Foothill fab shop tour, foothil fabrication shop profile, hot rod shop

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.

Foothill fab shop tour, foothill fabrication shop profile, hot rod shop

Despite his young appearance, Foothill Fabrication owner Aaron Broughton has paid his dues by honing his skills in many well-known Southern California-based hot rod shops before opening Foothill Fabrication in 2006.

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.

Foothill fab shop tour, foothill fabrication shop profile, hot rod shop

Foothill’s Scott Howard, working on Otto Vega’s VW. Years ago, Otto had bought Aaron’s personal Bug (a well-known cover car) but was tired of people saying “that’s Aaron’s car,” so he’s having Foothill build a high-end VW he can call his own. It runs on dual fuel (gas or E85), has the one-off IRS trailing arms, a narrowed-track front beam, a tubbed rear, late-model Porsche 996 disc brakes, and a Dave Folts five-speed bus transmission. In all, the turbo, fuel-injected, 2275cc engine should easily produce 250-300 hp.

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.

Foothill fab shop tour, foothill fabrication shop profile, hot rod shop

Ed McSweeney bought his ’56 Jaguar XK140 in late-’60s (it had an American V8 in it then, too), but parked it in the ’80s until recently. Wanting to redo it to the standards he always wanted, he contacted Foothill, who fixed old accident repair work on both the body and chassis, addressed the gaps, and added a Tremec six-speed behind the ZR1 Corvette engine.

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.

Foothill fab shop tour, foothill fabrication shop profile, hot rod shop

Scott Robertson is an amazing graphic artist and has designed and provided much of the material for his ’34 Ford truck that he entrusted Foothill Fabrication to assemble, paint, and finish. Aaron and his team fabricated much of the vehicle’s sheet aluminum, matching the design of the water-jet-cut aluminum plate.

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).

Foothill fab shop tour, foothill fabrication shop profile, hot rod shop

After Foothill did some sheet metal work on Morgan McPherson’s ’34 Ford cabriolet, fabbed the exhaust system, and handmade some side mirror arms, the car was turned over to Paco Castell for body prep and single-stage PPG black paint (Paco has worked for some of the best hot rod painters in SoCal). Then it’ll go back to the team for a sano wiring job.

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!

Foothill fab shop tour, foothill fabrication shop profile, hot rod shop

Scott Van Steenwyk’s ’34 Ford sedan was an unpainted driver when Foothill first received it, but the shop helped the owner take the ’90s look out of the car and make it more timeless, smoothing off the casting marks on the crate 502 and fabbing one-off parts used throughout the car.

Foothill fab shop tour, foothill fabrication shop profile, hot rod shop

Randy Ito’s deep sapphire ’55 Chevy Cameo pickup (set up on the first full chassis designed/built by Total Cost Involved) went through a couple of shops before being painted (in part by Foothill’s Paco Castel), but it ended up at Foothill Fabrication for some minor fabrication as well as its final fit and finish assembly.

Foothill fab shop tour, foothill fabrication shop profile, hot rod shop

For the frame under Roger Narron’s ’56 Ford big-window F100, Aaron used his own chassis jig to get everything right. The idea was to leave the truck mostly stock, but Foothill did add a few subtle changes only true enthusiasts would recognize (reshaping the rear bed sides, moving the gas filler, etc.). Everyone else would just think it’s a clean old truck!

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.

Foothill fab shop tour, foothill fabrication shop profile, hot rod shop

Chuck and Melinda Smoot’s ’37 Ford coupe, fitted with a Holman Moody-equipped 351 (and backed to a Tremec five-speed) uses a one-off Foothill Fabrication four-bar design as well as their trans and engine mounts, and is becoming a perfect blend of vintage NOS and race-car-inspired pieces.

Foothill fab shop tour, foothill fabrication shop profile, hot rod shop

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.

Foothill fab shop tour, foothil fabrication shop profile, hot rod shopFoothill Fabrication

1441 Pomona Rd, Suite 13
Corona, CA 92882
(951) 278-4800
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Photos by Eric Geisert

A self-taught photojournalist, Eric Geisert worked for 3 years at VW Trends magazine before joining Street Rodder magazine in 1991. In 2002 he was named one of The 50 Who Made A Difference at the 50th Detroit Autorama and, in 2004, was named editor of Kit Car magazine, a 30-year-old title. By 2006 a move back to Street Rodder came with a Senior Editor position and, in 2007, Eric was inducted into the Circle of Champions, the Detroit Autorama's Hall of Fame. In 2013, at 52 years old, Eric became a freelance writer supplying articles and photography to publications around the world, which allows him to work on his collection of 12 or so cars that includes a ’34 five-window Ford coupe, a '32 Ford roadster, a reproduction '59 Lotus 11, a 356 Porsche speedster, a '55 Chevy 210, and a '59 Karmann Ghia. Over his career, Eric's photographic images have graced 300 magazine covers and he’s written literally thousands of automotive-related articles.