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SO-CAL Speed Shop President, Pete Chapouris III
Pete grew up in El Monte, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, and started “cruisin’ the boulevards” as a young hot rodder with his friends around 1955. It was an influential time for a young man bitten by the rod and custom bug.

Pete’s first hot rod was a ’32 roadster but at the time, he was in love with Gil Granuci's 'A' coupe so he sold the body, bought a Model 'A' coupe and channeled it over the Deuce rails.

Like most enthusiasts, Pete went through a string of cars, wheeling and dealing his way up market until he could afford a new '61 T-bird which instantly became a semi-custom valley cruiser.


At the time, Pete was working as a product development technician at Clayton Mfg. Co., manufacturer of dynamometers. During his tenure, he met Mike Hoag who had left Blair’s to form M & S Welding with Sherm Gunn, building drag cars. Pete wanted to work for them and consequently took welding classes at night until they gave him a part-time job. In 1971, he left Clayton and went to work at Blair’s, a speed shop with a history reaching as far back as Alex Xydias’ SO-CAL emporium.

A member of the Vintage Tin hot rod club, Pete began work on a chopped ’34 coupe that would have a seminal impact upon not only his life but also the hot rod world.

Finished in traditional black and flames, the coupe was photographed for the cover of the November 1973 issue of Rod & Custom along with a similarly chopped canary yellow coupe of Jim “Jake” Jacobs. The two rodders hit it off and decided to start a small hot rod repair business in Temple City, California. Then came the call from Hollywood, specifically Howie Horowitz, producer of the hugely successful Batman series. He wanted Pete’s car for a made-for-TV movie called The California Kid. The show starred a young actor named Martin Sheen.

The Kid put Pete and Jake’s Hot Rod Parts on the map, and the pair ran a thriving business which, because of their innovative style and seat-of-the-pants marketing savvy, took the hot rod business out of the backyard and into the mainstream.

Pete and Jake’s was eventually sold in 1987 and Pete went to work as Vice President of Marketing at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). Having been instrumental in the formation of the Street Rod Equipment Association (SREA), the job was a natural and Pete became a driving force in the transformation of the SREA into the Street Rod Market Alliance, a council of SEMA. Pete was also elected into the SRMA Hall of Fame.

Pete has never been a desk-bound kind of a guy, and when it came time to move on from SEMA, in 1990, he formed an alliance with Bob Bauder and, among other exciting projects, completed a pair of Harley-Davidson “HogZZillas” for Billy F. Gibbons of ZZ Top. The friendship with Billy has resulted in numerous projects.

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