In October the Northwest’s own Petersen Auction Group held their Salem Auction at the Oregon State Fairgrounds. This one was the third and final auction for 2015.
The auction offered nearly 80 vehicles, some antiques, some modern muscle, some hot rods, in general some interesting and fun cars and trucks. The first things to “cross the block” are usually automotive memorabilia. There is often restored service station gas pumps, air & water stations, signs and other collectibles. I like these nostalgia pieces, though I really don’t have any room for them. The restored items are always beautifully done and are items we would all be proud to own.
The real fun began around 10 a.m. with a 1972 GMC Pickup crossing the block. The third car was a very well preserved 1971 Mercedes 250, 4dr. sedan. It appeared to be all stock and well cared for. I couldn’t believe it was a 44 year old car. A friend of mine bought it. Since he had two cars there I helped him get his daily driver home after the auction, he drove the Mercedes. His report was that he loved the car, everything worked, it ran great and he was fortunate to have gotten it.
February 2016 begins a new year of Petersen Auctions. Again at the Oregon State Fairgrounds, all inside, warm and dry on Saturday February 6th. See their ad in this issue for contact info for consignments or visit their website, www.petersencollectorcars.com. You just might find your next fun vehicle at the auction.
One of my friends laughs at me and I don’t know why. Well, maybe I have an idea but he seems to usually be there with me so … You see he makes fun of me and rust. His comments include, “You must have rust in your veins, or grease … We often go to swap meets together and I’m usually found gazing in wide eyed wonder at some rust colored treasure that he hasn’t a clue about. He’ll ask “what’s that,” or he might just shake his head, turn away and chuckle as I stop to study some unidentifiable old part. He just doesn’t get it.
We do have different tastes in collectible cars and trucks but there is crossover. He sees humor in my knowledge of this part or that part for some old American car, while he on the other hand knows way to much about old Porsches, BMW’s, Auto Union (Is that a car brand?) or Mercedes.
Swap meets are a great place for us car guys to go find parts and pieces or even whole cars for future and current projects. The Canby Harvest Swap meet never disappoints. Usually in early October with a lot undercover at the Clackamas County Fair and Event Center, you might find just what you’re looking for.
This years’ swap meet was a pretty good one. I took some unneeded but usable stuff and I sold everything I took except for one piece. I also found somethings that I just couldn’t live without, though I’m happy to say I brought home far less than I took. My friend sort of took a car and brought home a different one. I must say, things were changing hands at a brisk pace. Put this one on your to do list for next fall. Oh, and next month, in January, don’t forget the NWDRA Performance Swap meet. (See coming events this issue) One of my favorites too.
This is the story of a car that never left home.
I was Service Manager at the local Mopar dealership in the 60s, so I got to see a lot of neat cars go through the shop. It was late summer in 1969 and I had received some shop manual updates, and in the packet was a picture of the new 1970 Dodge Challenger that was going to be released. It had a lot of different engine options and was pretty cool looking. My wife was the title clerk in the same dealership so I took the picture in and said “what do you think?”
She also liked it, so we started talking about getting a new car. I currently had a ‘68 Plymouth with no power steering or power brakes, which she hated.
So one evening I met with the boss’s son to order a new Challenger. Now remember that they had not been released yet, so we were ordering one sight unseen. We sat down and started going through the order book.
Well let’s do the R/T package, as that had the better suspension and some little extras. I guess we had better add the SE Edition, as this gave you the leather front seats (no fine Corinthian leather in those days), small back window and upper console. Let’s just order the standard steel wheels with dog dish hubcaps as I will have a set of mag wheels by then. Incidentally, the dog dish hubcaps are still in the paper wrappers and in the box they came in. They have never been installed!
Let’s do a stripe delete on the hood and side stripes as they would fade badly, and I didn’t want to mess with that. Let’s not worry about power windows or A/C as I/we won’t be keeping it very long. We also added a rear luggage rack as the trunk was pretty small. I knew the rack would at least hold a case of beer. We also added the new AM 8 track radio which still has a Jim Croce tape in it.
We had pretty well spec’d out the car. It was going to be Plum Crazy Purple with a black vinyl top. The first comment by one of my friends was, “Why did you order purple, are you OK?”
The last thing to do was decide on the engine. The boss’s son said, “What about the motor?” I wasn’t sure so he pulled out a coin and said “heads 440, tails Hemi.” He flipped the coin and it came up heads. I had thought of a hemi, but they had kept us busy in the shop and I was looking for something to go out and play at night and not have to mess with. Little did I know what these cars would be worth. Besides I was going to order a new car next year and would put a hemi in it.
So the order was placed, now the waiting game. The total was $4300.00, how in the world will we pay for this?
I received confirmation that it had been built and shipped, once again the wait. The boys in the shop knew to keep me informed if a car transport showed up. One afternoon I get a holler from the back of the shop.
“Denny you need to see what is on this transport.” She was here. Out the door I went to take a look at her as this was the first one to come to the dealership and the first in town. Wow, that picture didn’t do it justice, it was neat!
The transport driver was unchaining it and I said, “that’s my car, do you mind if I back it off the transport?”
He laughed and said “I’ll help you.”
Boy was that sweet. It immediately went into the new car prep stall to get prepped. While he was prepping it I had one of the guys mounting the new mags to go on her.
My wife and I decided we would wait until Friday night to pull her out on the street. Those were the days when cruising was a big deal and legal in our town. Friday evening we rolled out onto Main Street to make the first loop. That purple car was attracting a lot of attention as it was the first Challenger in town.
It was November of 1969, and that was the same year that my wife and I decided to take up the sport of snowmobiling. We didn’t know in those days that you were supposed to have a big diesel pickup with 4-wheel drive and fancy enclosed trailer, so onto the Challenger went a frame mount trailer hitch and we towed a 2 place sled trailer behind it for 5 years!
By the way, we now have a big diesel 4-wheel drive and enclosed trailer to haul the sleds!
As time went by my wife started to drive it to work and it went through the usual fads. Remember when side pipes were in? Yep, she had a set but they didn’t like the snow in the winter so they came off.
I continued working in dealerships and, most dealerships allowed the service manager to have a demo, so the car started to sit. At the time it had to sit outside a lot and the sun started to take its toll on her. Sitting outside, people would stop by asking if it was for sale. I would tell them, “No, I am going to restore her.” Then I would get the look like “yeah, I have heard that before.”
As time went by and the Mopars became popular I told my wife, “Let’s get the Challenger back on the street.” This was about 25 years ago and replacement parts were hard to come by.
It came completely apart. All the suspension off and almost a frame off resto. The top was replaced and front seat covers also. The rear seat was okay, as it probably never had more than 4 people in the back seat. If you look in the back you know why nobody would get back there!
A lot of the pieces we carefully cleaned and reused, as nothing was available. I learned how to polish stainless and detail some of the pieces. I used all of the original glass except the windshield, but was able to find an NOS windshield to go in it.
We buffed the other glass as best we could. I have people ask about the scratches in the glass and I explain that in those days we didn’t have a fancy ice scraper to clean windows, it was normally a metal spatula. I wanted to keep the original glass and as many of the original parts on it as possible.
I would say that 98% of the car is original parts that were cleaned or reconditioned. After about 2 years of work, she was finally finished. Then guess what? With all the pretty new paint I didn’t want to drive her, so she sat a lot covered up.
As I started the restoration on my first car, a ‘63 409 SS Impala which Ed featured in one of his first editions, I got to thinking that we need to start driving that purple car. We can always fix paint, so three years ago I took it to the Goodguys show in Loveland, CO. It was the first show she had been to in year. She was awarded the Mopar Muscle award.
Then that Impala came along. I would take the Challenger to some local shows and it was funny when someone would come up and say “is that your original Challenger? I didn’t know you still had it.”
We recently took it to the Goodguys Southwest Nationals in Scottsdale, AZ. and received another Mopar Muscle Award. It’s fun to talk to people when they find out it is a one owner car and we tell them some of the experiences we have had over the years. As all car people know, it is a great feeling to get into one of these old cars, fire it up and remember the fun we have had in them. Remember, the days of the church key that you got when you purchased a six pack of cold adult beverages? Well, the church key still rides in the ashtray where it has been for 46 years. Incidentally it has had some use over those years, but not now due to modern engineering and the invention of pop tops.
After all these years we have decided we will keep that old purple car, as we have had a lot of fun in her and many fond memories. So, we always have to grin when we hear someone say, “I used to have one like that.” I always tell them, “we were so poor we couldn’t afford anything else and had to keep it so long it became valuable.” Lol.
The first car I ever owned was a ’61 Beetle.
I’ve owned three more in my lifetime as well as couple VW powered race cars. I’d never owned a VW bus but I always liked the way they looked…then I had to drive one for work. If I was going to describe any vehicle I’ve driven as a “death trap”, it would be that bus. For one thing, you sat with your face dangerously close to the windshield. For another, it was grossly underpowered for the amount of weight it was trying to push. There wasn’t a gear in the gearbox low enough for driving uphill. And it was noisy.
This bus however, is really fun. The builder took the design elements I always liked and exaggerated them. It’s like a cartoon drawing brought to life. If I had to drive it for work, I might not like it either. As a creative piece of automotive art though, it rocks. This (nearly) scratch-built bus was manufactured in Utah by Ron Berry Creations.
Looking like an extra from the Speed Racer movie, this DeTomaso P70 Barchetta was actually built to compete in the Can-Am series. In 1965 Carroll Shelby ordered a half dozen of the Ford powered sports racers from Italian coachbuilder Alejandro DeTomaso. Unfortunately by the time the prototype was complete, changes to the engine rules had made it obsolete. Shelby canceled his order and DeTomaso was livid. He responded by creating the Mangusta (Mongoose) to sick on Shelby’s Cobras, a prophecy that went unfulfilled. DeTomaso’s Pantera introduced in’71 did however enjoy moderate success with over 7,000 units sold in its twenty year production run.
The Barchetta represent classic European mid-sixties styling and it is a wonder that it survived it’s tumultuous past. It was raced only once then used as a show vehicle briefly before being rolled into the corner of a warehouse in Modena where it languished for decades.
I’m a sucker for any race car I was lucky enough to watch compete when I was a kid. Ronnie Kaplan’s 1969 AMC Javelin fit the bill at SEMA this year. The factory supported Javelin team had raised many an eyebrow in the Trans-Am’s maiden season. They hadn’t won any races but had placed second six times, briefly led Ford in the point standings and finished every lap of every race they participated in. For ’69 Kaplan ramped up his engine program and the AMC’s took on a musclebound appearance. Over the winter the Javelins had grown massive fender flares and a huge hump in the hood. Unfortunately with their tweaking, the team had sacrificed reliability and now they couldn’t finish races. (I think we witnessed this car’s best performance which was a seventh at Laguna Seca.) Still, I was a huge fan. The red, white and blue livery made it look like a frozen confection and it seemed particularly threatening as it barreled around the course. The fact that Indy car regular Jerry Grant was behind the wheel, wasn’t lost on me either. I certainly knew that name from the Memorial Day broadcasts.
What I didn’t know was that Roger Penske was probably already in negotiations with the folks at AMC. For 1970 the cars were painted red, white and Sunoco Blue and the incomparable Mark Donohue was lead driver. Under Penske’s management the Javelins became winners but they lost me as a fan. Seeing Kaplan’s/Grant car was like a three dimensional snap shot for me. I got misty.
I have to credit my new car buddy Jim Estes for my next selection which was the 1963 Corvette split window. Estes had just finished reading a feature about it in the current issue of Hot Rod and apparently commit most of the article to memory. The race car was significant for several reasons; numero uno was it had featured the first appearance of Chevrolet’s 427 big block. Next was the list of automotive icons that had been involved in the project: Zora Arkus-Duntov (the father of the Corvette) had given it his blessing. Mickey Thompson had prepped it for racing and Smokey Yunick had built the engine.
You’d think a car with those credentials would be unbeatable from the get go but that turned out not to be the case. Stock car ace Junior Johnson was the assigned driver for the Corvette’s Daytona debut and stuck it on the pole. He wasn’t comfortable in the car however, stating that it was probably capable of qualifying twenty miles per hour faster with the proper set up. Johnson climbed out after morning practice and was replaced by road racer Bill Krause in the 250 mile contest. Krause braved rainy conditions to bring the evil handling machine home third. After Daytona Chevrolet withdrew their support, Yunick took back his engine and Thompson sold the car into private hands. The new owner installed a 327 small block and raced it out on the west coast. Eventually it was parked, went into storage for a few years, even lived outside for a while. Finally, it received some much needed TLC in preparation for the Monterey Historics. Once there, it was swarmed by Corvette enthusiasts which led to the rediscovery of the race car’s colorful origins.
Now it has been restored to its former glory with the inclusion of the Yunick big block. It isn’t flashy… it’s all business. It’s a thoroughbred. And when you think about the people that came together to build it… Man!
Making my fifth and final choice was difficult but as I scrolled through my photos, something became glaringly apparent. I take a picture of every late 40’s/early 50’s C.O.E. I see… and I don’t mean just at SEMA. I’ve taken a photo of every C.O.E. I’ve seen everywhere, for years. I have a collection of about twenty of them. I like them all dolled up and I like them rusted out. I like the Fords as well as the GMC’s and Chevies. I just like ‘em all- I think someday I’d like to own one.
Of the four trucks I took pictures of at SEMA, this was my favorite. It was constructed by Dan Hogan of Hogie Shine—a paint and body shop in Phoenix, Arizona. And of course it didn’t hurt to have a bad ass, Bonneville inspired, 1930 Model A riding piggy back. The cab of the truck is ’53 Ford C750 but it’s mounted on a Dodge chassis. Beneath that bulging bonnet was the biggest surprise of all- a Cummins twelve valve! The same engine that powers my dually. Never a shortage of grunt with that Cummins.
If that ol’ VW bus is at one end of the power spectrum, my ’98 Dodge 3500 is at the other.
The exciting part of this month’s featured car story is that both of the owners had these gorgeous vehicles way back in high school.
Bob Symons, who today makes his home in Jefferson, drove a like 1942 cherry red with black fenders Chevrolet ½ ton pickup back at Central Linn High in Halsey, Oregon. She sports the same six cylinder for power today as his did back in the sixties. The rest of Bob’s delicious little memorable ride is pretty much stock. The steering has been updated with a Mustang front-end and some better brakes all the way around for safety. Bob shares his ride with three little kitty cats – Shasta, Reba and Jazz, so seat belts have been installed.
Greg Roach makes his home in South Salem with his wife and they have four wonderful children. His 1931 Torch Red Chevrolet Coupe is his original ride from high school. She sports a blown small block Chevy for power with a 350 auto transmission and a tricked out Corvette rear end. This beauty has won its share of trophies over the years.
The common denominator from these two old buddies is that they both love street rods, classic custom cars, original stock cars, pickups and bikes. The story goes that about 11 or 12 years ago, after attending several car shows around the Pacific Northwest, they came up with the idea of a new kind of show that centered on attracting and inviting vehicles that were all the winners from all the other shows on the west coast. Thus the foundation of the Salem Roaster Show was formed. Every year for the past nine years car owners of winning show cars from local cruz-ins to major indoor shows have been invited to attend and show off their winning rides at the Salem Roadster Show. The cream of the crop, the best of the best in street rods, custom and classic cars, pickups and bikes from Canada to Mexico and from most of the car shows in between. 100 to 115 vehicles are invited to the Oregon State Fair Grounds and the Salem Roadster Show each year. Every car on display is a winner and the owners are rewarded with a beautiful Salem Roadster Show jacket.
The 10th Annual Salem Roadster Show is scheduled for February 20th and 21st 2016 in the Jackman Long Building at the Oregon State Fair Grounds. In the past years an estimated 50,000 attendees have witnessed and enjoyed over 1,000 winning show cars on display and they are all there for the first time. The goal of the promoters in the past has always been to invite all new entries every year. This year being the tenth anniversary, Bob and Greg are planning a special extra showing of a handful of past super show car winners from their show.
A large portion of the proceeds from the Salem Roadster Show are dedicated to several local and regional charities. KDCCP Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Cancer Research Foundation, The Shriners Children’s Hospital, The Roberts Charter High School Foundation and the Brent Strohmeyer Scholarship Foundation.
Mark your calendar for February 20 & 21, 2016 and come and see our R&R NW Publications two fantastic featured cars of the month, Bob and Greg’s high school rides will be on display, at the 10th annual Salem Roadster Show.
Yes, the fantastic Portland Roadster Show continues and in the past fifty-nine years an estimated 500,000 Hot Rod, Custom, Truck, and Bike enthusiasts have witnessed and enjoyed viewing over ten thousand entries exhibited at five different venue locations throughout the city of Portland, Oregon. The very first Portland Roadster show in 1956 with an estimated 5,500 in attendance was held at the old Portland Armory. Then it was on to the Multnomah County Fair Grounds; the Memorial Coliseum, the beautiful Oregon Convention Center and our present location the Portland Exposition Center, providing easier same level entry for exhibitors and plenty of parking for attendees.
The Multnomah Hot Rod Council / Portland Roadster Show is proud to be registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit for charity. With the help of hundreds of volunteers, the show has raised tens of thousands of dollars in the past fifty-nine years. A host of local charities have benefited, as well as supporting our local High-School and Community College Automotive Shop programs, including the popular High School Challenge Competition. In recent years the PRS, with the MHRC created the Wagons for Kids program for the Children’s Cancer Association, and the Pedal Car Auction program where more than twenty local high school and community college automotive programs customize pedal cars that are auctioned at the show with proceeds going to support the programs that participated.
In addition the Wagons and the Pedal Cars become true works of art as the fantastic local pinstripers competing in the Brush Bash, personalize them with the child’s name to make it their very own.
The Multnomah Hot Rod Council was founded in 1954 by caring and active community leaders, elected officials and Dee Wescott, one of Portland’s premier car builders of all time. The council is made up of car clubs in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington. Functions include: helping coordinate the automotive show scene in the Portland metropolitan area, and operation of the Portland Roadster Show, one of the oldest and best roadster shows in the nation. The PRS is the only all volunteer show of its kind and size in the US.
In sixty years and with over 500,000 attendees, the Portland Roadster Show is also responsible for attracting millions of visitor’s dollars to the local economy with a world class show of automobile creative artistry. To the show’s Hot Rod, Car, Bike and Truck owners the PRS is a forum of esteemed peers and public access.
This Hot Rod story begins back in 1958 in the little Hamlet of Opportunity, Washington.
From the center of downtown Spokane, Washington you drive ten point one and 1/2 miles due East on Hwy #10, half way between Dishman, Washington and Veradale, Washington and you arrive in the land of Opportunity. Now if your answer to the Quiz above was, 4010 and you didn’t require the assistance of a three bar calculator to arrive at this correct answer, you probably didn’t attend our Central Valley High back in the fifties.
Onward and upward the story continues, as our star athlete at CV High at this time in our school’s history was a fella by the name of L. Sloan, we called him the “Bone Man.” It seems somehow through a dare he was able to bribe the star cheerleader, who was the sweetest, most gorgeous girl to attend CV High in the last fifty years, to accompany him as his date to the Mid-Winter Dance.
Now there was several things out of sync with this whole story. First of all the Bone Man couldn’t dance that well, off of the football field, or a basketball court, so who was going to dance with A. Janosky? We labeled her “The Queen of Broken-Hearts.” Second, he had no transportation to escort this delicious young lady to the Mid-Winter Dance. Third, His bank account was so low he was down to borrowing coins out of his dad’s antique coin collection!
In response to his outstanding effort at our last victorious football outing, beating our rival school W. Valley almost single handedly by forty points, four of us guys who always referred to “The Bone Man” as our buddy for life, came to his rescue.
The Bone Man’s brother had a slightly wrecked 1952 Chevy 4 dr sedan parked out back. It needed a paint job, but it did run, and was powered with a stock 6 cyl and had the sweetest sounding pipes off a set of Smitty glass-packs. A stock three-on-the-tree tranny got her down the highway. The rest was pretty much a worn out old stock Chevy sedan.
Now with a little help we could make that one crunched-in fender and the rear deck lid somewhat usable. The four of us pulled it out of the field and started by giving it a good wash job and even vacuumed the interior. We must have used a full can of chrome polish on just the front bumper and grill but she cleaned up moderately well.
G. Moretz was our leader and the oldest of the followers. He was one cool dude. The girls loved him as he took on the appearance of a cross between James Dean and Clint Eastwood. “The Dude” was sure he could pound that fender out to at least keep it from rubbing the tire so bad. This might keep it from screeching and smelling like burnt rubber also.
The roof area was turned over to the center of our CV High basketball team 6’ 10 ½ “ Jimmy “The Slink “ Johnson. Now here was one super quiet but deadly guy around the basket. His elbows were so boney that when you got smacked by one of them going for a rebound you never bothered doing that again. We all loved having him on our team, and boy he painted the top of The Bone Man’s car like a pro. Even the off colored polka dots added a lot of humor, and they were on the top, so unless you were six feet tall you couldn’t hardly see them.
When it came to the body and fenders Mr. D. Larsen “The Lars” and myself Colliedog B.C. took the chore on with style, going for perfection on a budget. 22 rattle cans of “Broma” Quick Ten Minute dry Chinese Red paint direct from Peters Hardware in downtown Opportunity. As it turned out 22 cans wasn’t quite enough, and of course we ran short of finishing the job by five or six cans. Now Peters Hardware was out of the Chinese Red color and as I recall that’s why we elected to go with a fresh new look.
I myself wouldn’t have chosen that shade of pink, but Lars was the art major, and he was going for that Art Deco finished look and I think he achieved his goal. In hindsight we all agreed that had the paint dried in the ten minutes like it stated on the can, we would have had a one of a kind artistic creative automobile wonder to behold. But due to the cooler temperature in december in the land of Opportunity, our creative automobile wonder’s new paint was not dry for two to three days later.
Now the Bone Man had to use the vehicle for its intended purpose that evening so his delicious one of a kind of date had to ride to the dance in a vehicle that became a Chinese Red and Deco Pink creation in motion. The exciting thing was that The Bone Man’s 1952 Chevy was ready for use as the Queen’s carriage for the evening.
Thanks be to “The Dude” Gary for coming to Bone Man’s rescue, at the Mid-Winter Dance, as he cut into every dance just so “The Queen of the Broken Hearts” wouldn’t know that Larry didn’t dance that well. She found out 10 years later on the night the two of them were married.
Now as for the short lived history of the 1952 Chevy: one week to the night of the Mid-Winter Dance the Bone Man in his 4dr Chevy rolled up behind my 26’ “T” Coupe, lights out and quiet as can be at Ron’s Drive In. I was sitting in the low in the front, high in the back Model “T” just getting ready to hit the road. Started her up, revved up that sweet little Flathead, put her in reverse and pop the clutch. You guessed it—the “T” smacked right into Bone Man’s freshly painted Deco laugh mobile. Totally wiped out the front end of that little Chevy. Fortunately no damage to the model “T” but both his head lights, grill and front fenders needed a lot of attention.
So in the world of quiz recapping. In the year 1958 The Lars at (16), Slink at (16), The Dude at (18), Bone Man at (17), The Queen of Broken Hearts at (16), myself at (17) and a 1952 Deco finished Chevy 4 dr sedan had a wonderful time creating this true story from the history of yesteryear in the land of Opportunity. Quiz Time Total = 4010.
Sadly we lost “The Dude” Gary Moretz in 1959 to a tragic death in his 1954 Mercury H/T. In 1963 “Slink” Jimmy Johnson was fatally injured coming home from college in his show class 1954 Olds 88 coupe and in 1995 our good buddy Dennis Larsen “The Lars” drove his beautiful 1994 BMW 730 I for the last time, due to a massive coronary. Their memory lives on forever in our hearts and minds.
On a more positive note: The old 1926 Ford Model “T” coupe will be celebrating her 90th birthday at the 60th Anniversary of the Portland Roadster Show on March 18-20, 2016 at the Portland Expo Center. You’re all invited to come and enjoy the festivities and say hello to the two remaining Hot Rod buddies, The Bone Man and Colliedog BC, who will be on hand cutting the Model “T’s” birthday cake.
It is hard to cover in only a couple of pages over 65 years of innovation, talent and craftsmanship that Gene Winfield has been associated with in the automotive world. He is one of the original California Customizers that started trends that would eventually cross the globe.
Gene built his first roadster in Modesto, California while in high school during World War II and hasn’t stopped since. He opened Windys custom shop in 1946. He has raced cars on the streets, dry lakes and the earliest drag strips of the country. Gene and his car club attended and also hosted some of the first hotrod shows. In 1950 while in the Army he went to Japan. While he was there he built and raced a 41 Ford. After his return from the service in 1951 Gene opened Winfield’s custom shop in Modesto where he worked on projects like Rod & Customs dream truck. Over the years he has also contributed to articles in many rodding publications and even wrote a Q&A article for Car Kulture Deluxe.
By 1960 Genes work was getting national recognition, most notably for his custom paint jobs. His eye for shades and hues led to the development of the first fully blended paint job. His canvas was the radically customized 57 Mercury dubbed the Jade Idol. It was quickly followed by another custom Mercury called the Solar Scene, a 1950 with electrically operated seats that swiveled out to greet the occupants. A couple of other famous Winfield cars are the Strip Star and the Reactor, both of which featured futuristic looking designs and handmade aluminum bodies. Both of these cars are animated with remote control devices and gadgets. These cars have won many prestigious awards at national car shows.
Gene applied his body work talents to 3 roadsters that each won the 9 foot tall “America’s most beautiful roadster” award in 1955, 63 and again in 64. By 1962 his notoriety had brought himself and several other builders to Detroit. Ford offered each customizer a new product to restyle. The “Ford custom car caravan” hit the show circuit in hopes of capturing the youth market. Four years later Gene was asked to run AMTs (a model car company) speed and custom division in Phoenix, Arizona. There they would develop full size show cars and accessories. One such creation was a plastic bodied car called the Piranha. AMT built specialty vehicles for TV shows, feature films and movies. Some of Gene’s creations were the Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Get Smart gadget cars, the Galileo shuttlecraft from the original Star Trek series, a ‘31 chevy that converted to the NEW 1967 Camaro in under a minute for the Dean Martin show, a new Impala split front to rear for a Chevrolet commercial and he has also frozen a car in a block of ice for an oil company. Some of the movies and TV shows that feature his work are Ironside, Bewitched, Robocop, The Wraith, Magnum Force, Back to the Future II and the list goes on. In some of his spare time Gene had done stunt work for tire companies.
Some of Gene’s larger projects include 6 cars for Woodie Allen’s Sleeper and a monumental 25 cars for Blade Runner featuring Harrison Ford. Some of those cars had to be specially equipped with hydraulics to retract the wheels for a flying mode. One of them he recently restored for Paul Allen’s Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, Washington. He is also currently working with the World of Wheels series chopping tops during the shows. Last year Gene chopped 17 cars total of which 10 were done during the car shows.
In the mid-eighties custom cars were on the rise again. Gene found himself with customers wanting to get their Mercury’s chopped, sectioned and frenched again. He saw a need for repair to these old cars. He then developed a line of steel and fiberglass parts for Fords and Mercury’s to include complete 49-51 glass bodies. The glass bodies have built in features like frenched headlights and already chopped roofs. Aside from custom work and fiberglass business Gene finds time to attend many car shows and events around the world each year and even found the time to recreate his old race car “The Thing” which he races at Bonneville and El Mirage dry lake beds. Some of Genes newer creations include Maybellene, a 61 Cadillac with a Northstar engine and the Pacifica, a 63 Econoline pick up with a 5.0 mustang engine. Both vehicles feature air ride suspensions and are sporting some of Winfield’s finest signature paint jobs.
Some of Genes more recent TV work includes 2 interviews on Hot Rod TV, an interview with Dennis Cage from My Classic Car, the Old School Chevy and Insane 54 for Monster Garage, painted a Cadillac for Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) on TLC’s show Rides, demonstrated fabrication and painting techniques on Travel Channel’s Riding with Rossi and History channels Boys Toys Custom Cars where he also chopped a top, and 3 full size wind up cars for a Mobil oil commercial. With all that Gene is also in negotiations for his own TV show.
If that isn’t enough, Gene travels the world teaching workshops on metal fabrication to pass his experience of customizing on to future generations. When asked about current projects, a twinkle of his eye and his trademark smile was all we were able to get out of him. When asked about his age he responded the same way. No matter what, he is still going strong and shown no signs of slowing down.
To be continued…
Gene has won too many awards and honors to
mention, but some of his best are as follows:
*Oakland/Grand National Roadster Show Hall of Fame
*Darryl Starbird’s national Rod & Custom Hall of Fame
*Kustom Kemps of America (KKOA) Hall of Fame
*San Francisco Rod & Custom Hall of Fame
*Michigan Rod & Custom Hall of Fame
*San Bernardino Route 66 Hall of Fame
*Detroit Autorama Builder of the Year
*NHRA’s lifetime achievement award “The Wally”
*Grand Marshal for Modesto’s American Graffiti Week
I glimpsed his profile in passing and had to chase him back to his booth at SEMA. He was there to promote his school of high performance driving and though I respect his business savvy, I’m more interested in his previous career— that of a professional race car driver.
Is it common knowledge that Bondurant drove a Ferrari to ninth in the U.S. Grand Prix of 1965? (He was fourth the following year at Monaco in a BRM.) Do people know that he was hand-picked by Carroll Shelby to drive the original Ford Cobra? And that partnered with Dan Gurney, he finished first in class at Le Mans in ’64? These achievements were accomplished just prior to my introduction to road racing. Fortunately, I did witness Bondurant contest the 1970 Can Am series and that was what I chose to talk with him about.
Can Am historians will tell you that Team McLaren dominated the series from its inception through 1971, but they did face formidable competition. Bondurant choose the series to promote his fledgling driving school business and to showcase his driving ability. Under the banner of Smith-Oeser Racing, a two year old Lola T160 was prepared for the challenge. It was lightened and heavily modified with swoopy coachwork. Giving up little in the horsepower department, they installed a fuel injected 427ci Chevy for propulsion.
Bondurant took the controls one race into the season at St. Jovite (Canada). He struggled with engine problems in qualifying and fell out of the race with less than half the distance covered. Two weeks later when the tour made its first appearance stateside (Watkins Glen), Bondurant soldiered home fourteenth. This is a better performance than it seems as the field swelled with an influx of closed cockpit, enduro cars that compete in their own race the day before. Then it was back to Edmonton, Canada where the team put forth a solid qualifying effort. Bondurant started the contest from the eighth slot and ran well…until his engine expired with twenty laps to go. Mid-Ohio was nothing to write home about; twentieth in qualifying and an early retirement, this time due to electrical woes.
Finally in the sixth race of the season, Elkart Lake (Wisconsin) the team put it all together. Bondurant tied Team McLaren driver Peter Gethin with fifth fastest time and ran up front all afternoon. When the checkered flag fell, Bondurant was second, only one lap down to Gethin. On this Sunday he’d held nothing back and defeated among others, Peter Revson in the Lola factory entry. For the remainder of the 1970 campaign, Bondurant continued to qualify well (seventh fast at Road Atlanta, sixth at Laguna Seca and twelfth at Riverside) but his fragile Lola could not go the distance. It was easy to surmise that Bondurant was capable of running with the best and even capable of winning. If only he had the car…
For 1971 Bondurant teamed with privateer Lothar Motschenbacher and his chances for a positive result improved dramatically. Motschenbacher was a wealthy car dealer/professional racer who purchased Team McLaren’s cars at the conclusion of each season. Other than a fully tested factory effort, there were simply no better cars available. The new team underlined this point by qualifying fifth and sixth at the season opener in Mosport (Canada), and finishing the race in third and fourth place respectively. At the second outing at St. Jovite Bondurant was a tick slower than Motschenbacher, starting ninth but failed to finish the seventy five lap contest. At the third round they returned to winning form, again claiming side by side starting berths in the third row and again Motchenbacher finished on the podium. This time however, Bondurant lost oil pressure and retired at twenty laps. Spirits were sagging by the fourth round where the team could manage no better than seventh and thirteenth starting spots. It got worse in the race as Motschenbacher crashed out on lap seven. Bondurant actually finished the race in sixteenth position, a full nine laps off the winning pace. Before the fifth race of the season, the racing partnership had dissolved and only one Motschenbacher entry appeared on the grid at Mid-Ohio. It was very likely the McLaren Bondurant had driven in his last outing.
Bondurant did not return to the Can Am but continued to race professionally for another decade. When reminded of the Can Am days, a smile spreads across his face and a gleam appears in his eye. “Those cars were fun,” he asserts.
Once a racer, always a racer.
The 24th Annual California Hot Rod Reunion Presented by Automobile Club of Southern California at Auto Club Famoso Raceway near Bakersfield California is in the history books for another year. Getting your nostalgia fix for old time drag racing is sure to be satisfied at this event.
In addition to the drag racing there is a car show/cruise-in in the “Grove” right behind the grandstands that covers about a ¼ mile with historic drag machines and new hot rods alike. Beyond that adjacent to the track there is a swap meet where you can find amazing hot rod stuff. I’ve never seen so many “Blowers” for sale, in my life, some very vintage and some not so old. There’s a vendor row between the pits and the Grove, where you can find tons of stuff. I bought a hot rod t-shirt for my newest grandson. Naturally, it was too big, but he’ll grow into it.
This event is quite a spectator event. The stands at Famoso run almost from the starting line to the finish line and they were nearly full most of the time. There were a few mishaps. A couple wrecks, some broken parts and a lot of old time front engine dragsters. Saturday night at dusk, these old race cars put on quite a show. Most of them are push start cars and the owners did just that, pushed them one at a time down the return road in front of the packed stands and lit up about 75 of ‘em. They then drove them around the Jersey barrier behind the water box and out onto the track. They idled them down the track and starting near the finish line, they parked them diagonally one by one where they sat and “Cackled” until they ran out of fuel. The line ran almost all the way back up the track to the “tree.”
By this time it was completely dark and the flames were popping out of the zoomies as they cackled until their fuel was gone. If you’ve never seen or heard a “Cackle Fest,” It’s pretty cool.
While wandering through the swap meet we stumbled onto a vendor booth operated by none other than Mr. Gene Winfield. He very graciously offered to pose for a picture and he even held up his copy of Roddin’ & Racin’ Northwest. Man, I’d love to know all the hot rod history he has experienced. A little farther down the aisle a golf cart pulled up to my buddy Jim who was wearing a vintage Ed Iskederian t-shirt and the passenger was none other than the man himself, Mr. Ed Iskenderian. He asked Jim if his shirt was an original (old) shirt, which it wasn’t, but a new reproduction of an old one. He also asked if we used any of his cams, which we do and have and he offered his hand to this nobody and introduced himself. I was impressed with his gracious friendliness. He has been working at this hot rod stuff for a while too.
Back at the beginning of this article I mentioned there was drag racing going on, tons of it. Nitro burning rails, Funny cars, Altereds, lots of the old stuff you might remember seeing back in the sixties, gassers etc. and newer stuff as well. In the front of the pit area nearest the staging lanes there we vintage race cars, push cars/trucks, old gassers galore. It was a pretty cool weekend and it was the 24th annual, which suggests the likelihood of a 25th annual. It’s worth the trip if you like hot rods and race cars, but take your sunblock and hat because it was pretty sunny and you will definitely get burnt if you’re not protected. Look for next years’ event again in mid to late October.