Even if you’ve never heard the name Gene Winfield, you’ve most definitely seen his custom cars race across the big screen.
Born June 16, 1927, in Springfield, Missouri, Winfield is one of the most prolific American custom car builders, painters, designers and even a dry lakes racer.
He opened his first workshop, Windy’s Custom Shop, in 1946 in a chicken coop in his mother’s backyard, where he chopped his brother’s 1941 Plymouth and did extensive work on a 1946 Ford convertible.
By the ‘60s, Winfield set up in a new shop in Modesto, California, and his customs gained popularity and caught the eyes of Hollywood movie producers. He began creating custom vehicles for films and television series, including Maxwell Smart’s car in Get Smart, The Reactor seen in the Bewitched series, and the shuttlecraft in the Star Trek series.
Wanting to be closer to Hollywood, Winfield opened a second shop in North Hollywood named Windfield’s Special Projects, creating there 25 vehicles for the film Bladerunner, Robocop, and The Last Starfighter, as well as the flying version of the DeLorean for Back to the Future.
Winfield, now at age 94, still runs and operates a shop located on a large plot of land in Mojave, California, and tours the world chopping cars and laying down his signature fadeaway paint jobs.
In the Petersen Automotive Museum’s newest episode of Global Garages, Leslie Kendall and Micaela Dempsey visit Winfield’s shop and home in a two-part video series.
In part 1, the duo explores Winfield’s vast plot of land filled with his iconic creations, including his 1927 Bonneville racer “The Thing,” and see what he’s working on and get a tour of his memorabilia-filled home.
In part 2, Winfield gives an up-close look at The Reactor custom and Strip Star, a custom race car he built for the Promotions Inc. Show Car Division in 1963.