Recently, one of the most acclaimed singer/songwriters of his generation got to meet one of his favorite artists here in Huntington Beach. John Oates, one half (along with Daryl Hall) of the most successful duo in music history, was in Los Angeles, but there was a pit stop he felt compelled to make. Oates, a former racecar driver himself and lifelong car aficionado, is a longtime fan of Chip Foose, the legendary automotive designer and fabricator who also hosts the popular Velocity network TV series, “Overhaulin,” whereby Foose and his team of elite workers secretly satisfy the dreams of a car owner in need before unveiling the masterpiece to the owner (and the owner’s family, who help Foose & Co. execute the plots to perfection).If you didn’t know, the feel-good show is shot here in town, where Foose also maintains his design and production shop/garage.
Thankfully, Foose was in town the day Oates stopped in and the meeting was an interesting thing to behold. Here you had two highly accomplished artists that also happen to be fans of each other. But for Oates, clearly this was a special experience. Buzzing around the shop like a kid set loose in Santa’s workshop, the rock ‘n roll hall of famer was clearly beside himself as he awaited Foose’s arrival; giddy and fired up.
Once he arrived, Foose, while maintaining the same calm, reassuring, low-key presence he has on the show, nevertheless seemed excited at how enthused the musical icon was to be getting a guided tour of some of Foose’s true automotive treasures.
There was the black 1956 Ford F-100 truck Foose personally restored; the one which originally belonged to his dad, Sam. The seminal lime green Hemisfair hot rod, which he designed during his senior year at Art Center in Pasadena. And the P-32 Ford Roadster “rat rod,” a hot rod that actually incorporates design elements of World War II-era planes including a custom nosepiece and bomber seats from an actual B-17 “Flying Fortress.”
Throughout the tour, as workers prepped and primed pieces for a myriad of different builds, Oates peppered Foose with a variety of intense and intelligent questions that bespoke the fact that he was both a fan and a car expert himself.
Back in Foose’s office, the men pored over some of Foose’s elaborate original design sketches, which are works of art all on their own.
Examining the work in Foose’s portfolio, Oates explained what it is about the show that touches him. “I’ve always appreciated Chips artistry. But I think what I love most about the show is just how uplifting it is. The way he gets all the families involved to make it happen, to come alive from paper to reality, is a beautiful thing to watch.” Wryly referencing one of his own hit records to make a point, Oates added with a grin, “He makes their dreams come true.”
And the process, according to Oates, is not unlike what he himself does for a living. “When Chip does his drawings, it’s kind of like the writing of the song. And then when he creates the car, that’s kind of like cutting the record. We both go through a lot of processes before we get into the final version.”
Foose’s fondest memories
Listening to Oates, Foose seemed touched by the observations.
“Well, if I had the ability to play and sing like John does, then cars would just be my hobby,” he smiled. “But I really appreciate his take on what we do. People ask me sometimes what the most memorable build we’ve done is, but for me it’s not so much about the cars as it is about the people. One moment that really stands out is this guy who had a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner convertible. He bought it when he was 15 years old. Now he’s in his 40s and has two daughters in college. His lifelong dream was to have a 426 Hemi engine in it. We knew that when we learned about him and so we did it. We put a Hemi badge on the fender and when he saw that, he asked if that’s what we did. He couldn’t believe it. We let him open the engine when and when he saw what we had done, he just started to cry. On the show you saw a few seconds of that, but he was down on his knees for about 25 minutes trying to compose himself. Building someone’s dream car and really nailing it is an amazing feeling. I’m sure John feels that way when he hears certain songs of his on the radio. Like he just nailed it.”
They had never met before but it seemed pretty clear that a friendship was started up in the shop this day. Just qn a quiet side street in a Huntington Beach industrial Park, where the musician and the car designer bonded over their love not just of paint jobs and engines, but of art, heart, passion and expertise. What a nice thing to be able to witness.