5 Minutes with Brad Fanshaw
Brad Fanshaw has basically done it all over the course of his career in the automotive aftermarket. From running numerous successful companies, to fabricating award-winning cars, to starring on the reality show “Car Warriors,” Fanshaw has been a staple in the hot rod and custom car world since the 1980s.
Fanshaw – who first made a name for himself in the industry when he began working with Boyd Coddington in the late-1980s – has yet to slow down. Now one of the hosts of the “Shift and Steer” podcast, the bonspeed president is also busy working on future TV show and product ventures.
Even on his rare days off, Fanshaw says can usually be found doing something car-related. “Some weekends I’ll go out to the drag races or a cruise, but my favorite thing is getting out to my own shop and working on something out there,” Fanshaw said. “I like puttering around and working on one of my own projects.”
We managed to get Fanshaw to stop long enough to talk to him about what it’s really like on the set of an automotive reality show, what he misses most about Boyd Coddington and what he considers to be the greatest hot rod of all time.
Goodguys Gazette: Tell us about your very first car.
Brad Fanshaw: When I was 16 my dad came home and told me that a buddy of his had a car for sale. My dad wasn’t a big car guy, but he knew I had been saving to buy one. He told me it was a 1967 Chevelle SS! That’s all I needed to hear! I bought it and that was my first car. I was really lucky. I still have it. When I moved to California, I was in the middle of turning it into a pro-street car. It was all pulled apart and that’s where it still is. It got pulled apart in 1981 and it’s been in my building in Arizona ever since. I keep threatening to bring it here and finally finish it.
GG: You worked with Boyd Coddington in your early years and spent a lot of time with him. What are your favorite memories of him?
Fanshaw: The best memory I have of Boyd is how friendly he actually was. He was very shy, and a lot of people thought he was stuck up because of that, but he wasn’t at all. Some of my favorite memories are of when we would take long drives together. We’d go in a hot rod or the slammed Mercedes. Sometimes we’d go up to see a supplier in Los Angeles, and we’d have these great talks. That’s when the real ideas and strategies for the company really came together.
GG: What’s something people don’t know about Boyd?
Fanshaw: Boyd and I coined the phrase “conceptional designers” because we couldn’t draw at all! Neither one of us! People don’t realize that. We were very similar because neither one of us could draw the cars we wanted to build, but we could see them in our heads. Both of us could see the car like it was in a photo, so we had to describe it to someone who could draw, but we knew exactly what we wanted and how to do it.
GG: What are you most proud of, career-wise?
Fanshaw: I’ve built a lot of companies but taking Boyd’s [company] public is one of my biggest successes, I think. No aftermarket company had ever gone public and, at the time, I had to explain to these guys in New York what a hot rod even was. If we’re talking personally, I would say building my own company after [leaving] Boyd’s. I built cars that won the GM Design Award and Ford Design Award. I wanted to show that, although Boyd and I were partners, I could do something on my own and build it from start to finish. When my Thunderbird won the Ford Design Award, Pete Chapouris and Bobby Alloway came over and told me how much they liked the car. That meant so much to me.
GG: You starred on the reality show “Car Warriors,” where builders had to build an entire car in 48 hours. What was it like behind the scenes?
Fanshaw: What was most surprising about our show was that it was structured like a game show. There were lawyers on-set that made sure the clock was authentic and that the builders had 48 hours only to build these cars. This was the most-brutal car show ever!
The builders were blown away with how legit it all was. They thought they’d come in and have 48 hours spread across a whole week to build it, but that’s not how it was at all. We couldn’t leave the set either, but we had it better than the competitors. We had a nice lounge and catered food, so we were living large compared to them. The way the set was, you couldn’t tell if it was day or night, so it was kind of like being in a hot rod holding cell! You have to find creative ways to get rest. When a car would go into the paint booth, there would be nothing for me to do so I would go get some winks. Sometimes I’d go into a heated spray booth and sleep on top of the heater. We were on camera and mic’d the whole time though. You’d have to drink a lot of Red Bull and keep your eyes open with toothpicks, but it was a lot of fun.
GG: What is your dream car?
Fanshaw: If it was one car, and money was no object, I’d own the CadZZilla, no question about it. Boyd invited me to come up to his place one day and that was the night he was loading CadZZilla. That was the day we made our deal to go into business together, so on the day all my dreams of the hot rod world came together, the CadZZilla – the greatest hot rod of all time – was sitting right there. Now I’m friends with Billy [Gibbons, the car’s owner] and I get to talk about that car, and all the great stories about how it came together. It’s such a beautiful car.
GG: What hot rod trends do you like right now?
Fanshaw: I love what’s going on with muscle cars. I’ve always been a muscle car guy. I love how they’re being restored, but people are making them drivable. It’s basically what we were doing at Hot Rods by Boyd’s with the ’30s and ’40s classics, but now we’re going into the ’60s and ’70s cars and putting in the new technology, giving them great interiors, and doing all the stuff to make them really drivable.
GG: What’s next for you?
Fanshaw: My bonspeed wheels are still going strong. We’re also working on cars, trucks and hot rods every day. Our factory is in SoCal so we’re zooming with that. We’ve got more TV programs we’re working on. We’ve got a show for Netflix. I’d be in front of the camera again, and it follows up on some of the stuff I did with Billy Gibbons for Steve Stropes’ show.
We’re also about to drop a brand-new product on the hot rod world: Circle B Sunglasses. The first two [designs] are perfect [to wear] while in the shop or driving your hot rod. They come in blue or yellow lenses, so they have a little rock ‘n’ roll/hot rod fashion in there. Michael [Anthony] and I are partners on it. I wore those sunglasses for over a year and tried to bust or scratch them and couldn’t. I wanted to be able to tell people they’ll last, and they will. They will be ready for sale very soon.