Someone You Should Know: Automotive Pioneer, Brad Fanshaw

They say if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.

Californian Brad Fanshaw will probably never say he didn’t work for his success, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who loves what he does and who he gets to do it with, more than the man who’d rather give credit than take it.

From producing today’s automotive themed television content to regular appearances at events such as SEMA and Barrett-Jackson, Fanshaw is one of the automotive world’s most respected designers, builders and visionaries whose work, if not name, you may already know.

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“Visionary” is a phrase often referred to when the name Brad Fanshaw is mentioned. But if the name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, his work surely will.

For some, the name Brad Fanshaw may not jump off the page at you and that’s exactly the way he likes it. “I have been incredibly fortunate to have been around some of the most talented  people in their fields pretty much my entire career” says Brad, but we may already be a bit too far ahead.

Perhaps a brief introduction is in order.

While many in the hobby spent more youthful days playing with HotWheels and building model kits, Brad Fanshaw was busy blazing his own path.

“I was, and still am, always interested in learning” Brad tells us. “As a kid though, it was a toss-up between being a motocross racer or an actor” he recalls. “I guess because I had a bike it was a natural progression into BMX biking which was growing in popularity at the time.”

jpemerson.com tim@aaprovideo.com Tim Lillethorup photo

“Brad has had an awesome career” says long time friend Tim Lillethrorup. From our BMX days to Visions, to his time with Boyd and now today’s multimedia platforms, Brad has done it all and been successful everywhere.” photo: aaprovideo.com

In a bit of foreshadowing, the self-described information junkie would excel in his sport and his classroom culminating in a successful professional career which landed him as one of the top ranked BMX racers in the country as well as the BMX Hall of Fame.

Fanshaw’s work ethic would also carry him to a marketing degree which would lead him down an ever widening road of success. “There was so much going on at the time with the burgeoning California scene that I wanted to find a way to bring that to the rest of the country” Fanshaw begins. “Following college I wanted to put my degree to work and when I was approached with the opportunity to join Vision Street Wear I jumped at the chance!”

The company, already well ahead of the curve, offered action sports equipment, apparel  and cutting edge sports events. Brads marketing edge would help propel VSW’s footprint from $10 million annually to a whopping $120 million under five years!

“My time in school along with my professional BMX days taught me that there is always something to learn from other industries, you just have to find what works in what you are doing now.” Today, action sports enthusiast around the world have Fanshaw to thank in part for the creative and marketing Goliath success of the X- Games.

Around the next curve

Always looking ahead, Brad set his sights on yet another industry searching for its big moment. “It was this small building in Stanton (Cali) that was known for its Hot Rods” he recalls. “Boyd Coddington owned Hot Rods by Boyd and they built the most kick ass cars, but outside of the area no one really knew them. They were creating these incredible cars and were among the first to make billet  aluminum wheels!”

“I really never followed the crowd and these cars really fit my personality nicely” says Brad. “This was unique and there was really nothing like it so I talked to Boyd, invested in the company and as they say, the rest was history.”

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Long before Billet wheels became a staple in American hot rod culture, Fanshaw recognized the potential and established himself as a visionary.

When it comes to American Hot Rods, there was none more recognizable than a Boyd Coddington car. With successful stints across multiple platforms, Fanshaw was a rising star, and the two together were about to help Coddington become a household name.

“Boyd was a visionary, but like any small business owner you have to weigh your risks. After many conversations, Boyd and I agreed to partner and expand the business to offer custom Billet wheels by Coddington as well as other aftermarket specialty items.” But as Boyd’s wife Jo explains with a laugh, not everyday was just about work.

“Years ago when Brad and Boyd were taking Hot Rods by Boyd public, Brad was swamped with paperwork. Boyd and Jack Webb, who managed the foundry, called in Brad to Boyd’s office (Boyd loved to play jokes and make bets.) Boyd said to Brad, I will bet you $100.00 you have 17” wheels on your car. Brad of course , knowing he had one of a kind Boyd Coddington 18″ wheels on his ride, took the bet.”

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Alongside Boyd and soon to be automotive royalty Foose, James and “too many super talented guys to even name,”  Brad would help propel the Coddington brand from half a million dollars in sales to in excess of $40 million and onto American Television screens and into today’s Hot Rod culture.

“So”, continues Jo,  “the three of them went to the parking lot and Boyd asked Jack what size are those wheels…..Jack said those are 17”……Brad, to say the least, was so perplexed. Hhe knew he had 18” wheels….paid Boyd the $100.00 and left thinking he had lost his mind!”

“Two days later Boyd, Jack, and Brad were having breakfast at the White House Restaurant in Stanton Ca. when Boyd says “Ok Brad I’ll give you the $100 dollars back…explaining that  a good customer had come in looking for 18″ wheels for his car, and knowing Brad had the only set, sold them off of his car replacing them with the 17”s!”  Brad as usual,  took everything in stride.

Together they hired the best of the best designers, fabricators and tradesman in the country (Names like Chip Foose and Jesse James) and used the cars we built to market their products.

“It was cars and rock & roll and sexy” says Fanshaw, and it made Coddington the King of Hot Rods.

Bonspeed design studio shaping today’s car culture

With motor oil in his veins and years of marketing savvy to his credit, Brad would move on from unprecedented success with Boyd and company to begin yet another genre of automotive culture, television.

Along side friend and business partner Michael Anthony of Van Halen/Chickenfoot fame, Bonspeed would merge what Fanshaw knew best. Automotive themed apparel, aftermarket products and custom billet wheels designed by Brad himself.

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Commissioned by friend and business partner Michael Anthony and built at Boyd’s shop, This gorgeous Ford wears Custom Bonspeed wheels.

Not one to miss a golden opportunity to market his products, Fanshaw would design and built his own custom show cars which not only firmly cemented his reputation, but also thrust Brad further into the spotlight.

Today, Fanshaw’s Bonspeed designs is synonymous with discriminating attention to detail having consistently captured the markets highest awards at SEMA including both the prestigious Ford and GM design awards!

Working with the industries biggest names, Fanshaw's designs have produced the likes of this SALEEN powered Thunderbird, The Bonspeed Banshee F-150 and the menacing Black Rose Mustang.

Shift & Steer to cars, bars, eats and adventure

In addition to his design firm, Brad most recently is best known for his time in front of and behind the camera in today’s automotive rich television and media landscape. With successful stints bringing shows such as Car Warriors and The Car Chasers to prominence, Fanshaw is a regular draw at events such as SEMA and Barrett Jackson.

From producing today's automotive themed television content to regular appearances at events such as SEMA and Barrett Jackson. Fanshaw (with Jo Coddington & Linda Vaughn) is considered by many, one of the automotive world's most respected designers, builders and visionaries.

“I really enjoy getting to bring cool stories to life” says Brad. “To do that, we started Shift & Steer media which is a weekly podcast and internet show that focuses on the Racing, Rides, People & Places of the Motorsport enthusiast lifestyle. “Along with Matt D’Andria and Aaron Hagar, we hook up with cool people and share stories, laughs and some really cool automotive event coverage.”

“The guys a pioneer for sure” says D’Andria,  “I certainly admire and respect Brad and his work is legendary. He’s one of the best guys I know and I’m honored to call him a friend and business partner. He’s a rock star.”

jpemerson.com

With guest Billy Gibbons of ZZ TOP, Dave Marek, Heather Storm and Brad Fanshaw (far right) talk cars, bars, eats and adventure.

For Fanshaw, it’s all about connecting to your audience. “I’ve always said that if your in a room full of like minded folks you will always have something to talk about. It’s this approach that makes yet another Fanshaw project, “Man seeks Adventure” one of the fastest growing segments on the net.

“Anytime you can get people like (Co Hosts) Dave Marek and Heather Storm together to talk cars, music, drinks and travel you have yourself a great show. You walk through events and get to talk to people and there’s so much more commonality than just cool cars and that is what this show is all about.”

For Brad, who’s easy going and welcoming nature immediately puts you at ease, it’s really about people. “Like I said, I have been so fortunate to be around some of the best people who were, and are, legends in their field. Each one has taught me something different but one thing they all had in common was an eagerness to help me better myself. I’ve never forgotten that.”

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Behind the scenes or in front of the camera, Fanshaw has helped create some of some of today's hot rod cultures most influential builds, products and automotive programming.

For the rest of us car shifting, music singing, travel dreaming, American car culture and armchair gear heads who just cant get enough open road to let’er run, stay tuned. “I’ve got a couple of projects that I’ve been eager to give a shot that I’m still working out the details on and I’m looking to produce more shows” Brad tells us quietly.

Like those before him,  the unabashed Fanshaw is quick to extend his time, knowledge and experience with an unassuming kindness to talk to, and more importantly, listen to any and all who ask. “Boyd used to say to me every time the phone rang that this one could be the big one and he was right.”

“No one gets where they want to be by themselves” says the man who should know. Fortunately for car lovers everywhere, not only do we get to ride shotgun, but it’s been one hell of a trip.

Is there someone we should know? email [email protected]jpemerson.com to share your story.

About the author

JP Emerson

My affliction with vintage iron is matched only by my knowledge of classic Rock ’N Roll. Although a heavy lean to all things Ford blue, I have a sharp appreciation for all makes and models, especially those that gulp gas and drop oil to mark their territory. Having provided work for multiple magazines, manufacturers, SEMA, and a top secret list of celebrity and auto insiders, I understand the bond between cars and owners.
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