Kustom Age: Gene Winfield, Growing Up For Success

Gene_Winfield_ca._2000Crowned as “The King of Kustoms,” Robert Eugene Winfield was born on June 16th, 1927. Born and raised in Springfield, Missouri, Gene was brought up in a hard working blue collar family. His father Frank was a long time butcher and continued his career path after moving to California. Shortly after moving to California, Frank built a hamburger wagon, naming it Frank’s Nickel Lunch. Soon after, Gene’s mother Virginia, filed for divorce. She took over the lunch wagon renaming it Modesto Nickel Lunch.

GeneAfter the city shut down the wagon, Virginia purchased and rebuilt the wagon style lunch in a full service and sit down establishment which was named Ginny’s Lunch Bar. The Winfield kids kept the place up and running for their mother–this was the start of Gene’s future love for cars. At the age of ten, Gene started his career as a car hop at his mother’s joint.

Prior to customizing cars, Gene built model aircrafts and pursued a love for photography. With the camera attached to his hip at any given moment, Gene would often take pictures of custom cars on the street. No matter how great or mild the car was recreated, Gene would study the photos to figure out what looked good and what didn’t.

Upon receiving his license at the age of 15, Gene had his first car purchased–a stock bodied 1929 Model A coupe. He outfitted the car with dual antennas, foxtails, and some wig wag taillights. The car was also repainted a dark blue and hopped for a little speed freak action. Unfortunately, Gene’s ’29 was involved in a wreck but he eventually purchased a ’31 Roadster, a true California hot rod. Gene’s love of speed, art, and cars was a recipe for success and his career was bound to change.

5116300026_f9a367729eAfter graduating high school, Gene joined the Navy and served during World War II. Gene’s career in the Navy only lasted a year. When he returned back to Modesto, he had one relentless goal in mind–pursuing his love for hot rods and kustoms. Gene opened up shop in a chicken coupe behind his mother’s house.

His pursuit of customizing has brought him to many corners of the world. From re enlisting in the Army and building in Japan up until today, he still gets offers to travel the globe. During these trips he makes guest appearances and more recently his notorious traveling chop shop has gained a foothold in “exhibitions to catch.” Gene is known amongst his peers for his relentless work ethic.

These days Gene spends his time helping to teach the next generation his skills and knowledge in hopes that classic car culture remains a prominent thing in society.Gene-winfield-1961-cadillac-maybellene

About the author

Korky Hickman

Shawn aka Korky is just your average gear head–always down to lend an extra hand and hungry to gain new knowledge. He lives by the words of Gene Winfield, "Everyday is a schoolday." One of Korky's missions is to continue the pursuit and preservation of Kustom Kulture. He is dedicated to wrenching, addicted to kustomizing, and a believer of the built not bought philosophy.
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