In the Pipeline: Mutual fans Chip Foose and John Oates meet to share autos and tunes
February 13, 2015
It's really something to watch two masters from different universes.
It happened last week when one of the most acclaimed singer/songwriters of his generation got to meet one of his favorite artists in Huntington Beach.
John Oates, half (along with Daryl Hall) of one of the most successful duos in music history, had a gig in Laguna Beach to promote his acclaimed new live DVD, "Another Good Road." But on his way down from Los Angeles, he felt compelled to make a pit stop.
Oates, a former race car driver and longtime car aficionado, is a fan of Chip Foose, the legendary automotive designer and fabricator who hosts the popular Velocity network TV series "Overhaulin'," in which 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 helps Foose and company execute the plot to perfection).
The feel-good show is shot in Huntington Beach, where Foose 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 who happen to be fans of each other. But for Oates, this clearly was a special experience. Buzzing around the shop like a kid set loose in Santa's workshop, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was giddy and fired up as he awaited Foose's arrival.
Foose, while maintaining the 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 automotive treasures:
• A black 1956 Ford F-100 truck that Foose personally designed; it originally belonged to his dad, Sam
• A seminal lime-green Hemisfear hot rod that Foose designed during his senior year at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena
• A P-32 Ford Roadster "rat rod," a hot rod that incorporates design elements of World War II-era planes, including a custom nosepiece and seats from a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber
As workers prepped and primed pieces for different builds, Oates peppered Foose with intense and intelligent questions that showed that he wasn't just a fan but also a car expert.
In Foose's office, the men pored over some of Foose's elaborate original design sketches, which are works of art on their own.
"I've always appreciated Chip's artistry, but I think what I love most about the [TV] show is just how uplifting it is," Oates said. "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."
The process is not unlike what Oates does for a living, he said. "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," Oates said. "We both go through a lot of processes before we get into the final version."
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 said with a smile. "But I really appreciate his take on what we do. 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."
Foose said people sometimes ask about his most memorable build, "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," Foose said. "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, 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."
Soon it was time for Oates to head to Laguna for a sound check for the evening's show. Both men clearly would have liked the meeting to last longer. That night, Foose went down to the club and they continued their conversation backstage.
Onstage, as he artfully blended new tunes from his DVD with some of his hits before a packed house, Oates donned a Chip Foose T-shirt.
It seemed a friendship had begun in the shop that day on a quiet street in a Huntington Beach industrial park as the musician and the car designer bonded over their love not just of paint jobs and engines but also of art, passion and expertise. What a nice thing to witness.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 25 books, including "Huntington Beach Chronicles: The Heart of Surf City." You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at facebook.com/hbindependent.