DreamWheels!: The man behind ZZ Tops’ famous hot rod comes to Metro Cruise

Pete Charpouris from So-Cal Speed Shop
Pete Chapouris from So-Cal Speed Shop

Why does Pete Chapouris, owner of one of the nation’s oldest specialty parts shop for hot rods, So-Cal Speed Shop, enjoy coming all the way from Southern California to Wyoming’s 28th Street Metro Cruise?


“Oh, that’s easy,” Chapouris said during a recent phone interview. “The people.”


“You can see lot of cars during one of these events and even in a lifetime, but it’s the people that make it interesting,” Chapouris said.


Chapouris returns to this year’s Metro Cruise set for Aug. 26 and 27. He will be at the Steve’s Antique Auto Repair display on the west end of Rogers Plaza for both days, signing free autographs and sharing experiences with car lovers.


Last year was Chapouris first time being at the Metro Cruise and he said there were a lot of high points such as visiting the area’s most popular bakery, Marge’s Donut Den.


“I also give a lot of kudos to the police department,” Chapouris said. “I have been to a lot of big events like this and [the officers] did a nice job of crowd control.” Especially, he noted, since 28th Street was packed with cars and people.


But for Chapouris and his wife Carol, the key to any event is the people who become an extended family to them. Steve Sturim, owner of Steve’s Antique Auto Repair which hosts Chapouris’s visit, said last year they were able to meet up with folks from Allendale’s Gas Axe Garage and others.


The car that started it all for Pete Chapouris, the 1934 coupe "The California Kid."
The car that started it all for Pete Chapouris, the 1934 coupe “The California Kid.”

“It’s just hanging out with about 20 to 30 people who see it the same way and have similar experiences in remodeling cars,” Strum said.


For those who do not follow or not in the world of custom hot rods and classic cars, So-Cal and Chapouris may be an unknown. However, few can forget the ZZ Tops famous hot rod, The Eliminator, which appeared on the 1993 album of the same name. The car was heavily influenced by Chapouris’s 1934 coupe that featured flames and would launch Chapouris’s career as it was not only featured on the cover of “Rod & Custom” magazine but was in the made-for-TV movie “The California Kid” starring Martin Sheen.


A leader in the hot rod scene for more than 50 years with such companies as Pete and Jake’s Hot Rod Parts and The Pete Chapouris Group (PC3g), Chapouris took over the So-Cal brand from its founder Alex Zdias in the late 1990s. For Chapouris, it was a no brainer in that So-Cal was a recognized brand that he could build upon with his own talents and background, he said. With a home base in Pomona, Calif., Chapouris and his team have accomplished a lot in the last 20-plus years, with retail outlets across the country and into Canada. In fact, Steve’s Antique Auto is a retail location with Sturim saying that working with Chapouris and So-Cal has given him a lot more than just street cred.


“Working with Pete has given me a lot of insight into a different aspect of this business,” Sturim said, adding its nice to be able to share stories and ideas with someone who has such a legacy in the business.


Chapouris has won numerous awards for his work, been inducted in to several hall of fames, and been apart of a number of television and radio shows including “Street Rod & Custom Radio,” but at the end of the day, it’s still all about the people and the cars.


“When I was asked to come back my wife and I really didn’t have to think much about it,” Chapouris said, adding that it was the West Michigan hospitality that made saying “yes” so easy.


Steve Sturim and Pete Chapouris will be part of the DreamWheels! show on Saturday, Aug. 27, which is from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at Rogers Plaza, 972 28th St. SW, and Pal’s Diner, 6503 28th St. SE. Strum and Chapouris will be at the Rogers Plaza location.