Shop Tour: Foose Design and Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters


One of the pitfalls of being immersed in the constant barrage of all things automotive is the danger of becoming jaded. Walking the line between facilitating inadvertent product placement and conveying genuine enthusiam about automobiles can be a tricky balance. Just when we think we've seen enough and seriously contemplate going to get a job driving a flower truck, something comes along so astounding as to completely restore complete faith in the fine art of building automobiles and the enthusiasm this craft creates. A recent trip down to Foose Design world headquarters and then onto the Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters infused us with enough wonder to repel even the worst automotive kryptonite back into outer space for a long time. More after the jump.

On Tour

Shop Tour: Foose Design and Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters

The occasion was being invited to tag along as Chip Foose and George Gaffoglio of Metalcrafters welcomed car collector Roger Burgess, who was the proud winner of recent auction of the Hemisfear Foose Coupe. Mr. Burgess would get a tour of both Foose Design and Metalcrafters, then work with the pair to hash out exactly how he wanted his coupe constructed. The Hemisfear Foose Coupe is the end result of a design first penned when Foose was still at Art Center College of Design in 1990. Originally an exercise in niche market design for Chrysler, the Hemisfear Foose Coupe is now in limited production at the Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters, and will be sold through Unique Performance.

Fine Suits

Shop Tour: Foose Design and Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters

The Hemisfear Foose Coupe scales in at a mere 2600 pounds thanks to a composite construction of alumininum, carbon fiber und schteel. Power comes from to a 392 cubic inch Hemi sporting Hilborn Injection, or available Ford GT powerplant mounted amidships. Gear rowing will be by way of a ZF 5-speed. The car rides on a suspension designed specifically for the coupe by John Hotchkis of Hotchkis Sport Suspension. Whoa comes from a massive set of Foose labeled Baer brakes. Air conditioning, power windows, and the usual luxury items are also part of the deal. "Buying the Foose Coupe will be like buying a fine suit as it will be made to order," said George Gaffoglio, Chief Executive Officer of Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters. This suit will run you a shade over 300 large.

Art Work in Progress

Shop Tour: Foose Design and Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters

First stop on the tour was Foose Design World Headquarters. Let it be said now that Chip Foose clearly enjoys his work, and clearly has plenty of work in progress. A Morrison-Chassied 54 'Vette in in the lay in beginning stages in the paint booth. An upside down 'Cuda was getting ground on a rotissere. A car under construction sat with a Meyer-Drake DT160 in the middle of the chassis. Foose said as it turns out one of the only Drake engine specialists in the country had a shop right around the corner in Huntington Beach. Vintage Go Karts were hanging from the walls and an even older bumper car sat out front of Foose's office. Even 'Vannin was represented by a flared fender and slot magged Chevy out front. The whirlwind Foose Design tour wrapped quickly and the caravan headed over to Fountain Valley - home of the Metalcrafters.

Metalcrafters

Shop Tour: Foose Design and Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters

Once at Metalcrafters George Gaffoglio rolled a video of the Chrysler Me412 Concept fabrication condensed down to four minutes. In went the 12-cylinder Quad-Turbo. On went the panels. Out rolled the concept car. Metalcrafters builds many of the concept cars we feature here at Jalopnik, and has been doing so since 1979. Next stop was a trip to the design room. There the Hemisfear Foose Coupe spun about on a computer screen, showing detials of every system and subsystem. Chassis and rear subframe. Coolant tubes running through a structural conduit. The central mounted radiator and how it gets air though low pressure air path venting. The body parts lowest to the ground are serviceable in case of ground contact or damage, as Foose himself interjected. Working out the design of the car digitally using Catia V5 allows the various sub-assemblies of the car needed to be constructed individually for production assembly. We were then instructed by a large man in a pinstripe suit squeezing a lemon peel into his espresso, that there were things that could not be photographed. Actually it was George, so we listened.

Phenomena

Shop Tour: Foose Design and Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters

With every turn on the production floor came the wonder we spoke of earlier. CNC machines churning out automotive jewelry. An entire building stuffed with Italian machinery and craftsmen whose sole purpose is to manufacture glass for aerospace and automobiles. Complete and in progress concept cars appeared and disappeared. An autoclave the size of a Zeppelin stood in wait for the carbon fiber Funny Car bodies being assembled by hand. These bodies feature the strength to stand up to 300 mph, yet weigh only 104 pounds. Looking like the car Green Hornet had was a Foose designed 1966 Chrysler Imperial. The heavy is owned by Detroit Casino mogul Gregg Solomon and packs a Hemi along with LX-platform running gear grafted in place of the original '60s-era suspension. Ending up the tour was the shop where the Hemisfear Foose Coupes are assembled. The awe of the day was wrapped up in one phrase by Roger Burgess who stated simply, "this is phenomenal".

Foose Design [chipfoose.com]; Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters [metalcrafters.com]; Unique Performance [uniqueperformance.com]

Related:
Foose Unveils 'Hemisfear'; The EcoJet: Jay Leno's New GM-Outsourced Supercar [Internal]