Winfield Rod & Custom

Besides selling parts and building entire cars, Winfield expanded his brand by teaching metal fabrication around the country. He also turned up -- and was lionized -- at outsider car shows that focused on the so-called rat rods that newcomers were building, often badly, much to the disgust of contemptuous old-timers. Long after virtually all of his contemporaries had died or retired, Winfield kept his nose to the grindstone. "Even after all these years, he's still got the passion," says Tony Thacker, executive director of the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. "He's a sixteen-year-old kid who happens to have an old man's body."

When I catch up with Winfield at the roadster show in Pomona, he's working a booth -- next to Barris, coincidentally -- selling signed posters, paraphernalia, and orphan components rescued from various projects. Throughout the afternoon, he's besieged by fans ranging from white-haired geezers in wheelchairs to young bucks awash in tattoos. One of them wants to know where he can find a German-made documentary featuring Winfield. (Try YouTube.) Somebody else is curious about Winfield's own TV show. (He's about to start filming a program slated to air on Discovery this year.) A young Latino asks if the Cadillac taillights on the table will work on his car. (Absolutely.) An older Anglo dude tries to cajole Winfield into helping him restore a Big Daddy Roth trike. (Show me the money.) But most of the visitors just want to say hi. "I make it a point to shake your hand every year," one of them says. "You do beautiful work, and I'm glad to see you're still cooking."

Winfield's still cooking, all right, just as busy now as ever. He leans over to me during a rare break in the action. "People ask me when I'm going to retire. And you know what I tell them?" His blue eyes twinkle. "When they put me in the ground, that's when."

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