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Pete Chapouris is one of the most influential hot rod builders

Archetype [ahr-ki-tahyp]


1. the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype.

Pete Chapouris passed away January 6, 2017 after suffering a stroke the night before. He was 76.

By now, there have been many tributes to Pete Chapouris. Each one a fitting tribute to a man who contributed so much to the Hot Rod world we live in today. I would venture to say not one report has anything bad to say about Pete. He was influential, and by all accounts, a gentle, thoughtful man.

I decided to dedicate a portion of this month’s issue to Pete and his family, to pay my respects and offer my own perspective on his passing. I feel it may be different than other articles you may read because I had no connection to Pete. My perspective is simply as an admirer.

“Pete Chapouris is the one who brought that original spirit of hot rodding back to life starting in the ’70s and made it cool again.” Mark Vaughn – Editor Autoweek

 ’34 Ford Coupe
The iconic “California Kid” ’34 Ford Coupe

I learned about Pete’s passing just days after starting at Drive, where Pete had been a contributor for many years. DRIVE! was honored to publish Pete’s column, Wheels In Motion, every month. Even though I had no personal association to the man, I felt a loss. I understood his important contributions. They were far-reaching. His work was iconic. I was saddened to know I would never have the pleasure of talking with him, learning from him, or knowing him.

As I was worked on my first issue of DRIVE, I was reading what would sadly be his last column which appeared in the April issue. Through his words I understood why so many enthusiasts respect his accomplishments. Through his words I found a simple grace. Perhaps that’s just who he was.


Pete has been selected as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People within the industry and was inducted into the Hot Rod Magazine Hall of Fame, the Route 66 Hall of Fame, SEMA Hall of Fame, SREA Hall of Fame and SRMA Service Award, the National Rod & Custom Hall of Fame, the Hot Rod Hall of Fame and the Grand National Roadster Show Hall of Fame, awarded the Detroit Autorama Builder of the Year, the Grand National Roadster Show Builder of the Year, the Legends of Speed Lifetime Achievement Award and received the NSRA (UK) Hot Rod of the Century Award for his chopped ’34 3w coupe, the “California Kid.”

Then came the call from Hollywood, specifically Howie  , producer of the hugely successful Batman series. He wanted Pete’s car for a made-for-TV movie called The California Kid.

He left a lasting impression on the industry he loved.

Track Roadster Pete built for his dad in 1976
The Track Roadster Pete built for his dad in 1976. Most recently shown at the Mooneyes 25th Anniversary Hot Rod Custom Show in Japan and the GNRS in Pomona, California.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the May 2017 print issue of the Drive Magazine.