AutoMatters & More: Hemisfear by Chip Foose featured at ArtCenter Car Classic 2019

ArtCenter Car Classic 2019
(Jan Wagner)

Founded in 1930 and located in Pasadena, California, ArtCenter College of Design is recognized as an international leader in art and design education in a wide variety of industrial design disciplines, as well as visual and applied arts. Many of the world’s most accomplished automobile designers were educated there.

Each year ArtCenter opens its campus to the public as it hosts Car Classic, showcasing the work of the very best and innovative designers in the world of transportation design. Presentations, panel discussions and interviews provide visitors with enticing views and insights into the design process.

ArtCenter Car Classic provides a rare opportunity to visit the design studios, 3D rapid prototyping facilities and galleries; and speak with and observe students at work, to learn about what they do.

Students work on projects for actual auto manufacturers
(Jan Wagner)

The theme of this year’s Car Classic was “One of a Kind: Vehicles that Stand Alone.” It featured “unique, custom, specially built vehicles that [included] early coachbuilt cars, custom hot rods and motorcycles, concept cars, bespoke supercars and specially modified vehicles from all eras – classic to modern to concept – that represent the finest examples of original automotive design.”

One of the designers that we heard from was prolific ArtCenter alum Chip Foose, interviewed by Sonari Glinton, NPR contributor and DeLite! Media founder.

Chip graduated from ArtCenter in December of 1990. The Senior Project that he was working on was sponsored by Chrysler. The students were asked to create a niche market vehicle.

Chip produced two proposals, one addressing what was specifically asked for in the project and another, which he did at home and did not tell anybody about. He presented those two proposals to Tom Gale, the president of Chrysler Design at the time.

Hemisfear by Chip Foose unveiled at SEMA Show 2006
(Jan Wagner)

This second proposal was for a hot rod. Chip told us that as a student at ArtCenter at that time, if you were drawing hot rods or muscle cars, basically that was frowned upon. They wanted the students to concentrate on the future of automotive design.

Tom asked Chip about what he was doing in the second proposal, to which Chip replied that “there are thousands of people out there with hot rods and muscle cars that are trying to put modern technology into them, so that they can enjoy them on a daily basis. Why not go and draw from the past a great form, and evolve that into something new today?”

By thinking out of the box, Chip learned that the president of Chrysler Design was a muscle car and hot rod fan. He asked Chip “which one of those vehicles do you want to do?” Chip replied “I know what I would like to do but you’re never going to allow me to do my hot rod.”

Chip Foose proudly holds a scale model of Hemisfear at SEMA Show 2006
Chip Foose proudly holds a scale model of Hemisfear at SEMA Show 2006
(Jan Wagner)

Using late 1960s and early 70s American muscle cars as examples, Chip discussed their evolution. He pointed out that the 1967-69 Camaro looks completely different than the 1970 model. The designers left whatever was there and created something completely new.

“The two cars that have the best evolution of design, at the time for me, [were]: the 911 Porsche – you can go back through the history of the 911. That design has evolved, and [has] just gotten better and better and better. There were some great ones in the past – and the other one [was] the Corvette. You can look at the Corvette and follow it through its lineage, and it’s an evolution.”

He said (to Tom Gale) “we have an opportunity now to draw from the past and evolve one of those older designs into something that is modern.”

A future auto designer rushes the stage during Chip Foose’s Car Classic 2019 interview
(Jan Wagner)

Chip explained that he combined a side view of a ’70 Cuda with a plan view of a ’33 Plymouth, creating the car that he called “Hemisfear,” so named because he was putting a hemi motor in the back. Foose Design’s “Hemisfear,” revealed at the 2006 SEMA Show in Las Vegas along with a 1:18th scale model, was recipient of Car Classic 2019’s President’s Award.

Chip also drew it as a roadster. That project was the purple model car on the stage, built by Chip in 1990. Chrysler loved it so much that it was the inspiration for the Plymouth Prowler.

To learn more about Car Classic 2019 and ArtCenter College of Design, visit

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Copyright © 2019 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #613r1