custom cars

December 13, 2013

Gene Winfield’s Comeback

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Written by: Rik Hoving
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58 chrysler richard zocchi
Golden Sunrise ’58 CHRYSLER

In 1979 Richard Zocchi asked Gene Winfield to turn his 1958 Chrysler into a typical Winfield custom. Gene outdid himself creating this show winning masterpiece. And with that he put himself back on the map again.

Famous custom car builder Gene Winfield is known for cars as the Jade Idol, the Solar Scene, the Ractor, the Strop Star, the Pacifica, and many more well – and not so well – known custom cars and hot rods. Gene had slowly faded in to doing other automotive work in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. Until Richard Zocchi knocked on his shop door with the request to built him a show winning custom car, styled after the late 50’s, early 1960’s classic custom cars. For Gene this meant a comeback into customizing the “traditional way”. He would continue to be involved in this scene – up to this very moment – and hopefully for many more years to come.

We say traditional way. But in reality the Chrysler is not so very traditional at all. Even though Richard’s 1958 Chrysler New Yorker looks traditional – for the time it was built in – modern components were used to achieve the looks Richard and Gene were after. Gene started the job by lowered the car to the perfect ride-height, then he chopped the top 3 1/4 inch, and used a Dodge Challenger rear window to fit the new reshaped back of the top. The front fenders were extended, and slightly widened on the inside, to house a set of 1972 Oldsmobile Delta headlights. Far from traditional – but as the photos show –  these modifications worked extremely well. All trim, and handles are removed, and the holes filled for an ultra smooth look.

CCC-Winfield-Golden-Sunrise-01-WRichards 1958 Chrysler New Yorker in progress at the Gene Winfield Canoga Park shop. The top has been chopped, and the reshaping of the front fenders to house the 1972 Oldsmobile headlights is in process. (Gene Winfield collection)

 

CCC-Winfield-Golden-Sunrise-18-WThe nearly finished “Golden Sunrise” on its way to Richard’s home in Pittsburg, California. The car had deep chrome steel wheels at that moment, but those would soon be replaced with steel wheels and aftermarket hubcaps. (Gene Winfield collection)

 

CCC-Winfield-Golden-Sunrise-04-WAll finished with the new hubcaps, and wonderful polished chrome, the Golden Sunrise.

 

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A closer look at the Oldsmobile headlights, and the White Tuck & Roll and buttoned interior.

 

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This old aftermarket catalog image show the hubcaps “S” that Richard found. After having them re-plated, he used on his Chrysler. They fitted the car with its bullet grille, and fade away paint-job extremely well.

 
The rear fenders were extended a little to work with the 1957 Chrysler taillights. The trunk was smoothed, and the bumper guards removed for a much cleaner look. Gene contracted an unique grille based on a wire mesh base, that was cut to fit the grille opening. Three rows of two different size chrome plated bullets were mounted on this base. A typical early 1960’s Winfield styling element which changed the look of the front dramatically. Together with the smoothed bumper and Oldsmobile quad headlights the front end looks absolutely stunning. Once all the body work was ready, Gene, and his team prepared the body for another unique Gene Winfield feature. The Fade-Away paint job. Gene painted the whole car in white pearl first, then started to blend-in candy yellow, orange, and golds to end up the the Golden Sunrise eye popping paint job.

The interior was handled by Dick’s Auto Trim in Concorde, California. Here, Skip DuMont used white leatherette tuck & roll, detailed with buttoned section on cut to fit Lincoln/Mercury Capri seats. Wide white wall tires, and 1957 Chrysler style with extra blades after market hubcaps, form the finishing touch.

Richards drove, and showed the car for a couple of years until he sold it to John D’Agostino in 1982. Besides it being the come back to custom for Gene Winfield, Richard’s Golden Sunrise Chrysler is also one of those important custom cars that put Customs back on the map in the early 1980’s. Richard Zocchi and John D’Agostino both played a major role in that with their near annual new custom creations.

 

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John D’Agostino, close friend to Richard Zocchi, and well known Custom Conductor, bought the Golden Sunset.  He changed the hubcaps with his favorite trademark chrome wire wheels.

 

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CCC-Winfield-Golden-Sunrise-12-WCCC-Winfield-Golden-Sunrise-09-WThis photo was taken at the 1988 Paso Robles show. By then the car was owned by Harry Crycroft who replaced the wide white wall tires with narrow white, and yellow stripe tires. The car still looked great, but I always preferred the original version with the full hubcaps, and wide white wall tires.

 

CCC-Winfield-Golden-Sunrise-02-WMike Shelly’s photo give us a nice look at the bullet grille.

 

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The current owner of the Golden Sunrise Bob Fryz, completely re-did the car several years ago. Now the car is painted a lime gold, outlined in white. Bob also removed the bullet grille, and replaced it with a chrome tube grille. 

 

The Golden Sunset has played a big part in my personal Custom Car history. In the early 1980’s the Classic & Custom magazine article on Richards Chrysler was copied in the Belgium/Dutch magazine Chroom & Vlammen (Dutch for: Chrome and Flames). This was basically the only magazine I was able to find back then. The wild fade paint job, the ultra bright chrome details like the bullet grille, fascinated me a lot. I must have stared at those photos for hours. A couple of years ago, I heard that the car was still around today. I was thrilled, but a bit disappointed to find out what the updated version looked like. The car looks still very nice with a slightly more forward rake. The new paint is also nice, and fits the theme. But personally I would love to see it restored back to its original Richard Zocchi version with the hubcaps, full whites, bullet grille and wild fading golden Sunset Gene Winfield paint job.

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Resource and more info:

  • Gene Winfield book, The Legendary Custom Cars and Hot Rods of Gene Winfield
  • Classic Customs and Leadslead book, Bo Bertilsson
  • Classic & Custom magazine, August/September 1980

 

 

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About the Author

Profile photo of Rik Hoving
Rik Hoving
Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 8 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)




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One Comment


  1. Profile photo of Dave Tartaglia

    One of my all-time favorite cars!
    I have re-read every magazine feature on it countless times and never tire of looking at it. This was one of a handful of “new” customs which helped launch the custom car revival in the eighties.

    The thing I especially liked about this car was the use of the “modern” Dodge Challenger back-light and the Old headlight buckets in an old style car. If discovering different, yet harmonious design elements aren’t traditional, I don’t know what is.



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