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Gene Winfield (born June 16, 1927) is an American automotive customizer. In the mid-1960s, his designs caught the attention of the film community, resulting in a large body of his work being seen on screen, including in the iconic 1982 film Blade Runner.

Gene Winfield
Winfield (right) pictured with a fan
Born Robert Eugene Winfield
(1927-06-16) June 16, 1927 (age 91)
Springfield, Missouri, US
Occupation Automotive designer


Early life and careerEdit

Growing up in Modesto, California, Winfield was exposed to auto body shops and auto racing, including driving 135 mph in a Ford Model T ("The Thing") at Bonneville Speedway in 1951.[1] He soon opened a business in Modesto, Winfield's Custom Shop. An early innovation was the blended custom paint, where the two colors are carefully faded together[2]

Building on his experience, in 1962, Winfield joined Aluminum Model Toys (AMT) as a consultant style designer for their model kits.[3]

Winfield also worked with Detroit automakers who turned to craftsmen to add their custom touches to factory cars. As part of the "Ford Custom Car Caravan," Winfield developed the 'Pacifica' Econoline van, the Mercury Comet 'Cyclone Sportster,' and the 'Strip Star' - an aluminum bodied sports car with a powerful Ford 427 V8 engine.[2]

Winfield's next aluminum bodied project was even more ambitious. Joe Kizis, an East Coast show promoter, held an annual 'Autorama,' an indoor rod and custom car show in Hartford, Connecticut. Kizis gave Winfield a $20,000 commission to build a show car named the 'Autorama Special' [4][5] This vehicle later became known as The Reactor, which is a mid-engined front wheel drive two seater, with a very low profile due to the Corvair flat 6.[6] The car retains the wide front track/narrow rear track appearance characteristic of the DS.[7]

Gene Winfeld works with some kids while on tour of the International Show Car Association (ISCA) with the "Summit Racing Equipment Chop Shop". Milwaukee World of Wheels, February 2013.

It showcased a light aluminum body, like the 'Strip Star,' but the technology went far beyond novel bodywork. Winfield took two unrelated components - the 180 hp turbocharged engine from a Chevrolet Corvair Corsa and mated it to the drivetrain from a Citroën DS, a front wheel drive car that normally develops 85 hp. Powerful front-wheel drive cars did not exist at the time, as certain technical challenges, like torque steer, had yet to be addressed. Winfield therefore predated complex and powerful front-wheel drive production vehicles like the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado and 1970 Citroën SM by several years.

An episode of Bewitched was written around this car and its unique abilities, including the height adjustable suspension.[2]

Winfield also used the Corvair engine in a more conventional Rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, for The Piranha, a car meant to show the usability of ABS plastic in automotive materials.[8] Winfield made this car a television star as well, on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. [9]

AMT hired him in 1966 to manage the new Phoenix, Arizona based Speed and Custom Division Shop, which built full scale cars as promotional vehicles. After AMT closed this division in 1971, Winfield has continued work in the custom auto body field in Southern California and appears as honored guest at auto related events in the US.

In recent years, Winfeld was honored as the Detroit Autorama "Builder of the Year" in 2008,[10] and since 2013, has been on the International Show Car Series (ISCA) circuit, chopping tops and shaping sheet metal for the crowds in a special section of each show called "The Summit Racing Equipment Chop Shop".[11]


A spinner from Blade Runner
Strip Star
Eartha Kitt behind the wheel of The Reactor

Revered as "The King Of Kustoms", Gene was featured in the 1st DVD in a series called The Kings Of Kustoms. The series is a documentary and will be highlighting various car customizers, such as VooDoo Larry from Chicago, Illinois., Alex Gambino of San Jose, California.[12]

Year Film Vehicle Notes
1982 Blade Runner 25 vehicles worked with Syd Mead on flying car concept
1984 The Last Starfighter Starcar Exists both as physical car and CG car[13]
1985 Trancers
1987 Robocop 6000 SUX
Year Title Vehicle Notes
1964 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Piranha car[14] Chevrolet Corvair engine, plastic body[15]
1965 Get Smart Sunbeam Tiger
1967 Batman Reactor[16] Catwoman Eartha Kitt car episode 110 and 111
1967 Star Trek Shuttlecraft Galileo[17]
1967 Star Trek Reactor "Jupiter 8" car from 'Bread and Circuses’ episode 54
1967 Bewitched Reactor[6] "Super Car": Turbocharged Chevrolet Corvair engine, front wheel drive, Citroën DS chassis, aluminium body. episode 3.19
1968 Mission: Impossible Reactor Episode "The Freeze": used in a ploy to make a bank robber believe he's been in suspended animation for 14 years.

See alsoEdit


Jonnie King's Hall Of Fame Legends Series:

  1. ^ "Custom Car Builder Gene Winfield - Model T Coupe - Automobile Magazine". Automobile. 29 April 2011.
  2. ^ a b c "Gene Winfield - Legendary Custom Car Builder".
  3. ^ "Gene Winfield - Kustomrama".
  4. ^ "Joe Kizis".
  5. ^ "The Super Car - Bewitched".
  6. ^ a b "Reactor".
  7. ^ "The Reactor - Gene Winfield". Fotki -
  8. ^ "Piranha & Man from U.N.C.L.E. Car - Piranha "Roots"".
  9. ^ "Piranha & Man from U.N.C.L.E. Car - Piranha "Spy Car"".
  10. ^ Larivee, Bob (2015). Hot Rod Detroit. Oxford, Michigan: GP Publishing. p. 281. ISBN 978-0-692-30899-8.
  11. ^ "Attend Show-Boston World of". Championship Auto Shows (CASI). 2016-03-27. Retrieved 2016-03-28.
  12. ^ Grant, David (2008). The Legendary Custom Cars and Hot Rods of Gene Winfield. Motorbooks. ISBN 978-0-7603-2778-4.
  13. ^ The Last Starfighter
  14. ^ "Piranha & Man from U.N.C.L.E. Car Homepage".
  15. ^ "10 TV Cars You Wish You Owned".
  16. ^ "Eartha Kitt discusses driving the 'Catmobile'". Archive of American Television.
  17. ^ "Star Trek Prop, Costume & Auction Authority: The Galileo Shuttlecraft".

External linksEdit