Famed hot-rod builder Pete Chapouris died Jan. 6 at age 76 following a stroke.
Chapouris grew up in the California hot rodding scene in the 1950s and began building and customizing his own cars. In 1971, he went to work at Blair’s speed shop and built a chopped ’34 Ford coupe that gained wide acclaim. He soon joined fellow rodder Jim “Jake” Jacobs in forming a small hot-rod repair business in Temple City, Calif. It was there that Chapouris got the call to feature his ‘34 in a the film “The California Kid” starring Martin Sheen.
Pete and Jake’s Hot Rod Parts became a big player in the hobby before the pair sold in 1987. Chapouris then went to work as vice president of marketing for SEMA.
Chapouiris built many other well-known cars over the years and paired with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top on multiple projects. In 1995, he started a new hot rod shop, The Pete Chapouris Group, in Pomona, Calif.
Many more high-profile and award-winning cars followed, including a win at the the inaugural Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance Hot Rod Class and the Dean Batchelor Memorial Award for Excellence.
Chapouris was also able to license the SO-CAL Speed Shop name, building a large business in Pomona and eight retail stores around the country. Chapouris and the SO-CAL team built four land-speed cars for GM Performance, and in the last five seasons, set a half-dozen records putting four drivers in the 200 MPH Club.
Chapouris was inducted into multiple automotive and hot-rodding halls of fame and received the NSRA (UK) Hot Rod of the Century Award for his chopped ’34 “California Kid.”
He is survived by his wife Carol, daughter Nicole and son Pete IV.