They say it takes a village to raise a child. The proverb reflects the idea that no one person is an island; for someone to develop fully requires input from an array of contributors. In that way, a custom car is no different than a person. It may have one name associated with it, but we assure you that a network-sometimes large and almost always anonymous-contributed to its existence.
Sometimes that network reveals itself in strange ways. Very recently an old custom reappeared on the radar. Parked a hundred or so yards off a rural highway, it probably would've gone unnoticed had its curious shade of Candy Blue not contrasted with the Pacific Northwest forest around it.
But it was anything but anonymous; a transaction, a considerable relocation, and intensive research later revealed that this curious blue pickup was none other than Gene Winfield's old shop truck. Originally gold, it factored prominently in Gene's career: among other things it was an early recipient of Gene's calling card-fade paint-and served as a tow vehicle for another car that arguably established Gene as a supreme craftsman: the Jade Idol. But remember that thing about it taking a village to raise a child? Allow us to introduce you to a few people.
The Modesto Connection
Before it turned its vibrant shade of gold-before it was even Gene's for that matter-this 1935 Ford pickup belonged to Rick Lehfeldt. A welder for an industrial fabrication company, he relocated to Modesto, California, in 1955 after half a dozen years of commuting from his native Bay Area. "I bought it from a guy who was the nephew of a guy who owned a garbage company there in Modesto," he says. "Yeah, it was probably about 1957 or 1958 that I bought the truck."
Though we like to think that we can always reach to the fountainhead of every custom job-the point where a craftsman plunges a blade into unspoiled tin-this isn't one of those cases. That now-unknown nephew of the garbage magnate took the initiative to update the truck to juice brakes and correct its stance with a stretched axle. Also, "The top had already been chopped on it," Lehfeldt admitts. "The lead work was really bad on it, so I reworked it on the chop and worked on the bed for several months getting the rails straight."
But Lehfeldt's contribution was significant as his longtime friend Bart Bartoni recalled. For example, one of the truck's more distinguishing features-the doubled-over nerf bars-was his work. "You know how they come out and wrap back around and have lights in 'em? Well, that's my brainstorm," Bartoni says. "Rick and I made the jig up for that at his shop one night." Not only did Lehfeldt build the bars, he also modified the front fenders' lower edge to accommodate them. "I extended them down and flattened the lower edge," he says.
The '40 Chevy fenders weren't Lehfeldt's idea-they were on the pickup when he got it-but the roll pan between them was. He's also responsible for the smooth and uniquely patterned tailgate above it. "I got the idea when I was sitting in a restaurant looking at the stainless work behind the grill," he reflected. "A real good sheetmetal guy was working for us so I had him make it. You see them a lot now, but I hadn't seen anything done like it before." He made the grille too. "I remember that took me 135 feet of 1/4-inch stainless rod," he says. "I don't know why that stuck in my mind, but I think I ordered 140 feet of it and had only 5 left over."