Featured Vehicle: Resurrecting Gene Winfield's 'Bronze Coated Beauty'

For years, it was nothing more than a beat-up old 1935 Ford pickup collecting dust in an Oregon barn. From the looks of it, no one would have guessed that the old pickup that wound up in a field in Mist, Oregon, was once the original work truck of a hot rodding legend. Nor would anyone have guessed at that time that the truck would one day be restored to its original glory. Enter the team at Hatfield Restorations. The story of the truck begins in the late 1950s when legendary rod builder Gene Winfield and his friend Rick Lefelt built the truck and painted it its signature bronze color to be shown at a San Mateo, California, car show in January 1960 to help advertise Winfield’s custom shop. The truck was a hit, even landing an appearance in the October 1961 issue of Custom Rodder where it was called “The Bronze Coated Beauty.” The truck was modified throughout the early 1960s by Winfield and was painted blue. In 1963, Winfield put the truck up for sale in the classified section of Hot Rod magazine, eventually working out a trade and selling it to an Oregon man who would go on to crash the vehicle and later sell it to Don Epling in 1965. After that, the truck essentially “disappeared” for the next 43 years, sitting in Epling’s barn. Winfield had no idea what had happened to his old shop truck.

The barn and truck survived two floods and, after the second flood in January 2008, Epling moved the truck to a field on his property so it could dry out. David "Tex" Barnes spotted the truck in the summer of 2008 while he was driving by Epling’s property. Although he was only able to see the rear of the truck from the road, it made an impression on him. After reading an article in Rodder’s Journal about Winfield’s truck, he wondered if it might be the same truck he'd seen rusting in the field in Oregon. David and his brother, Dale, who works for Hatfield Restorations in Canton, Texas, went to see the truck and eventually decided they wanted to purchase it for Dale's boss. The brothers, along with Gary Hatfield, owner of the shop, finally convinced Epling to sell it. “[We] discussed the importance of the barn find,” said Hatfield. “[We] decided [the truck] needed to be preserved.” With the sale complete, the truck was trailered from Oregon to its new home in Texas. “On the way, [Dale] stopped at Gene Winfield’s shop in Mojave, California, so he could see his old truck after some 40 years,” said Hatfield. “Gene had been looking for the truck for the past 18–20 years,” said Hatfield. “He’d heard of its general location and had traveled to Oregon twice to see if he could find it but each time he failed to locate it. He had a customer from Washington state that wanted to reproduce the truck and had even bought him a 1935 Ford pickup to use, just prior to us finding the real thing.” Restoring the truck to its original beauty would be no easy task. Years in a barn, as well as the six months it had been exposed to the elements in the field, had taken its toll on the truck. Still, Hatfield and his team were determined to turn the pickup into a “Bronze Coated Beauty” again. “The restoration took 4,000 hours and was completed in eight months,” said Hatfield. “Zac Rabe, Mark Dunbar and all of the other employees at Hatfield’s were all dedicated to the restoration of this important part of custom car history.” Other important members of the build team include Paul Shelton, Merrilee McLemore, Stephen Tompkins and Pete Rose. Despite how long it had been stored, the truck was in decent shape. Although it was missing its engine, it still had many priceless features, including the original Tommy the Greek pinstriping on the dash and the dropped axle built by Winfield himself. The truck was completely torn apart, blasted and repaired. Mike Herman of H&H Flatheads assembled a new 255-cubic-inch Flathead engine for the truck, which was installed with the original Winfield cam and a 1940 transmission. Offenhauser heads and an intake with two polished 97 carburetors were also added. To return the bronzed luster to the pickup, the team stripped the old blue paint and spent hours trying to perfect the bronze color. “The color was matched from samples on one of the shock absorbers that had been originally painted by Gene Winfield,” said Hatfield. Hatfield sent the shock absorber to PPG’s labs, where the company finally perfected the color. “It’s a perfect match to the bronze gold metallic originally on the truck,” said Hatfield, of the color that his painter, Michael Stovall, sprayed the truck. The original Tommy the Greek pinstriping and lettering was redone by Daniel Gay of Wylie, Texas. For the truck’s interior, Hatfield took some of the original fabric he found on the old seats and door panels to Dean Boyd of Sunbelt Fabrics in Dallas to try to find a good match. Boyd supplied him with gold and white material from a 1957 Oldsmobile that complemented the truck’s exterior. Tony Chamberlain did the entire interior in-house at Hatfield’s. The last custom touch was the addition of the original “Winfield’s Custom Shop” plaques, which Winfield himself had supplied to the restoration team. The plaques were restored and bolted back to the bed rails that they'd graced nearly 50 years before. The truck was shown unfinished at the 2009 Dallas Autorama and the Lonestar Roundup in Austin in the spring of 2009. Eight months and 4,000 man-hours after they started the project, the team showcased the finished truck at the 61st Grand National Roadster Show in January 2010. Gene Winfield was there and added the finishing touch to his former shop truck—his autograph on the dash. “When Gene saw the truck, he commented that it was never that nice when he had it,” said Hatfield. “He was delighted that we had done such a nice job.”

Stat Sheet:

Car: Gene Winfield’s 1935 Ford Pickup

Owner: Gary Hatfield

Builder: Hatfield Restorations

Location: Canton, Texas

Interior: Tony Chamberlain of Hatfield Restorations used 1957 Oldsmobile gold and white material that was furnished by Dean Boyd of Sunbelt Fabrics in Dallas. The material used was matched to original fabric found on the old seats and door panels.

Powertrain: The truck runs on a 255-cubic-inch Flathead engine that was restored and assembled by Mike Herman of H&H Flatheads in La Crescenta, California. Also under the hood sits the 1940 transmission installed by Winfield, Offenhauser heads and an Offenhauser intake with two polished 97 carburetors.

Body & Frame: The truck’s stock 1935 Ford pickup chassis was painted the same color as its body and dressed with polished stainless bolts. It features the original dropped-and-filled axle done by Winfield, tube shocks and de-arched springs. The glass on the panels was supplied by Ronny Marshall of Independent Glass, while the chrome plating was done by Jackie Peebles of North Texas Quality Chrome.

Tires: U.S. Royal’s 5:60 wide whites

Wheels: The truck’s 1950 Mercury wheels feature custom bullet centers and spun aluminum outer discs from Mooneyes. Each was topped off with 16 bullets that were custom-made by Advanced Custom Chrome in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Paint: Michael Stovall of Hatfield’s painted the truck using a shade of PPG paint that was matched to the truck’s original bronze gold metallic paint. The custom pinstriping and lettering were done by Daniel Gay of Wylie, Texas.

Other Features: Gene Winfield added the final touch to the truck’s restoration when he autographed the dashboard at the 2010 Grand National Roadster Show. (All photos are courtesy of Hatfield Restorations.)