5 Minutes With Harold Chapman
Harold Chapman didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a hot rod shop owner. He started Texas-based Customs and Hot Rods of Andice out of necessity after bad experiences with other shops forced him to hire a crew of fabricators to build his first street rod. That sort of can-do attitude came naturally for Harold, who built his own successful construction company, and has since started another after selling the first one.
Since opening its doors in 2005, CHRA has made a name for itself by turning out a steady stream of top-quality rods, customs, and restomods, including a Ridler Award winner and several Goodguys Top 12 champions. Harold is adamant about the shop’s builds being road-worthy drivers and sets a good example by hitting the highway with his wife Tracy in a vintage vehicle as often as he can. The Chapmans have been on every Goodguys Hall of Fame Road Tour since the beginning, and this year enjoyed their ride in their ’57 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible.
We caught up briefly with Harold to talk cars, travel, cycling, and Texas.
Goodguys Gazette: What was your first car?
Harold Chapman: A ’70 Dodge Challenger, Plum Crazy purple with a white stripe and a blown-up 440 with a hole in the side of the block. I bought it from a bank for $500. I was 17 and my dad didn’t want me to have a performance car, but when he heard it had a blown-up motor he said ‘ok.’ I had a 383 in it by the next weekend and I was out driving.
GG: Customs and Hot Rods of Andice is kind of a second career for you. How did the shop get its start?
Chapman: I had a ’35 Chevrolet three-window that I took to several shops, and each one of them I paid $5,000 or $10,000 and they did nothing. I have a mechanical background, so I decided I could do this myself. I hired two guys from Wyotech, and they introduced me to three of their friends, so I hired them, too. And I just kept refining it.
GG: How does running a shop compare to running a construction company?
Chapman: When I ran it personally, it was a lot like running a construction company with a bunch of welders. I found some really good guys, including Mike Kaiser, who came on as a fabricator. As we got bigger, I let him start managing, and then it got to a point where he only manages. We have 18 guys; managing them is a very full-time job.
GG: Are there other shops that inspired you when you started CHRA?
Chapman: I hate to say this, but not really. I knew what I wanted, and I leaned on the people I hired to help me get there. Everything I’ve done, I’ve tried to be the best of the best. I just kept going until I got the best people I could find. We try to build timeless cars. I don’t want to build a car where you can tell what year it was built.
GG: You’ve been on all the Goodguys Hall of Fame Road Tours, as well as many other road trips. What’s your favorite part of hitting the road in an old car?
Chapman: Going to restaurants, gas stations, and hotels where people aren’t expecting that type of a car, and they’re blown away. It freaks people out that you would drive that kind of car, and that they get to see them in person. I also love the people on the tours.
GG: You’re also an avid cyclist. How long is a typical bike ride for you?
Chapman: I ride a Peloton five days a week in my basement, an hour to an hour and a half a day. And on Saturdays I’ll go on a 50- to 80-mile ride with my two oldest sons.
GG: You’ve been in Texas most of your life. What’s the most Texas thing about you?
Chapman: My loyalty. In my construction days, I worked in most of the United States. I could have lived anywhere, but I always came home to central Texas. I love TexMex food, too!
GG: Your shop has proven itself with a Ridler Award, multiple Goodguys Top 12 honors, and other elite accolades. Is it more engaging to build projects at that level, or more modest drivers?
Chapman: I’m not trying to prove anything anymore. We are still building some high-end cars, but we’re building lot of high-quality driver cars, It’s pretty much whatever the customer wants. My guys always want everything to be Ridler quality.
GG: You have an ’87 Corvette that’s a regular on the Goodguys AutoCross track, with Chris Jacobs driving. What do you enjoy about that?
Chapman: I like the people who are involved in AutoCross. There’s a lot of really good people, and they tend to go from show to show. When Goodguys opened its year cutoff to 1987, I bought that Corvette, put an LS9 in it, a Bowler 4L80E, and had RideTech build a heavy-duty rearend. Everywhere I go with that car people love it.
GG: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the old car hobby in recent years?
Chapman: The biggest change is when we went from shiny paint under the hood to different matte finishes, which I swear I started in 2013. The next biggest change is the LS motor, dressed up in every configuration where you can’t tell what it really is. It’s like how the small block Chevy cast aside the Flathead Ford; now the LS has done that to the small block.
GG: What trends do you see coming in the old car hobby?
Chapman: There are so many more shops and so much more money out there that people are willing to spend on a car, I just see a lot of high-end resto mods being built.