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Chip Foose Builds A Full Custom 1971 Mustang SportsRoof
Beyond Restomod: Chip Foose melds 1971 and 2011 to create a one-of-a-kind, factory-appearing 1971 SportsRoof for the ages
Combining old and new to build a high-tech restomod Mustang is not new—this magazine has featured many such builds over the years, including recently. But the car you see here goes above and beyond the typical restomod project, which is no surprise considering who built it.
Chip Foose is a household name, thanks to the magic of television. The star of Overhaulin’, and any number of other automotive-centric TV shows, Chip grew up under the tutelage of his famous customizer father, Sam Foose, known for his customs and an innate knack for chopping a top. Chip learned his amazing metal-crafting ways under Sam but had “the eye” for design that led him to the Art Center College of Design in Southern California, the school that has cranked out many of the world’s leading automotive designers.
Thankfully for us, Chip is a red-blooded American hot rodder, so upon graduation he veered into our lane instead of working for an OE. He went to work for Boyd Coddington (probably the most famous street rod builder of the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s), designing many award-winning rods and also the iconic line of Boyd Coddington Wheels that were on top of every car guy’s wish list in the ’90s. What separates Chip from other designers is that not only can he envision how to improve a car’s look, he also has the chops to pull it off all by himself, using tools as simple as a hammer and dolly to sophisticated machines and techniques. The list of awards that Chip has won boggles the mind.
When we heard he was putting his touches on a Mustang, we knew it was going to be over the top, but in a subtle way—and man, is it ever. The idea for this car came from its mysterious owner known only as “Dr. Honda” in Japan. Honda had two Mustangs in his collection/museum in Japan—a 1971 Mach 1 and a 2011 GT—and he loved them both but wanted to combine the two into a single car that looked like a production car, not a hot rod. There was only one person that he could think of that could masterfully pull that off: Chip Foose. Honda trusted in Chip’s vision enough to turn him loose on the design and build of the car, with the only instructions being to make it look cool and drive like the modern Mustang. From there, Chip shifted his fertile and creative mind into overdrive, broke out his sketchpad and pencils, and got to work.
Both cars were delivered to Foose’s Huntington Beach, California, shop to begin their Frankenstein-like melding on his big metal automotive operating table. Before we go into all that was done to this car, take a good, long look at these photographs and see if you can identify parts and ideas from cars outside of Ford…and outside America in some cases. You can probably pick out the 1969 Camaro taillights, but did you notice that grille trim is also from a Camaro? How ’bout the quarter-panels? Hint: they are Mustang, but not from the ’71-’73 generation.
To begin the project, the Foose Design guys stripped the body off the 2011 GT and draped the ’71 body over it, which was not an easy feat. The late-model’s strut towers had to be dropped 3.5 inches to keep them under the ’71 hoodline, and the wheels were moved forward a full 5 inches and are controlled by JRi struts. Notice anything “off” about the wheel openings? Those are from a 1970 Mustang; they look better in Chip’s eyes. Who are we to argue with him?
Still at the front of the car, the fenders and hood extensions were welded together and the grille was hand-fabricated, then the whole thing was extended 1¼ inches to create the peaked front end. The lower valance dividers were also hand-formed and added to follow the upper grille trim (chrome ring). The grille molding is from a ’69 Camaro but was narrowed, shortened, and flipped upside down. Those driving lights—they are from a 1970 Plymouth ’Cuda. Moving rearward, the quarter-panels are also from a ’70 Mustang to, in Chip’s words, “add the rear haunches.” The lower rocker panels are tapered and bolt in place, lowering the car 1 inch in front and ½ inch in the rear, and the back of the car was widened 5½ inches. The taillight panel is from a ’69 Camaro with a Mustang filler in the center. The A-pillars were widened ¾ inch on each side in the effort of flush-fitting the Eddie Kotto–cut windshield. The rear window is from a Chrysler Sprinter van. The mirrors have billet aluminum bases with 3D-printed tops, designed and built by Foose.
The interior is all 2011 GT, but the dash had to be reworked to fit the ’71 body, the door panels were modeled in clay then made out of composite materials and wrapped in leather, and Foose Design spec’d the upholstery and reworked the center console to accept window switches, then had 714 Motorsports wrap it all. Aluminum door inserts were silk-screened to match the stock GT aluminum dash inserts, and the rear quarter-windows (stationary on a factory 1971 Mustang) are from a hardtop and roll up and down. And check out the door pull handles. Can’t tell what they are? You have to go back six decades—they’re from a 356 Porsche.
The subtlety of a creation such as this Mustang is that while it is immediately recognizable as a 1971 Mustang SportsRoof, even the most untrained eye can tell that something is different; you just can’t pick out exactly what that difference is. And that is the creative genius behind the eye of a true designer like Chip Foose—you know he messed with something, you just can’t tell what, but damn it if it doesn’t make the car look so much better.