Moving quickly -- the man is a perpetual-motion machine -- he leads me to a garage where one of his young fabricators is under the truck, welding a transmission mount to the frame. "I expect to have this finished in time for SEMA next November," Winfield says. "I built an identical car for the Ford Custom Car Caravan in '63. It was asymmetrical-two taillights there and one over here and two headlights here and one over there, with bumpers that were off center. This was the first vehicle to have side-opening toolboxes, and the bed was wood. The outside will be exactly the same as it was. But inside, we're putting in a '92 Thunderbird engine, transmission, and independent rear end."
Pretty slick. But next to the Econoline, two other guys are working on a chopped '52 Chevy with slanted door posts, welded front fender flares off a '54 Ford, split Pontiac bumpers, and hand-formed pans and grille. The owners are flying in from Japan this afternoon to see how the project is going, and Winfield himself was primering parts until 2:30 this morning. The shop is in thrash mode because, besides getting ready for the show-and-tell, Winfield is also prepping cars for the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona later this week.
The roadster show is the granddaddy of hot-rod extravaganzas. Winfield had a '27 Model T roadster at the first one in 1950, and since then, three of his cars have won the America's Most Beautiful Roadster award, which is the Best Picture Oscarof the hot-rod world. This year, five cars bearing his paint and/or metalwork will be displayed at Pomona. As he starts to show me one of them, the Reactor -- whose angular aluminum body, stretched over a Citroën chassis, was featured on Star Trek and Bewitched -- he's dragged off to answer a phone call from somebody who wants him to install a Carson-style top. When I follow him into his office, I find so much memorabilia lying around that I almost miss the glass coffee table supported by a flathead Ford engine that he ventilated at El Mirage. And I can barely get to the futuristic-looking thing in the back -- one of twenty-five cars he built for the movie Blade Runner.