In Good Hands – The Tale of the Gene Winfield Deuce Roadster
The Gene Winfield Deuce Roadster is hot rodding’s ultimate survivor. First reworked by Gene in 1948, the car still thrives today albeit on the right coast, some 3,000 miles away from its home turf of Northern California. Yes, Gene Winfield did hot rods along with his legendary line of radical customs back in the day.
The deuce roadster was already complete when it rolled into Winfield’s shop just after the end of WWII. Owner Joe Cardoza had stripped off the fenders but brought it in for some mods, one of which was Gene welding and leading the cowl vent. It was the beginning of a seven decade relationship between Gene and this fabulous Ford.
It was during this time that one of the car’s signature mods came to be. After building a front belly pan and filling the lower body line, Winfield fabbed a gas tank cover made from ribbed aluminum which has stood the test of time.
In the 1970s, the roadster’s third owner, Bob Whitehead, made another signature (and permanent) addition to the black full fendered deuce – he installed a mighty Ardun OHV conversion flathead equipped with a S.Co.T. blower fed by a pair of Stromberg 97s. Winfield also mounted up a Halibrand quick change which remains to this day.
By the time the fifth owner (Chris Gruys) took delivery of the roadster relic, he soon realized it was time for another freshening. Once again, it went looking for Gene Winfield.
Gene did what he’s been doing since the 1940s – repainted the car and smoothed out the bodylines. While Gene was sanding and prepping the car for its black bath, flathead guru Don Ferguson rebuilt the huffed Ardun. Gene also applied some cool ghost flames as well as a set of ’56 Buick wheels. After some time in Gruy’s garage, he consigned the historic machine with Russo and Steele at their 2012 Scottsdale shindig. With Gene standing off to the side, the car failed to meet its reserve. To be honest, its about the only time this roadster has ever failed anyone.
Cruising the internet one evening, New Jersey’s Rob Ida saw it listed and pounced. This is exactly the kind of car that belongs in the hands of the ultra-talented Rob Ida. First off, Rob is a historian extraordinaire. Being era-correct is one of Ida’s highest priorities so it was a match made in heaven. Not only that, Gene and Rob had formed a friendship in recent years, solidifying the storyline.
Ida took delivery of the roadster last summer and immediately ditched the ’56 Buick wheel setup in favor of some ’40 Ford steelies. Other very subtle tweaks including the removal of the ghost flames and Harley Davidson turn signals were minimal yet effective in giving the car a more timeless aesthetic. But rest assured, plenty of original charm and equipment remain including the interior and suicide-knobbed ’57 Ford steering wheel that Pete Hischier installed so many years ago.
This hot rod survival tale came full circle recently. When Gene came back to Ida Automotive last June for a metal shaping class, Gene was reunited with the car. Not only did Rob and Gene take on some New Jersey backroads, they took it down to Wildwood, New Jersey so Gene could flog it on the sand during the Race of Gentlemen. It was as if time stood still.
From Joe Cardoza, to Lew Thompson, to Pete Hischier, to Bob Whitehead, to Chris Gruys, and finally Rob Ida, the Gene Winfield Deuce Roadster rolls on.