In addition to building some of the nicest cars in the country at Customs and Hot Rods of Andice, (Texas), Harold and Tracy Chapman are two of the nicest people in hot rodding. They also are serious about drive what they build and participate in several cross-country tours each year in their many stunning hot rods. As with most successful people, it would take a full book to adequately cover the lives of the Chapmans, but here is a tiny glimpse!–Bret Voelkel
RideTech: How did you get started with cars? Did you grow up in a car family?
Harold Chapman: I did not grow up in a car family. My dad was from the hills of West Virginia and vary poor. He worked pipeline work all his life and said cars were just to get you to and from work. I always liked hot rods and muscle cars. My first car was a 1970 Plum Crazy Dodge Challenger that I bought from a bank with a 440 Magnum. It had a hole in the side of the block where a rod went through. My dad let me buy it because he didn’t think I would get it going. I bought a 383 from my older cousin Allen, a mechanic who parted out his Dodge Coronet. I had my Challenger running and driving in a weekend.
RideTech: What was the first full custom car that you built for yourself?
Harold Chapman: The 1969 Camaro below with my wife Tracy standing there is the first full custom project car that I built for myself. I installed an LS1 engine and added a supercharger to it and a 4L80E transmission. I started my shop with a few guys from Wyotech that did the metal work and paint. Traci Weaver from Recovery Room Hot Rod Interiors did the upholstery work.
RideTech: What is more important to you, the journey of the build or the finished product?
Harold Chapman: It’s all important to me. I love looking and buying the car. Going through the building of the project is so much fun. The anticipation of the finished product, then driving the car around the country and going to Goodguys and other car shows where you meet so many nice people.
RideTech: What are the most important components or systems on a Hot Rod?
Harold Chapman: For me, the right high horsepower engine coupled to the right transmission and rear end with the right chassis and components to handle properly. Give it all a great stance, the rest is just the icing on the cake.
RideTech: What do you see as an up-and-coming custom car platform?
Harold Chapman: C4 Corvettes are a great option. These cares are cheap, they handle well with a few modifications and they look good. The younger guys can get into them and have fun on a budget.
RideTech: Can you point to one or two custom car builders who inspired you?
Harold Chapman: I have many talented people working for me that have worked at some of the best shops from around the country. Mike Kaiser is my shop foreman and his taste along with designer Christian Dodson and Jimmy Smith are the people that create the cars we build.
RideTech: What aspect of car building are you best at? What are you worst at?
Harold Chapman: I have worked around super heavy equipment all my life. I can do Mechanical work and heavy metal work but it’s best for me to have my talented group of men build the cars.
RideTech: When a build is “finished” what steps do you take to make sure the car is sorted before handing it over to its owner?
Harold Chapman: That’s the fun part. Mike Kaiser puts miles on the cars then I put miles on the cars. When they have a few hundred miles on them we bring them back in the shop and retighten all the nuts and bolts.
RideTech: Ridler and SMOY-type cars aside, do you think it is getting easier or more difficult for enthusiasts and shops to build cool cars?
Harold Chapman: I think it’s easier to build cool cars today. There are so many people manufacturing parts and pieces that you can choose from to create a cool build.
RideTech: Speaking of awards, what are some of the awards that you have won? Name one award-winning build that stands out? Pic of you with trophy.
Harold Chapman: Winning the Ridler award in 2016 with Billy Thomas 1939 Oldsmobile is one of the highest awards a shop can win. That car also won GoodGuys Street Rod of the Year in 2016. We have won Goodguys Muscle Machine of the Year award in 2015 with our 1968 Corvette. We won GoodGuys America’s Most Beautiful Street Rod award in 2013 with my 33 Ford Roadster. We also won the Builder of the Year award at Hot August Nights in Reno with the 1939 Oldsmobile.
Some photos by Stephen Kim of Wheel Hub Magazine