Rod & Custom Feature Car
John Foxley
Maple Ridge, BC, Canada
1934 Ford DeLuxe Coupe

Chances are you've heard of a patron of the arts. If you haven't, patrons support artists or artistic communities by contributing money in one way or another. Naturally, patronage has many varieties. In fact George Poteet sort of qualifies: he commissions builders who have elevated their craft to an art-like status to build cars that best reflect their style. So rather than a Pollock or a Rauschenberg that he can hang on the wall, he gets a Trepanier or an Alloway that he can park in the garage...or better yet drive on the road.

Meet one of the latest patrons of the hot rod arts, John Foxley. John's pals will probably howl with curious delight when they read that. In fact, that title might make him feel a little self-conscious. It's largely because John doesn't exactly fit the patron template. For starters, he's not rich. Though he had a Lamborghini last time we talked it was to apply a clear bra to its nose...for someone else.

But a few years ago John began patronizing Gene Winfield. For those of you who don't know him, Winfield is one of the Old Masters. He's worked in the industry for 60-plus years and in that time he's done enough to fill a book. But he's probably best known for a particular type of painting style that he developed in the 1950s. In it, one color fades imperceptibly to another usually around some sort of feature on a car's body. The first Winfield John commissioned went on a heavily chopped and sectioned 1950 Chevy coupe that we featured in the July 2010 issue.

Despite his workingman's means, John made the opportunity to commission another Winfield. As was the case the first time, "…he was coming up to a car show in Abbotsford," John says. "We have a pretty good relationship so I asked him if he'd be interested in another job."

The canvas, if you will, took the form of a 1934 Ford DeLuxe coupe that John got in a trade from Laurens Van Zeeland. The 1955 he gave up was finished but the coupe was a project at the time. "I got a lump plus a big pile next to it, which was all the stuff for it," he says.

"It had a 1 3/4- or 2-inch chop but it was so minimal that you couldn't even tell," he continues. "I fit all the panels, fixed all that was wrong with the body, and chopped it to about 5 inches." But it's not just any chop: whereas someone lengthened the top when they clipped it the initial amount, John followed Kevin "Kiwi Kev" Perry's lead and leaned the posts back to compensate for the remainder of the chop. It gives it a distinctive profile but not without cost: to make the windshield sit flush in the opening requires leaning the posts from where they meet the cowl, a job that entails considerable cowl reshaping.

John kept the finished chassis but redid the remainder. The front rides on a combination of a Magnum axle pinned to polished stainless hairpins, a Durant mono-leaf spring, and Pete & Jake's dampers. The rear consists of a narrowed 1957 Ford 9-inch axle, a polished four-link assembly, and RideTech 7000-series ShockWave air-sprung dampers.

The engine withstanding, John built the car entirely by himself. It started as a 350 that Brandon Guevara built as a 383. A dual-quad Edelbrock combo nestles between the Dart Sportsman II heads. The 700-R4 it powers is distinctive due to its source: it came from a cop car.

Then came paint. "Well [Winfield] loves when people ask him to do things, and honestly he probably takes on more than he can handle," John observes. Case in point, he'd just returned from another job in Sweden. He landed, went home for a few hours of sleep, and returned to the airport to fly to Vancouver, Canada. "When he got here he painted another car for a giveaway," John says. "He goes to the show for three days then does (my) car the following Monday.

"It was one of those situations where it was 20 hours of painting and four hours of, 'Hey, this girl I met at the show wants her shoes painted pink; is it OK if we do that?,' or, 'This other girl wants her welding helmet painted so I'm just going to do that when coats are flashing off.' Any time he can interact with the ladies, he takes it. I don't know how he does it," he ponders admiringly.

"It's a roller coaster working with the guy—in a good way of course," John qualifies. "As it's happening you're thinking, 'Is this going to turn out OK?' If you see it halfway through you wouldn't recognize it. You know, on that paintjob there are like 10 coats of clear over like 40-60 really light coats of paint. Gene has you buy a whole bunch of extra paint because, as he puts it, he paints until he likes it. You wouldn't think it was the same job if you saw it halfway. Once I got the car back together and all cut and buffed the people who left early thought I redid the car. But when it all got back together, bam! It looked great.

"You know, with any of these things it's about more than just the paint," he observes. "I'm sure there are guys out there who, once they learned and took an interest in what it took, could do that kind of paintjob just as well or maybe even better than him. But it wouldn't be him.

"What he does is all of the stuff that he's learned in the, what, last 60 or more years? Like he bends all the rules...he just knows how much he can push the limits to do what he wants. And it works; like the green car has been done for what, four years and the paint never sank or anything. You're not supposed to put that many coats on. But all that evolved out of what he learned on lacquer. Someone who's been trained on the modern systems just wouldn't do the things he does; they wouldn't even think of it. But it works and the soft blends that he gets from doing things this way makes things look really cool.

"Even if someone did a technically better paintjob it would never have the heart of what he did," John summarizes. "Plus it wouldn't have the provenance of a real Gene Winfield paintjob. You can't manufacture that."