As a tribute to a Hot Rodding Icon gone to soon….

LIMEFIRE - A look back at just one
of his many landmark builds….

words - Tony Thacker    photos - Randy Lorentzen

Pete Chapouris was quite possibly one of the most influential of the post WWII era.

Pete got his first big break in the hot rod industry through his old friend Gray Baskerville at Hot Rod Magazine. Gray introduced Pete to Jim “Jake” Jacobs as they were both bucking the restored style that was popular at the time. Damn it, they were chopping the tops!  Gray put what became “The California Kid” and Jake’s coupe on the cover of the November 1973 issue of Rod & Custom. Suddenly Pete and Jake were in business. Eventually they got a call from the producer of the Batman TV series, Howie Horowitz looking for a car to star in his new movie, “The California Kid”. The movie put the flamed hot rod in households all across America and initiating Cal’ Kid clones all over the world.

Hot rod trends seem to shift every ten years or so, and a decade after The California Kid Pete and Jake launched the “Fat Attack” with Pete’s purple flamed ’39 Ford convertible. Hot rodding the post WWII, so called “fat rendered” cars was nothing new but Pete’s marketing strategy once again jump started the industry.

In 1986 Pete and Jake’s was sold and Chapouris went to work at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) as VP of Marketing. He brought personality, pizzazz and more impotently enthusiasm and passion for hot rods of all kinds. He helped initiate programs that are still in place today, and was later inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame in 1999.

After SEMA it “up the hill” to Crestline CA where he overbuilt the neighborhood with a huge shop that turned out numerous significant hot hods including Limefire, (featured here) the Pierson Bros Coupe, the Doane Spencer Roadster, Hogzillas for Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, and fortuitously the So-Cal Belly Tank Lakester for Bruce Meyer.

Being so far from the action didn’t work for Pete and in 1995 he moved back to Los Angeles and opened PC3g in Pomona. It was a struggle, even to pronounce and Pete didn’t know quite what to do. Then one night an epiphany - resurrect the So-Cal Speed Shop. He made the call to So-Cal founder Alex Xydias who had been canny enough to protect the name since closing up shop in 1963. Thirty four years later, SO-CAL (now in caps) was back in business. Talk about right time, right place! The hobby was just be inning to shift away from Boyd Coddington’s smooth look and Pete’s new traditionalist approach became the next big thing.

Surrounded by his old cohorts, SO-CAL turned out some amazing cars. Restoration of the Bob McGee Roadster, Kopperhed for Billy Gibbons, the Duffy Livingston Eliminator, and of course the iconic red and white scolloped So-CAL Roadster. It would be cloned repeatedly, just like The Kid.

Pete’s innate skill of being at the right place and doing the right thing garnered a lot of attention. The first big job was a Bonneville ZT-T wagon for MG Rover. It didn’t sent a record but ran 225 mph and returned S)-CAL to it’s lakes racing roots. Peter Stevens, chief designer at MG Rover and designer of the McLaren F1 said of Chapouris, ‘Such a fine guy, a great eye for line, form and detail.”

One of Pete’s proudest moments came when he worked with Mark Reuss and Al Oppenheiser on the GM Bonneville program, particularly when they wanted all of the cars in So-CAL colors, just as MG had done. Al said, “I was lucky to able to call Pete my friend, and I’m thankful for every memory I’ll have, forever. Together we nine world speed records in five years.”

Regardless of all of the project cars, Pete’s enduring passion was to help young people find a place in life and discover their talents. In 2010 Pete became instrumental in the birth of the Alex Xydias Center for Automotive Arts (AXC) at Fairplex in Pomona CA. AXC’S goal is to help young people, primarily high school students prepare for a career in the automotive industry. One time SO-Cal shop manager Sheane Weckerly said it best, “He took all the young guys under his wing and guided them towards greatness.”

Despite numerous physical ailments, about which he never complained, (and I think they were many), Chapouris never lost his enthusiasm for hot odds and the industry/hobby/sport to which he dedicated his life, and which in turn gave him life. In the summer of 2016 he and his wife Carol drove his Dad’s ’26 T Roadster to Canada and back. It was the cars 40th anniversary. He also took the car to Japan for the Mooneyes Yokohama Show. Just before he died he was active in the shop overseeing the builds of a 3 window coupe for Carl Akins and a roadster that was planned as an AMBR contender for the 2018 Grand National Roadster Show. He died doing what he loved and what he did best, building hot rods.

Built as a ride for the street or strip, the interior is no nonsense. Zeus fasteners hold the aluminum panels in place for easy removal. Simple cloth inserts in the door panels brings a touch of street comfort. A full compliment of VDO guages, a column mounted tach, a set of toggle switches, and a B&M floor mounted stick, done!

Pure 60’s kool, a Moon tank mounted on the front frame horns carries a dose of racing fuel whenever it’s 1/4 mile time. Spindle mount wheels add to the 60’s drag theme, as does the Halibrand quick change rearend.

383 cubic inches of B&M blown stroker small block Chevy makes 495 h.p. Sanderson headers still produces the “Limefire” headers to this day.

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