’s shop, Foose learned the ins and outs of designing hot rods, but he particularly shone in creating custom cars. He worked hard and quickly rose in the ranks, thanks to his unmatched dedication to excellence. Under his watchful eye, teams created multiple award-winning vehicles that were unveiled at car shows across the US. At Boyd’s shop, Chip worked on some of the most iconic cars of the time, including Boyd’s own ‘Boydster’, ‘Boydster II’, ‘Cadzilla’, and the ‘Alumatub’, quickly becoming known for his exceptional skills and attention to detail. At the time, Chip worked part-time at Boyd’s shop and full-time at Sterenberger Design until he resigned from the latter in 1993.

That same year, he began to work for J Mays at the prestigious Ford, but was soon convinced by Boyd to work full-time for him instead. With that, he became Managing Director and eventually the President of Hot Rods by Boyd. He was widely acclaimed for his signature ‘Boyd Look’ in designing vehicles and his jaw-dropping creations, and went on to create vehicles that garnered international fame, including the Sportstar, Boyd Air, and Roadster, to name a few.

In 1998, Hot Rods by Boyd faced bankruptcy due to the then-failing Boyd’s Wheels, causing Chip to resign from his position, ending nearly a decade of their partnership. But while his career seemed to be on an upward trajectory, it would take another 12 years before Chip could finally achieve financial stability. During this period, he worked primarily on weekends and evenings to support himself and his family, eventually getting his big break when he became chief designer for Ford Motor Company, worked for Alex Yeoman and even held a position at General Motors.

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Posted by The Official Chip Foose on Friday, April 12, 2019

Chip went on to use his in-depth knowledge to refine his skills, while working in hot rod shops such as ASHA Corp., Intermeccanica, Baker Sportronics, and Steve Stanford Designs, amongst others. He worked as the automotive designer, creating illustrations, conceptual models, and more. As chief designer/ fabricator, he created models and prototypes that were to be used in both the NBL (National Basketball League) and the NFL (National Football League). He worked with his father at Project Design, where they built street rods, studio vehicles, customized cars and show cars for films including “Robo Cop”, “Blade Runner” and “Gone in 60 Seconds”.

Creating His Own Hot Rod Design Business

Chip Foose and his wife founded Foose Design in 1984, basing the company in Huntington Beach, California, specializing in automotive and product design development, including illustration, model making, surfacing, and complete construction of automobiles and related products. Initially, Foose struggled financially and took out a loan to keep his business afloat. However, his dedication and hard work paid off, and he gained recognition for his exceptional designs.

Foose also branched out and built other types of vehicles, such as commercial trucks. He conceptualized new ideas and fabricated prototypes for OEMs, and his creations gained recognition from the automotive industry, working on projects for “Spiderman 2” and “Herbie: Fully Loaded”. By 2007, Foose Design had become renowned for high-end automotive design and custom builds, sought after by car enthusiasts worldwide. He worked hard on marketing himself, creating show cars, hosting competitions, and leveraging connections with influential people in the industry to increase his fame and success. Overall, Chip Foose turned a struggling small business into a thriving hot rod design company, with a name known throughout the automotive culture.

TV Host

Chip gained worldwide fame after appearing on Discovery Channel’s “Overhaulin‘” in 2004, which created by Foose and producer Bud Brutsman, follows the process of transforming rundown cars into customized vehicles in a short amount of time. The show tricks someone into giving up their car and features a team of mechanics and designers who work together to transform the car, often incorporating personalized features and design elements specific to the car’s owner. The show is still running today and has moved from TLC to the Discovery Channel. The show’s cast includes: Chip himself, who is the lead designer, oversees the projects, and provides creative direction, Chris Jacobs who hosts the show, helps to coordinate the surprise, and interacts with the car’s owner as well as Adrienne “AJ” Janic the co-host who helps to coordinate the surprise and interacts with the car’s owner.

The show “Overhaulin’” had an original run of five seasons where nearly 90 car transformations were completed. In addition to the show’s regular episodes, it also featured several special episodes and spin-offs, including “Overhaulin’ 2.0,” “Inside West Coast Customs,” and “Chasing Classic Cars”. Chip has also been featured on other automotive shows such as “American Hot Rod” and “Rides or Destroyed”. In 2009, he was a guest judge on “Ultimate Car Build-Off” and from 2010-2011 hosted “American Icon: The Hot Rod”. The show “Overhaulin’” was relaunched on Velocity network in 2012 for four more seasons, and is now back in production with new episodes set to air in 2019 on MotorTrend.


Chip has also found success in giving back to the community through charitable work. After his early struggles, he was moved to lend a hand to others, and through his television show, Foose has shared stories from veterans, the elderly, low-income families, and anyone in need of car restoration.

He’s also taken it upon himself to “pay it forward” by helping restore and remodel churches, fire departments, and other non-profits in their community. He’s even worked on projects that increase accessibility for people with disabilities, whether they’re at a local hospital or within the homes of families in need. What’s even more inspiring is that Chip was able to use his own experiences, finances, and platform to help others find success too. To date, he has:

  • Created internships for aspiring automotive designers and engineers.
  • Sponsored charities like the USO and Toys for Tots
  • Mentored underprivileged youth interested in automotive restoration and design
  • Become the vice chairman of the Progeria Research Foundation‘s California branch, since his youngest sister passed away from Hutchinson–Gilford progeria syndrome.
  • Taken part in a number of children’s charities, including Victory Junction Gang Camp and Childhelp.
  • Been named by SEMA – Specialty Equipment Market Association – the grand marshal for their Show N’ Shine public car show, in which all proceeds went to children’s charities.

Awards and achievements

With a knack for creating dream vehicles out of a sheet of metal, Chip has gone on to have an incredibly successful career. He’s achieved remarkable success with his designs, some of which sold over 25,000 units, an unprecedented feat in the automotive industry. His custom cars have won numerous awards at the most prestigious car shows across North America, demonstrating the importance of good design.

Chip’s exceptional talent led to his induction into both the Automotive Hall of Fame and the Hot Rod Hall of Fame. In November 1997, at the age of 31, Foose became the youngest member ever to be inducted into the Hot Rod Hall of Fame at Peterson Publishing’s 50th-anniversary event held at the SEMA trade show in Las Vegas. More awards include the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Art Center College of Design. In 1998, he was the first recipient of the Good Guys Trendsetter Award and won the prestigious AMBR Award a number of times. He was also inducted into the Darryl Starbird Rod & Custom Car Museum Hall of Fame in 2002, the Grand National Roadster Show Hall of Fame in 2003, the Detroit Autorama ‘Circle of Champions’ Hall of Fame in 2012, and the San Francisco Rod and Custom Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2005.

Foose won the Ridler Award in 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2015, and the AMBR Award in 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2006, and 2014, some of which were designed by Foose and completed by other builders such as Barry White, Troy Trepanier and Bobby Alloway. He’s also won the Goodguys Street Rod of the Year Award seven times, and was inducted into the Diecast Hall of Fame in 2009. Foose’s accolades include the Best Hot Rod at the 2011 Bilsport Performance Show and the Best Custom Car – a 1954 Chevrolet ‘Cool Air’ at the NACE Expo in 2014.

What is he up to now?

Now that he’s reached the peak of success and his design skills have been recognized, Chip Foose is now a brand ambassador for multiple companies and organizations. He also appears in various TV shows and magazines as a design expert. He’s partnering with Don Cameron’s Basis Investment Group to create innovative designs for the automotive industry, collaborating with 3M Automotive as a product innovator, pushing the boundaries of design tools and materials, and appearing on TV to educate viewers on custom car design. Quite recently, he was made the official artist for SEMA, and was given the task of creating artwork for the yearly aftermarket trade show from 2022 and beyond.

He still runs his successful business, Foose Designs, based in Huntington Beach, California, with his own YouTube channel that documents the builds. Foose designs and markets his own line of customized wheels (designed by him and manufactured by Metalsport Wheels and MHT Wheels) under the Foose Wheels banner. That’s not including a successful Foose art design and merchandise line under his name as well. So, you can see that after all his years of hard work, Chip Foose is now reaping the rewards of his talents!

Where can you find him?

These days, Chip Foose is all over the place—literally. You can find him at a variety of drift racing and car shows around the world, in addition to making regular public appearances and giving lectures. Plus, he’s got his line of automotive tools and supplies, making it easier for aspiring mechanics to get their hands on quality tools. He also shows up on TV, having been featured in multiple automotive-related programs to date.

He’s quite active on social media such as Instagram and Twitter, where he boasts a huge following of 2 million and 150,000, respectively. You can also find him on his personal website, where fans get a glimpse of his projects, updates, and can even purchase his merchandise.

How much is he worth?

As of 2023, Chip Foose’s net worth is estimated to be around $18 million. However, his exact income isn’t publicly available, as it can vary depending on the projects he’s working on and his various business ventures. In addition to his work on television and in the automotive industry, he’s also launched his own line of wheels and accessories, which have become popular among car enthusiasts, and runs a custom car shop, Foose Designs which specializes in customizing and restoring classic cars. Overall, Chip’s success in the automotive industry, combined with his various business ventures and television appearances, has contributed to his impressive net worth. We can only say that this wealth is definitely expected to rise as he takes on more projects he’s passionate about.

At the end of it all, Chip Foose has come a long way. From his humble beginnings starting in his dad’s garage than as an apprentice at his dad’s company, to being a celebrity auto designer and achieving international fame, he’s made it to the top. His story is one of relentless hard work and determination, a testament to the power of consistency through adversity. It took a long time, but in the end, Chip has been able to turn his passion into a successful career, inspiring other budding entrepreneurs along the way. He teaches us that no matter what life throws at us, with hard work and a little bit of luck, we have the power to take control of our destinies. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors!

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