Gene Winfield is a true living legend of the hot rod car culture! For over 60 years he has been building & racing cars, chopping & customizing cars, laying on custom paint jobs, and unselfishly sharing his techniques with enthusiastic fans of his work. Today, in his mid-80’s, Winfield travels the world attending car shows and conducting workshops on metal shaping and top chopping.
Gene started working on cars in a shop behind his mother’s house in Modesto, CA in 1946. Not only did he build his own race cars, but he did work for other auto enthusiasts. Over the years he tuned, customized, and painted cars for customers, all while racing competitively at El Mirage and the Bonneville Salt Flats, which he continues to do today.
In the late 50’s he developed a technique for blending paint colors known as the Winfield Fade. His customizing expertise became famous when his radial custom, the Jade Idol, was a consistent winner on the national car show scene. He followed that up with an innovative treatment of a custom 1949 Mercury called the Solar Scene.
Soon, Gene’s work came to the attention of Detroit and he was asked to design and build concept cars for Ford and Mercury for the Cavalcade of Customs national tour. He went on to design custom many accessories for AMT Model Corporation for their plastic model kits.
Winfield was not satisfied with merely customizing existing vehicles, so he started building his own creations using hand-formed aluminum. From that was born the 427 Ford-powered Strip Star and exotic custom the Reactor.
The Reactor was so groundbreaking that I got the attention of Hollywood and was featured in various TV shows such as Bewitched, Star Trek, and Batman. This soon led to a full-time job in 1966 managing AMT’s Speed & Custom Shop in Phoenix, AZ building one-off cars and vehicles for Hollywood.
During the late 60’s & early 70’s, Detroit started offering high performance cars right off the assembly line and hot rods and customs were fading away. Racing and custom work was hard to find so Winfield started working on commercials with such companies as Goodyear, Sunoco, Chevrolet, Montgomery Wards, STP, and Manufacturers Hanover Trust. With his reputation for being the go- to- guy, Gene eventually started building custom vehicles for Hollywood movies such as Sleeper, The Last Starfighter, Blade Runner, Back to the Future II, and Robocop.
What comes around goes around, and soon hot rods and customs made a comeback. Winfield’s talent for chopping tops and blending paint was again in demand. He eventually move to a 5 acre facility near Mojave, CA where he spends long hours working on customer cars between trips to car shows around the country and around the world. It is not uncommon for Gene to be commissioned to fly to a far off country to paint a car. Several of his recent customer cars have become well-known, such as the Wild Cad from Austrailia.
Winfield also conducts metal shaping seminars and top chopping workshops around the country where he shares his experience and knowledge of welding and metalergy with young hot rodders and customizers of today. He is always happy to meet a new friend or fan and is well-loved by legions of admirers around the world. He is truly a living legend.
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