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Hot Rodding Icon Pete Chapouris Has Died

Hot Rodding Icon Pete Chapouris Has Died

It is with a heavy heart that we announce that our friend, and industry icon, Pete Chapouris has died. I consider myself lucky to have spent time with Pete at events across America, and can tell you that he was ALWAYS fun to be around. Working with him on several projects, and attending events and shows that found us hanging out, had me always thinking how lucky I was just to be around him. It’s moments like this that drive that feeling home. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Pete’s family, and we hope that Pete is up there looking down on all of us knowing that he made an enormous difference in the lives of so many. Our friend John Drummond with Goodguys Rod and Custom Association delivered the news to us earlier today, and has put together an awesome obituary that you can read below.

God Speed Pete!

Courtesy of Goodguys Rod & Custom Association

In a shocking, unexpected turn of events, hot rodder and industry legend Pete Chapouris, co-founder of Pete & Jake’s Hot Rod Parts and most recently President of So-Cal Speed Shop, passed away this afternoon due to complications from a stroke. He died peacefully in the hospital surrounded by his wife Carol, daughter Nicole and son Peter. He was 76.

His talent, passion, vision and good natured smile made him one of the most popular figures in our scene. It’s hard to come to grips with the fact that one of hot rodding’s most influential figures is gone seemingly overnight. This one hits very hard. Where do we begin?


Pete Chapouris, December 16, 1942 – January 6th, 2017. Image courtesy of So-Cal Speed Shop

A native of El Monte, California, Chapouris cruised the streets of Los Angeles as far back as 1955 in his first car — a Model A coupe channeled over Deuce rails. Though quite active and popular in So-Cal hot rod circles in the ’60s, he caught lightning in a bottle when his freshly flamed black ’34 Ford coupe joined friend Jim Jacobs’ yellow ’34 Ford coupe on the cover of the November 1973 issue of Rod & Custom magazine. Many remember it as the “Chicken Coupe” cover. The iconic image and preceding build articles were courtesy of the late Gray Baskerville, who introduced Pete and Jake during their simultaneous chopped coupe builds. After the Chicken Coupe issue hit magazine racks, the resulting fame was a catalyst for the launch of Pete & Jakes Hot Rod Repair, which opened in Temple City, California, in 1974.


The November 1973 Rod & Custom Magazine cover was a seminal event in the life of Pete Chapouris and Jim “Jake” Jacobs. Their business venture, Pete & Jake’s Hot Rod Repair was launched a year later. Cover image courtesy of The Enthusiast Network.

Hot rod historian Steve Coonan, publisher of The Rodder’s Journal recalled, “In the early-’70s guys started doing wazoo, super trick for-the-time IFS, and jag rear ends, and the like. But Chapouris and Jacobs had a back-to-basics approach for reliable, safe and traditional early Ford suspensions. Their goal wasn’t to win trophies but to drive long distances in comfort. They were also renowned for refining four bar suspensions in hot rods.”

T275 ML P5

Pete in his Temple City, California shop in the mid 1970s. California Kid was under construction at the time.

As it turned out, Pete & Jake’s was one of a few core businesses that launched hot rodding to its current trajectory. Due to the experience and vision of Chapouris and Jacobs, hot rodders around the world were finally able to get safe, usable chassis and suspension components for their early Ford rods. Chapouris was always proud to have been a part of the rise of hot rodding to the mainstream. In a recent interview with the Goodguys Gazette, he was quoted as saying “We took chassis components and kicked them up a couple of notches, and that took the industry in a direction that it had never been before,” he said. “I’m proud that we brought safety to chassis components for hot rodders.”


Steve Coonan photographed the California Kid ’34 coupe for Rodder’s Journal Issue #46

Chapouris was a quick study when it came to marketing and PR. In that realm he was just as quick off the line as his killer coupe. After he and Jacobs sold Pete & Jake’s in 1987, he went to work at SEMA in nearby Diamond Bar, California. While at SEMA, Chapouris was instrumental in the formation of the Street Rod Equipment Association (SREA). He then became a driving force in the transformation of the SREA into the Street Rod Market Alliance, a council of SEMA. Years later, Pete was also elected into the SRMA Hall of Fame. SRMA is known today as the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) and has blossomed into the billion dollar behemoth it is today.


Actor Martin Sheen behind the wheel of the ‘Kid

After a stint building hot rods with Bob Bauder and old friend Pete Eastwood in the high country of Southern California during the early-’90s, he opened a hot rod shop named PC3g in 1995, churning out a series of cover cars including Billy F Gibbons’ “Kopperhead” and others. It was at PCG3 where he led his most ambitious effort yet – the restoration and resurrection of the Doane Spencer ’32 Ford roadster. It was his crowning achievement and captured the first-ever Hot Rod Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

But professionally, the best was yet to come for Pete. At the 1997 NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion, he scheduled a press conference at the host hotel to announce he had formed an alliance with longtime friend Alex Xydias to bring the famed So-Cal Speed Shop back to life. Soon after the announcement, a 30,000 square foot facility in Pomona was filled with 30-plus employees churning out hot rods and merchandise. Success was so instant, the So-Cal brand blossomed into eight retail stores coast to coast. Teamed with his friend Alex, rising star Jimmy Shine and other team members, the following decades provided the ride of his life. They even got a chance to return to So-Cal’s Bonneville roots building four land-speed cars for GM Performance, setting half a dozen records and putting four drivers in the 200 MPH Club. It was also at So-Cal were Pete mentored young up-and-coming rod builders, showing them the old way to build bitchin’ cars. Gen X and Gen Y players like the aforementioned Jimmy Shine, Ryan Reed, Aaron Broughton, the Veazie Brothers, and others are now thriving thanks to Chapouris’ teachings. His career had come full circle.


“Pete seemed to get cooler the older he got” said Steve Coonan of the Rodder’s Journal. This is how we will remember him, shades on, and ready to go hot rodding. Image courtesy of So-Cal Speed Shop.

From his office in South San Francisco, Steve Coonan reflected further. “Pete was a guy that seemed to get cooler the older he got. He was unique in that way.” He built cars for rockstars; he wore the coolest shoes and had the backstage passes. “He was perfectionist too,” he adds. “I can remember talking to him 40 years ago when he sold the Cal Kid then bought it back. The engine was messed up. After Pete pulled the engine, he insisted on painting the firewall and getting different textures involved. He was brilliant at blending colors and textures together in his hot rods. And he always pulled it off. He never missed”

Chapouris and the So-Cal Team built four land-speed cars for GM Performance, setting half a dozen records and putting four drivers in the 200 MPH Club.

Chapouris and the So-Cal Team built four land-speed cars for GM Performance, setting half a dozen records and putting four drivers in the 200 MPH Club.

Rod builder and longtime Chapouris friend Roy Brizio swallowed hard when the news broke of Chapouris’ sudden death. “Pete was like a mentor to me,” Brizio said. “Along with my father Andy, Pete helped teach me the ropes of hot rodding when I just broke in. Too many of our friends are leaving. He and his wife Carol took their green ’26 Ford roadster to Canada for Deuce Days with us last summer. I just spoke to him a few weeks ago and he said it was the most fun he’d had in years.”


So-Cal Speed Shop founder Alex Xydias (left), President Pete Chapouris and Barry Meguiar talk shop at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

Pete Chapouris leaves behind a rich legacy of red blooded American hot rods that have spanned decades, never aging. His industry contributions were revolutionary, their impact wide reaching. His fingerprints run through so many avenues of our industry. But above all that, his friendships, warmth and willingness to help others succeed and grow outweigh all.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In Pete’s case, the cover of the November 1973 issue of Rod & Custom magazine was worth so much more.


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10 thoughts on “Hot Rodding Icon Pete Chapouris Has Died

  1. Chaun Benfield

    The impact Pete has on the automotive and mechanical industry is well known in most cases but his works just like the greats we have lost over the years will probably superceed us all. I know personally as a kid, even early on, the level of gifts and abilities was truly appreciated and I stood in awe of Petes work that lay before my eyes either in magazines, videos, etc. Thank God for people like Pete, my Dad and other great influences, that my interest in hot rods and anything that can be improved or built upon still is strong today. I think that could be said for alot of us as well. Thank you Especially to Bangshift, sponsors , contributors and other media forms that through them, people like Pete and other greats works will continue to influence and hopefully inspire us through their legacy as it is captured.

  2. Aleene Queen (Queenie)

    Pete was my boss at SEMA. He made learning about the industry a fun experience. RIP Pete, I’ll see you on down the road

  3. thefatguy

    another one of the truly great ones gone.
    thoughts and prayers of literally hundreds
    and thousands of gearheads are going out
    for his friends and family. R.I.P., MR. Chapouris.

  4. Dale Epp

    So sorry to hear the news. He was a pioneer like Lil’ John and Boyd. I had the privelage of talking to Pete a couple times. What a classy guy he was. Friendly and congenial – didn’t mind talking to a “little guy” and answering my questions. I’m sure he’ll be greatly missed.

  5. Truckin' Ted

    Pete was one of those guys who’d come full circle in the hot rod world, leaving his mark on what hot rodding should be and teaching the next generations the direction to go.

    Condolences to his family and many friends.

  6. Dan Stokes

    I never knew him but still I miss him as if I did. Peace to those who loved him.

    Brings up a point – why do we wait until those dear to us have died to say the nice things we all feel about them? And I’m just as guilty as the next guy though I do try to think along the lines of saying it NOW. Tell those you find special that that’s how you feel and tell them WHY. I have wonderful friends starting with ME and I try to make sure they know how special they are in my life.


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