Foothill Fabrication Thinks Beyond the Traditional Hot Rod Mold
If you look around nowadays, it seems like anybody can have a hot rod shop, especially if you’re interested in talking about it on a TV show. But it’s also true there is a lot of talent out there that doesn’t get a white-hot spotlight, shops like Foothill Fabrication in Corona, California.
Owned and operated by 46-year-old Aaron Broughton, the business specializes in meticulous attention to detail as well as fabrication, which is why it’s part of the name and not “speed shop.” Aaron grew up in Anaheim, California, (a highly productive region of the country for car culture) but his family eventually settled in Corona back in 1989.
After high school, Aaron he enrolled at Riverside Community College. Since he owned a vintage Volkswagen and wanted to learn how to paint, he enrolled in some classes in that trade, but the education he received taught him he didn’t really like the sanding part of doing paint work. But while cruising around Corona in his Bug in his early 20s he became friends with another couple of local VW guys, Ryan Reed and Scott Howard, and as fate would have it they all got jobs at a car shop out in Temecula and got familiar with the mill, lathe, and other fabrication tools.
While working at that shop, a friend took Aaron to visit a race car shop that had more of a welding and fabrication base, and Aaron was inspired by what he saw. He figured this type of work might be his calling. He’d head back to the race shop at night after his day job and, for a few hours every day, he began to learn the process of designing, building, and fabricating whatever was needed. After months of practicing how to weld, the race shop hired him to work there full time.
As Aaron, Scott, and Ryan were getting to know other builders in the area, they’d stop by Fat Jack Robinson’s shop to see what the team there was working on. Fat Jack was already well known in the hot rod world, having helped bring fat-fendered hot rods to the forefront of the industry. By the end of the ’90s, Aaron was working for Jack.
Aaron’s hot rodding experience was expanded at Fat Jack’s with cars like Jay Losi’s Deuce roadster (outfitted with a Donovan engine) and a ’37 Ford coupe with a pro street look being built in-house at that time. As an added bonus, both Ryan Reed and Scott Howard would eventually come to work for Jack, too.
After some time, Reed left Jack’s and went to work for the SO-CAL Speed Shop and, not too much longer after that, Aaron got hired by SO-CAL’s Shane Weckerly to work there also. Aaron still wasn’t getting to where he thought he needed to be and, after trying to get more involved at different times with master fabricators Steve Davis and Dan Fink, he started renting a spot in Corona to do some side work on his own.
It was during this time he found out his SO-CAL compadres Roy Schmidt and Birdman were leaving SO-CAL to join up with Boyd Coddington’s new venture in La Habra. Aaron left SO-CAL and worked for Boyd for about a year before figuring out that he really needed to concentrate doing his own work, so he split his time again, working for SO-CAL while expanding his own space he’d been renting. The ratio of time spent between those two shops slowly shifted and, by 2006, Aaron was ready to go on his own full-time by opening Foothill Fabrication, bringing in longtime friend Scott Howard to help (Scott had also put time in at SO-CAL Speed Shop and Boyd’s last shop).
Aaron explains the name of the shop purposely doesn’t include “hot rod shop” because he wants to be able to work on anything he wants, especially if a customer would bring him something interesting and creative. But, as it invariably happens, some folks would bring small projects to the shop that would snowball into full-fledged builds.
Among the first few projects to come from the new business were a ’33 Ford sedan (featured in Street Rodder magazine in 2012), a sapphire-colored ’55 Chevy Cameo (featured in Classic Trucks magazine), and a ’56 big-window Ford F100 (another Classic Trucks feature), which all provided a pretty good project-to-magazine feature ratio for a brand new shop!
Since opening, the shop has expanded its footprint (it’s now 5,000 sq. ft.), added a recently installed CNC mill that cranks out proprietary parts, and Aaron has added more workers, including Adrian Reyes as a fabricator and Paco Castell as an expert prep and paint guy. Aaron, who has packed a lot of experience into his 46 years, says he has always felt if you treat someone the way you want to be treated, then it will all work out. That’s the foundation of how he manages his employees.
Current projects in the shop include a ’37 Ford coupe with a Holman Moody-equipped 351 engine, a ’56 Jaguar with a Corvette ZR1 engine, a ’56 Volkswagen Bug with a injected and turbocharged 2275cc engine, and a full-fendered ’34 Ford cabriolet. All of these full-build cars are in the shop in bare metal and they will all be finished to the exacting standards Aaron and his shop has become known for. As you might tell, Foothill Fabrication is not a run-of-the-mill hot rod shop, but rather a cross-section of cool cars that all lend themselves to the hot rod theme that is still alive and well in Southern California.
Photos by Eric Geisert