Customized Project: 1955 Ford Thunderbird

Offered up for sale are three “historical” vehicles said to have been customized by fabrication legend Gene Winfield and stored inside a trailer that may have once belonged to George Barris. Interesting credentials to say the least, but the seller places most of the attention on Winfield himself and selling this “collection” as a package deal. But the T-Bird and trailer are the only ones visualized in the listing and no reference is made to what the asking price is. They’re available here on craigslist in Palmdale, California (we think; the link is from a New York listing).

Let’s start with the man who perhaps makes this offering historically significant, according to the seller. Gene Winfield was born in 1927 and appears to still be with us. He was an American automotive customizer and fabricator whose work caught the attention of the film and television community in the 1960s. A large body of his work is said to have appeared on-screen including the 1982 movie Blade Runner.

Stored inside a rusty trailer (that once may have been a hauler for famed car guy George Barris) is a 1955 Ford Thunderbird.  Not just any T-Bird, but a customization project that was started by Winfield and never completed. It may or may not be whole and has no visible drivetrain though we’re told it’s still around. We assume the Ford has been inside this trailer for many years as especially the trailer has been the victim of Father Time and Mother Nature. The seller may have been in touch with Winfield as his response about the T-Bird was, “I started the car around 1964 and put it in the trailer in the mid-sixties”.

Some of the work done to modify the Ford includes dual headlights, a shaped nose, a filled-in trunk, flared fenders, and more. It got to the stage of being primered before work stopped. The seller thinks ole Gene was building this as a drag car given the straight axle in the front and no interior. The 390 cubic inch V8 intended for the car has been taken apart and is in the “shop” but we don’t know where the “shop” is. There is no title associated with this car.

The seller refers to a group of three cars, the other two being a 1976 Cadillac Mirage and a 1967 Piranha GM prototype that may or may not have had something to do with The Man From UNCLE TV series of that era. The seller doesn’t talk about either of them, yet it’s said to be a package deal, and the links to two other craigslist ads do not work (I tried messing with the formatting the seller provides but to no avail).

It’s hard to make heads or tails out of this offering. If it’s a fake, someone has gone to a lot of trouble to set it up. If the right buyer believes these vehicles and the rusted trailer are historically significant, then perhaps the seller will get whatever it is he’s looking to get for everything. He makes a hint at some sports memorabilia being worth $75,000, so perhaps his goal that or below. For the average old car guy or gal, this may be nothing more than simply interesting. Our thanks to Chuck F & Shervin for this tip.


WANTED 1960 to 2005 Honda any Looking to buy low mileage original Japanese vehicles for my collection gary dunc Contact

WANTED 1976-1980 Plymouth volare Looking for Dodge Aspen / Plymouth Volare donor car with good sheet metal for parts for my project Contact

WANTED 1961-1974 Jaguar E Type Contact me if you have an xke or XK Contact

WANTED 1950 Oldsmobile 2 dr coupe Super 88 rust free and running Contact

WANTED 1969 Pontiac GTO Looking for a project car, prefer 4 speed, or was Contact

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      I think Gene is the seller.
      Look up his place on google earth – his address is on the titles.
      That yellow trailer is sitting on his property.

      Like 2
  1. James427

    If you cut and past the links from the CL ad you can see the other two cars. A Cadillac pick up and a fiberglass Corvair based project similar to the “shark” of that era. Both listings show Gene working on them so that adds credibility. He stated that you could buy basketball memorabilia for $75,000, MORE than what he is asking for the three cars, so it seems he is looking for somewhere about $65,000 for the three.

    Like 4
    • PaulG

      Read the Hemmings story above; he’s asking 250,000
      cRaZy as an outhouse rat…

      Like 15
      • Will Fox

        Saw that article too. He’s dreaming at $250K for it all. Nothing there worth that much. I see about $10K for everything.

        Like 14
  2. flmikey

    “I am the third owner, however, for historical reasons, I left them in Gene’s name.” Title jumping. I am shocked a company like Hemming’s is allowing this to happen, and I am sure the State will be wanting their sales tax from the “third” owner. That said, nice find, and great history lesson.

    Like 7
    • Terrry

      Hemmings has really jumped the shark . They featured a worthless Yugo recently.

      Like 7
    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      That Hemmings write up is even more long-winded and hard to read than the single Craigslist ad. Shouldn’t someone have helped the seller edit the narrative. Use punctuation properly? OMG, it reads like an 8 year old just discovered the use of big words and decided to dictate to Hemmings….words describing a QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLAR purchase of historic significance. Here’s one of many corrections…the Corvair engine shown is a stock 140 horsepower motor, not 160 as stated by the seller. The admin on the Hemmings site should have the wherewithal to ask that a listing read properly before broadcasting the sale to the world. Cheers!

      Like 1
  3. Michael Streuly

    Nothing to see here but junk.

    Like 12
  4. michael h streuly


    Like 6
  5. Time William Tell

    Fugly and dated. The reason it died in the sixties…

    Like 3
  6. Time William Tell

    Now if it were a Winfield 50 Merc……

    Like 3
  7. SquirrelyGig

    I find it interesting & sad to see the negative reactions.
    After reading the Hemmings article, I think the story is historically interesting.
    This is an opportunity to have a decent, although expensive, slice of Americana & a by-gone era.
    I realize the generations that would dream about these kinds of builds are getting fewer & further between w/ younger generations having little to no interest or knowledge. It seems the fact of the matter is that the provenance appears to be true? For that, I feel there should be some sort of vindication for these cars? Even if it means leave the T-bird in the trailer & relocate it somewhere for what is. An automotive historical significance, that can be preserved & used to teach future generations.

    Like 15
  8. Mike

    I think the seller has the record for the longest CL description. Well, anything longer than 2 sentences is usually a CL record.

    Like 5
  9. MrAnnoyingDude

    Now it looks just like the Vapid Peyote from GTA V.

  10. Lowell Peterson

    Winfield is only in his ’90’s, works 8 days a week and resurrected a car he forgot he had when he moved a few years ago! ’27 T coupe ,chopped,chaneled with dual 600×16 tires on back! Hadn’t seen it since ’60’s he told me. Then he cleaned it up and ran it at El Mirage!!!

    Like 7
  11. John

    There are two serial numbers on the chassis.
    One is passenger side top frame rail, you will not miss it.
    The other is under floor pan about mid way of floor pan before rear wheel well.
    It is a shame that it was never completed, as now days magazine front cover custom cars are being invited to the Best Invitationals.
    Perhaps knowledge of his hands on of the car, may make that happen?
    This would add tremendous value.
    I would be checking the engine real carefully, might just be a 427 low riser or 427 med riser.

    The fiberglass car, not sure how to view that one?
    The trailer itself should be preserved and shown with the car when completed.
    2 great stories of automotive historical significance,

    Like 3
  12. RallyAce

    Gene is still with us. I spoke to him at length at the Syracuse Nationals in July.

    Like 3
    • 19sixty5 Member

      I spoke with him at Hot August Nights in Reno last month. 94 and amazingly sharp and quick witted.

  13. C5 Corvette

    I love T-Birds, however this one requires way too much work for me. As for the trailer it belongs right where it is. In a junk yard. I think the frame is probably shot and the brakes rusted tight. I was able to bring up the ad for the Cadillac P/U. It was very nicely done, almost looks like the factory could have produced these if they had wanted too. I needs some refreshing, but other than that just drive it. I couldn’t bring up the other car, but I do have a history of restoring Corvairs. I had a 67 4 door Corvair that had been converted into a 2 door ElCorvairo. I wish I could upload a photo of it. As I age, I only have Corvette’s. One at a time, currently a C5, Black on Black, that I just enjoy driving whenever I can.

    Like 1
  14. Jon G

    Theoretically that trailer could have at on time housed James Dean’s Porsche 550 Spyder. Barris owned the car and trailed it around to school people on safety. It was at some point stolen and just this year some of the parts off Dean’s car have turned up.

    Like 3
  15. Alford Pouse Member

    Saw the bird first thought was Facel Vega.

    Like 1
  16. Gary Rhodes

    The Bird would be a nice car to finish seeing that a master had worked on. The seller is trying to cash in before Gene goes to the big body shop in the sky. Pull everything out in the sun and take alot of pictures if you want to sell them.

    Like 1
  17. Claudio

    I read all of the ad, and all the comments and links
    I would certainly enjoy meeting the seller, i am always intrigued by people with serious brain disorders !
    I get a good giggle trying to understand how their defective brain sees the world !

    I guess i would also get a good laugh from the demented joe …

    Like 3
  18. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    But wait, on top of a beat up yellow storage container with the Barris logo, you get a three blade box fan AND an Indiana Jones suede hat in the deal! SCORE!

    Like 2
    • C5 Corvette

      Those are options and like a dealer, extra cost!

  19. chrlsful

    BaT, too, needs to suck a wet one~

    Car auction sales, net sales, our own numbers (Boomers swell of pop. #s) and the take-over by MBAs who don’t care abt cars (is the ‘modern attorney’ in there too? they’re ALL Too Corporate!) has ruined it for me.

  20. Bill McCoskey

    Now as nothing was ever completed or finished on the T-bird, how could it realistically be called a Gene Winfield car? However if he was willing to “advise/assist” on finishing the car to reflect his original intentions, then it might be something worth looking into. But since the T-bird needs everything, and nothing had ever been completed, it’s only a modified T-bird. As it exists today, I don’t think it could realistically be called a Gene Winfield T-bird. Especially if there is no photographic evidence to support the car even being in the Winfield shop. Only Gene knows what it SHOULD have looked like, and what needs to be done to finish the car.

    When someone asks the world, for a product that depends on the historical facts to be evident, then it’s critical that the seller has done his homework and can provide a potential buyer with solid evidence, to make the buyer comfortable in seeing the purchase to completion. Saying things like “you can talk to Gene in person after you buy the cars” is not going to motivate people who can afford upwards of $75,000.00.

    As for the trailer possibly being the James Dean display trailer, a potential buyer will need to take a close look at all the photographs I’m sure exist of that trailer at various display locations. If it IS the Porsche’s “last ride” trailer, it MIGHT have value to a very few groups.

    Like 2

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