Earlier this week, Sam Foose, a very well known and respected custom car builder and the man who raised one of this generation’s true hot rodding super stars, Chip Foose passed away at 83 years old. Foose had spent decades in the world of car customizing, building, and hot rodding before his son came along. Through Sam’s teaching and example his legacy will live on for decades and decades to come.
His story and life were centered around cars. When his family decided to move away from Southern California in 1948 Foose was 15. Rather than leaving, he literally took up residence in a friend’s garage and worked on cars to support himself. His immense litany of skills were self taught, self hewn, and learned the old fashioned way…by doing. It was a way of life that was so deeply engrained in him that there was seemingly no way that his son Chip, a boy as fascinated with cars as Sam was during his childhood would escape it. Building custom cars through the 1970s and up through recent years, his business transitioned into a body shop when the custom car building money got thin. It was Chip’s laboratory and classroom.
Sam Foose was known for an animalistic work ethic, an eye for perfection, and the ability to craft anything from the wild Pantera based creation below to the shapely and beautiful “Foose Ford” that he constructed with Danny Lowe, enhancing the already beautiful lines of a 1949 Ford.
We’d have to imagine that Sam was nothing but proud of the success that his son has achieved and will continue to achieve for years to come. It was all based off of the principles and skills he learned working side by side with him. Several years ago at SEMA we heard him comment in conversation that he, “Used to be Sam Foose…and now I’m Chip’s dad.” He followed it with a hearty laugh.
Outside of his own custom car shop, Sam Foose worked with Gene Winfield to make life sized examples of the custom cars that the AMT model company dreamed up for their kits. He built projects for the government to study safety upgrades in automobiles and all the while his Project Designs company was there, humming away on late nights and weekends, making the kinds of automotive magic that the majority of us in this would could only dream to create.
We all leave a footprint on this Earth, some of us larger and deeper than others. Not all of us leave a legacy. Sam Foose left his in the form of the machines that he created and buried deep in the soul of a son that he loved and a son that loved him.
We send our thoughts to the entire Foose family as they deal with the loss of their patriarch and we thank them on behalf of the entire world of hot rodding for all that they’ve done and will continue to do.