As a gifted car builder and driving force behind the hit TV show Overhaulin’, Chip Foose is a bona fide celebrity. However, it’s often the case where those supposedly real people on reality TV are just playing a character. Good or bad, the person you see on the screen is invariably quite different to the person you meet face to face. Foose is an exception to that rule. In real life, he’s exactly the same down-to-earth, easy going, super talented guy that you read about in magazines and see on your lounge room flat screen.
How do we know that? Team MotorActive was lucky enough to spend three jam-packed days with the master craftsman and 3M brand ambassador on his recent trip down under, where he was our guest of honour at Meguiar’s MotorEx. “I was really impressed with his work ethic,” says MotorActive Managing Director, Bruce Morrison. “Despite his celebrity status and it being his first time to Australia, Chip was working 18 hours a day for the entire time he was here. He just doesn’t stop. When I quizzed Chip on his workload, he simply replied, ‘It could all end tomorrow.’”
We were also overwhelmed at how willing Chip was to take time out to help others. After spending a big day at MotorEx talking with the hundreds and hundreds of fans who queued at length for a few moments of his time and an autograph, a few extra-lucky spectators also scored one of Chip’s legendary sketches. Mr Foose could be forgiven for wanting a bit of respite between his official show duties and that evening’s gala dinner – not so. He spent his own time in his hotel room producing two large detailed renderings that were later auctioned online, raising a total $8580 for Camp Quality. At MotorEx, Chip hung around well beyond his scheduled appearance to spend time interacting and signing items for the public.
“Fans are at the top of Chip’s priority list,” recalls Bruce. “We were driving to dinner after a very busy day at MotorEx when Owen Webb casually mentioned that he’d received a phone call from a patron who was disappointed he’d paid his money but didn’t get to see Chip. Foose immediately responded, ‘Let’s call him!’ He then spent the rest of the journey talking on the phone with the appreciative fan. This blew me away, he’s just so giving.” This level of generosity is no one-off; Chip is heavily involved in numerous charity organisations. He’s the Californian Vice Chairman of the Progeria Research Foundation, a charity that helps sufferers of Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome, the same terminal disease that claimed Foose’s younger sister Amy.
Owen Webb also recalled a similarly generous occasion: “During a private dinner, a restaurant patron and his son recognised Chip and approached in awe, asking for an autograph. Foose not only happily signed his autograph, he also drew a sketch of a Camaro, there and then for the gentleman, right in the middle of dinner! And with a smile on his face the whole time! In my mind it’s this type of care and understanding that puts Chip ahead of the pack.” He understands that what is to him a small gesture could mean the world to someone else.
He just gets it. When competing in the Baja Wide Open Challenge, a photographer related a similar story where Chip knocked up a couple of renderings of the Porsche power buggy he was sharing with Troy Trepanier and Bud Brutsman. They were for a couple of local kids from an isolated community located near the checkpoint where Chip was waiting to take over the reins from Troy. Owen also commented on how grounded Foose is. On the Monday after MotorEx, Chip commented without prompting, “It was absolutely a world class show. I saw heaps of potential in Australians’ design skills and I really liked the individuality of your cars.”
That’s high praise indeed from somebody who has attended and often dominated many of the biggest and most prestigious shows on the planet. He was just as talkative and accommodating during his visit to our MotorActive offices, happily chatting with staff (including a lengthy conversation with our Warehouse Manager) and posing for photos. When one nonchalant staffer declined the offer for a commemorative happy snap, Chip stated, “Well, I want my photo with you.” At which point he knelt down at her desk and beamed his trademark charismatic smile for the camera.
Through his whole trip, Chip was more than happy signing just about everything put in front of him; he even insisted on autographing a huge 3M sign that now takes pride of place here in our office. When he left, he shook everyone’s hand and thanked them for their hospitality and organising for him to attend such a great show. During the three days we spent with Chip in Sydney, he was a machine and a fantastic ambassador for our sport. He left a lasting impression on everybody who met him, all of whom speak fondly of the experience. Next time you see Chip Foose on TV, rest assured he’s not some expertly-groomed TV celeb playing a character, he’s the real deal. Through our close association with Chip and his company, Foose Design, MotorActive proudly presents a range of cool Foose Design merchandise that includes two T-Shirts, a flexfit cap and a bitchin’ beanie. Check them out in our FreeStyle Rides Shop.
story nathan jones photos JOHN CHURCHILL