DRIFTER.

Hot Rod Deluxe - - Roddin’ Scene -

Some hot rods are born trav­el­ers. From their ini­tial cre­ation, these vagabonds of speed find their way from one owner to an­other, passed down through a trail of ad­mir­ers. With each suc­ceed­ing pos­ses­sion, the ve­hi­cle changes form, as new own­ers put per­sonal touches on their flanks. Since hot rods are born as cus­tom­ized ver­sions of stock mod­els, there’s no right or wrong here. It’s all in the eyes of the ti­tle holder and his or her fab­ri­ca­tion team.

Sev­eral own­ers have sat be­hind the wheel of this im­mac­u­late Deuce, and nu­mer­ous rounds of modificati­ons have been made to its form. Yet there has been one true, con­stant pres­ence over the last 70 years of this hot rod’s life. That stead­fast over­seer is none other than Gene Winfield.

Gene first put his hands on the road­ster back in 1948. It was al­ready a nifty high­boy when it came to his shop. “It was owned by Joe Car­doza at the time, and I did a few modificati­ons,” Gene says. “I welded and then leaded the cowl vent.” That would be the first of quite a few run-ins with the Deuce, as it seemed to mag­i­cally re­turn to Gene for any work it needed.

Once Joe was done with the road­ster, it passed on to Lew Thomp­son of the Modesto Cen­tury Top­pers hot rod club. Lew drove the car for sev­eral years around the Modesto area be­fore he de­cided to sell it. Joe wanted the car back and put a de­posit on it, but he never could come up with the bal­ance due. So Lew ended up sell­ing it to fel­low club mem­ber Pete His­chier for $300.

Chromed Cruiser

Like any hot rod­der, Pete wanted to put his own ideas into the Deuce. It was in dis­ar­ray when he pur­chased it from Lew, so he worked with a lo­cal garage to get the car road­wor­thy. He wanted to make it a fend­ered car again, so he sourced a pair; one of them from a twodoor sedan. He kept the flat­head power it came with and cov­ered the road­ster’s black paint with sev­eral coats of candy ap­ple red. This in­car­na­tion of the Deuce ap­peared on the cover of Car­craft in June 1960, pic­tured along with sev­eral other no­table road­sters.

It wasn’t long af­ter the cover ap­pear­ance that Pete con­tacted Gene about do­ing a makeover on the road­ster. Gene had re­mem­bered the car from years be­fore and was game to work with Pete’s ideas, as well as throw­ing in a few of his own for good mea­sure.

Pete wanted to up­grade the car and make it into a Sun­day driver and show car. Gene went to work, first build­ing a cus­tom stain­less pan be­tween the fend­ers up front. Then he de­signed and ex­e­cuted a gas tank cover made from ribbed alu­minum and then filled the road­ster’s lower body line. Up front, he frenched the grille shell and then in­stalled a 2-inch-drop front axle, which was filled to fin­ish the look Pete was af­ter.

The in­te­rior was also done over, us­ing pe­riod pieces that any ’32 owner would die to have in his ride to­day. The com­plete Auburn dash that Lew in­stalled, filled with orig­i­nal gauges, was kept in place. A Stewart-warner tach was mounted on the col­umn, which is topped with a ’57 Ford steer­ing wheel. The up­hol­stery was done over as well, with a stun­ning black-and-white mo­tif.

To send this build over the top, more modificati­ons were made to the run­ning gear and chas­sis. “Pete de­cided he wanted lots of chrome, so we chromed the hell out of it,” Gene says. The ra­dius rods, shocks, front axle, drive­shaft, and dif­fer­en­tial were some of the many parts chromed on the road­ster. For­tu­nately, Pete’s wife worked at a chrome shop, so get­ting the pieces done was easy, and cer­tainly less ex­pen­sive. The car hit the streets with a new glossy black skin, set off by chrome wheels, the rears re­versed for the look Pete wanted.

Though it was mainly a week­end cruiser, Pete still had it out quite of­ten. “He brought it to one of my shows in Modesto,” Gene re­calls. It also graced the pages of HOT ROD in 1964, gar­ner­ing a two-page spread shot by Eric Rick­man.

Power Surge

In the early 1970s, the road­ster changed hands once again. Bob White­head is a hot rod guy who Gene knows well, as Gene put one of his first blended paint jobs on Bob’s Ranchero in the 1950s. Bob ac­quired the road­ster by way of a trade, giv­ing Pete his ’67 427 Vette in re­turn for the Deuce. It didn’t take Bob long to start mod­i­fy­ing the road­ster to suit his own taste.

Bob in­stalled a mo­tor any rod­der would be jeal­ous of: a blown Ar­dun topped by a S.CO.T. blower fed by two Stromberg 97s. Out back he mounted a Hal­i­brand quick-change. Bob in­stalled a 1970s-styled in­te­rior to re­flect the times, and once again bumpers were in­stalled on the car.

Bob blew up the Ar­dun flat­head at one point, and re­placed it with a sec­ond Ar­dun pulled from an Al­lard by hot rod­der Mark Con­forth in New Jersey. Bob owned the car for 30-odd years. It was kept with a bevy of other beauties in his garage, and thus rarely driven. > This photo il­lus­trates how the car changed—and didn’t—when it was owned by Bob White­head. Wheels and tires are dif­fer­ent, the run­ning boards are no longer white, and the cus­tom front pan has been re­moved. There’s also the mat­ter of the blown Ar­dun.

Road­ster Rewind

When Bob de­cided it was time to pass on the road­ster to a new owner, he sold it through an ad in a car mag­a­zine to Chris Gruys of Sonoma, Cal­i­for­nia. By now the car was once again show­ing its age, so Chris fig­ured the best guy to bring it to was the man who knew it best. Chris called Gene and asked if he could do a makeover, with, of course, some of his own per­sonal touches. Gene agreed, and the Deuce was wheeled into Gene’s shop for a tear­down.

The paint def­i­nitely needed to be up­graded, and the old Ar­dun flat­head was ready for fresh­en­ing. While Gene did his voodoo on the body, Ar­dun spe­cial­ist and flat­head guru Don Ferguson re­built the en­gine and worked his magic on the power adder. The in­te­rior once again was changed, go­ing back to a style sim­i­lar to what it wore in 1964 (and done by the same shop). One-off ghost flames, laid by Gene him­self, were added, along with a set of ’56 Buick wheels shod in beefy red­line tires. The stain­less pan that had been re­moved years ago by Bob White­head was re­in­stalled in be­tween the front fend­ers. > Cur­rent owner Rob Ida re-en­acts Pete’s pose. When Rob pur­chased the car, he de­cided to re­turn it to its mid-1960’s form. One im­por­tant change was re­mov­ing the road­ster’s full hood treat­ment (a hood Gene had made on TV’S Mon­ster Garage) so the Ar­dun pow­er­plant could be seen. The hood has been put away for safe keep­ing.

Chris was pretty proud of his newly minted road­ster, es­pe­cially since the po­tent Ar­dun flat­head now put out about 310 hp. He held on to the re­fur­bished road­ster for a few years un­til he felt it was time for some­thing dif­fer­ent.

Chris con­tacted Gene when he was ready to sell. He asked if Gene could give a lit­tle “pep talk and speech” to the bid­ders when the car hit the block at Russo and Steele in Scotts­dale in 2012. Un­for­tu­nately, things didn’t go as planned. “I was ready to get out there and hype it up, but all of a sud­den the plug was pulled and the Deuce was rolled off, not hit­ting re­serve,” Gene says.

Chris put the car up for sale on­line, hop­ing that with a na­tional au­di­ence, some­one would un­der­stand the rel­e­vance of this pedi­greed road­ster.

Ida Know!

Rob Ida al­ways has his eyes open and ear to the ground, look­ing for in­ter­est­ing projects. He hap­pened to be on an auc­tion site when this par­tic­u­lar ’32 came up on the screen. “I was sur­prised to see a car like this on­line, with its his­tory, and of course Gene’s modificati­ons. I just stum­bled upon it. It wasn’t pre­sented well, so that was to my ad­van­tage.” Though car didn’t look like much to him, the pedi­gree was there, so nat­u­rally he was in­ter­ested.

Rob made an of­fer and se­cured the car from Chis Gruys. It didn’t take long for Rob to make a men­tal plan of what was in store for his new pur­chase. “I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the car, and make the modificati­ons that I thought the road­ster needed. I re­ally wanted it to look sim­i­lar to the way it looked in 1964.”

The day the Deuce was de­liv­ered, Rob had a set of ’40 Ford steel wheels with tra­di­tional Fire­stones mounted and ready to go. With a lit­tle mas­sag­ing of the sus­pen­sion, Rob got them to fit per­fectly. “That changed the stance right away. It has just the slight­est rake to it. It just looks right.”

Next up was re­mov­ing the ghost flames, which meant tak­ing off some paint and blend­ing it all in. The road­ster also had a set of Har­ley turn sig­nals that were re­moved. The all-im­por­tant Ar­dun pow­er­plant purred like it was brand new.

Once the road­ster was tested thor­oughly, Rob thought the next thing to do was to put the Deuce through its paces. “I fig­ured The Race of Gen­tle­men would be a good place to see what the Ar­dun could do. I found out this road­ster ran at Muroc back in the day, so it has some rac­ing pedi­gree.” He called Gene and in­vited him out for the race. To­gether they formed their own race team, and will show­case the road­ster at TROG 2018.

The road­ster will be un­der Rob’s care for the fore­see­able fu­ture, and he plans to show it at sev­eral con­cours events this year alone. But who knows, with all the change of scenery this Deuce has seen, it might be just a phone call away from head­ing in a new di­rec­tion. For now, New Jersey looks like a nice fit for this stun­ning Ford.

• WORDS & PICS: SCOTTY LACHENAUER • VIN­TAGE PICS: ERIC RICK­MAN, PETERSENPU­B­LISH­ING CO. ARCHIVE• CAR: ROB IDA

> Through­out this road­ster’s life, there’s been a con­sis­tent force keep­ing up her good looks and per­for­mance. Gene Winfield has been the main man be­hind this hot rod’s 70 years on the road.

> Pete His­chier owned the road­ster in the early 1960s. Early in his stew­ard­ship he had it painted candy ap­ple red, and that’s how it ap­peared (cen­ter of bot­tom row) on the June 1960 cover of Car Craft.

> Gene also loved to shoot pho­tos of his cre­ations. Here Pete His­chier’s wife, Shirley, gets a pose on with the road­ster. > A few years later, Pete took the Deuce to Gene for a makeover. The candy red was out, re­placed by black paint, and they “chromed the hell out of” the car’s com­po­nents, says Gene. Here Pete poses in the newly-fin­ished road­ster in an out­take from Eric Rick­man’s Oc­to­ber 1963 photo shoot. A two-page fea­ture ran in the April 1964 HRM.

PIC: BOB WHITE­HEAD

PIC: CON­NELL MILLER

> This is the flat­head that was in the Winfield road­ster when Bob found the car. He in­stalled the Ar­dun, and this en­gine went into Bob’s ’40 Ford coupe. Aside from some top­side changes, in­clud­ing the Ea­ton su­per­charger, it hasn’t been apart since Gene built it in 1958!

> When Bob White­head bought the car in the early 1970s, the road­ster was pretty tired, so he de­cided to up­grade the ’32. The flat­head was re­built and re­ceived a set of orig­i­nal, early-cast­ing Ar­dun heads, along with a rare S.CO.T. su­per­charger. Bob blew that first en­gine up, and re­placed it with an­other Ar­dun flat­head pulled from an Al­lard. This combo was re­built by Ar­dun guru Don Ferguson back in 2009. The en­gine dyno’d at 310 hp, a sig­nif­i­cant amount of power from any flat­head.

> 3. When you think of the Holy Grail of hot rod dashes, Auburn might be the first one that comes to mind. This orig­i­nal unit is still filled with the orig­i­nal gauges, which all work per­fectly.> 4. A mid-’60s Stewart-warner tach sits on the steer­ing col­umn and still looks as clean as the day it was taken out of the box.

> 1. The road­ster has seen sev­eral dif­fer­ent wheel/tire com­bos in its ex­is­tence. When Rob bought the car, the first thing he did was ditch the Buick wheels for a set of more tra­di­tional ’40 Ford steel­ies. They are now shod in pe­riod-per­fect Fire­stone tires: 5.6015 up front and 8.20-15 out back.> 2. Like many 70-year-old hot rods, the in­te­rior has changed over the years. How­ever, there are no mod­ern parts here, every­thing ex­cept the up­hol­stery was the way it was put to­gether in 1964. The vinyl was re­done in the last cou­ple of years to mimic the look it sported when it was a show rod more than 50 years ago. The ’57 Ford steer­ing wheel that Pete His­chier added in 1959 looks right at home in the mix.

> One of Gene Winfield’s many cus­tom touches on the car was his french­ing of the grille shell.

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