Custom Car Icon Sam Foose Has Passed Away

Custom car icon Sam Foose passed away this morning. He was 83 years old and enjoyed a life of cool cars and the friends he made along the way. He and his wife Terry were avid car enthusiasts throughout their marriage. December 2nd would have been their 58th wedding anniversary.

Foose gained worldwide acclaim as a custom car stylist in the 1980s although he designed and modified hot rods his entire life, he gained substantial fame in the 80s with a series of hi-end custom builds which emerged from his shop named Project Design located in Santa Barbara, California. Along with his radically modified yellow 1941 Ford convertible, he turned out some revolutionary customs highlighted by Jack Barnard’s 1949 Ford as well as Al Wheeler’s 1940 Ford sedan delivery among many others.

Throughout his fast-paced life, Sam Foose specialized in metal work, and supreme body and paint work – skills he learned the old fashioned way. He worked at AMT building their show cars along with Gene Winfield. After AMT, Sam moved over to Minicars to build government-funded safety car prototypes and learned to do body and paint work before branching out on his own to open Project Design.


Sam was very close to our late founder Gary “Goodguy” Meadors. They met in the 1970s at where else – a car show! In the early 80s when Gary’s deuce tudor was in dire need of a makeover, he called on Sam to make it a smoothie style, fenderless hot rod. Sam performed his metal magic while his son Chip (relatively unknown at the time) handled the color scheme and graphics package.

Meadors called on Foose again for another build design in the early 90s – a 1956 Continental Mark II. The car was a joint effort with fabrication and design by both Sam Foose and Denny Olson of Street Rods by Denny.

When Chip Foose gained worldwide fame in the 1990s and 2000s, he continuously praised his father Sam with teaching him and inspiring him to build the best. In an interview last year, Chip shared some thoughts on his late father. “Sometimes people ask me how I got my start building cars. Here’s the truth: I wasn’t introduced to car culture—I was born into it,” he said.

“My father Sam will always be my hero. I grew up thinking that my dad could do anything that he set his mind too, and he proved that he could over and over. He worked on cars until the end. The reason I have all of this is that I really wanted him to be proud of me. I feel that my career is an extension of his.”

Our Goodguys family extends our condolences to Sam’s wife Terry, Chip and the entire Foose family.

Senior Editor, Digital Media

With three decades of automotive journalism under his belt, John Drummond serves as Senior Editor – Digital Media for Fuel Curve and Goodguys Rod & Custom Association where he has worked since 1990. Drummond got his start in motorsports reporting by making a fake press pass to gain starting line access. The ruse worked and he began covering auto races as far back as 1986 in Northern California, eventually getting his stories published worldwide. He has owned and driven everything from a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere to a ridiculously modded Subaru WRX as well as a string of Mercedes AMG’s, most of which had the warranties voided the day after leaving the dealership.

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