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Gene Winfield

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Robert Eugene "Gene" Winfield (born 16 June 1927; age 88) was a automotive customizer, builder of "hot rods", and automobile designer of note, who has also lent his talents to motion picture industry productions, one of which having been Star Trek: The Original Series.

Growing up in Modesto, California, Gene Winfield developed a keen interest in auto body shops and racing, soon leading to him going into business for himself by opening his own company in Modesto, "Winfield’s Custom Shop", after his tenure in the US Army, he left in late 1951, having operated, perhaps not surprisingly, an army automobile body shop in post-war occupied Tokyo. Aside from operating his company, Winfield simultaneously found employment at model kit company Aluminum Metal Toys (AMT) in 1962, as a consultant style designer for their model kits. [1] Outside his duties for AMT during those years, Winfield managed to make a connection with Hollywood by designing automobiles for several television productions. He designed and built the "Piranha Car" for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964), the "Sunbeam Tiger" for Get Smart (1965), and Catwoman's "Reactor" for Batman (completed in 1965 but first used in 1967). The latter especially brought him renown, and the car later made a cameo appearance as the Jupiter 8 in the Original Series second season episode "Bread and Circuses".

In 1966, Gene Winfield was requested by AMT to establish the Phoenix, Arizona based, "Speed and Custom Division Shop". Incorporated as a subsidiary, AMT needed the company to build both full-scale and scaled automobile mock-ups (typically out of wood at the time) to promotional ends, as well as to manufacture the templates or masters in order to construct the molds from which the parts for their model kits were extracted or cast. Winfield headed the subsidiary company as production manager.

It was in this time that Stephen Edward Poe managed to broker a deal between Gene Roddenberry and AMT. The agreement entailed that AMT were given the exclusive rights to manufacture model kits based on the new Star Trek television series in return for helping out Desilu Studios with the construction of set pieces when the need arose. As it turned out that proviso was invoked upon on two occasions. The first time was in 1967 when the company was tasked with the construction of the full scale exterior as well as the full scale interior mock-up of the Class F shuttlecraft, what was to become the Galileo 7, complemented by an accompanying scaled filming model. The second instance occurred one year later, when the company was tasked to build the D7-class model, at first at the behest of AMT itself, that wanted to do a follow-up of their highly successful USS Enterprise model kit. Nevertheless one of their two master tooling models was appropriated by the studio to function as a filming model for the series' third season. In both instances, Gene Winfield served as lead builder and supervisor. While his creations became signature features of the franchise, Winfield, as subcontractor, has never received official credit for his contributions.

In 1970 Gene Winfield left AMT (who closed down the Speed and Custom Shop one year later) to open his own shop, "Winfield's Special Projects" in North Hollywood, to be close to the movie industry. He closed down his business in 1974, to work for Traditional Coach Works in Chatsworth, Los Angeles, only to start a new business for himself again in 1977, which he still operates. During these years his creations have found their way into more than 20 Hollywood films, including Bladerunner (1982, for which he built 25 vehicles, co-designed with Syd Mead), The Last Starfighter (1984), and Robocop (1987) He also created the flying version of the Delorean time traveler for Back to the Future (1985).

Aside from his movie projects, Gene Winfield has continued throughout his career to design and build customized automobiles, continuing to do so to this day while operating his company, currently located in Mojave, California.

In 2012, Gene Winfield became reacquainted with his full-scale Galileo mock-up (having previously attended LagrangeCon '91 in November 1991 near Cleveland, Ohio, where the mock-up was displayed during an earlier restoration attempt [2]), when he was contacted by Alec Peters, one of the initiators of the The Galileo Restoration foundation, established for the restoration of the mock-up, when it was acquired in an auction of 28 June 2012. Excited that his creation was still in existence, he committed himself to do anything he could to help, which included making available the molds for the seats he still owned as well as other parts the foundation needed in order to refurbish her. [3] He furthermore attended as guest speaker the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention on 10 August, as part of the foundation's "The Galileo Panel", in order to raise awareness of, and funding for the project, signing pictures and photos. [4] An interview was made with Winfield by Adam Schneider, the actual auction winner of the mock-up, in which Winfield discusses in length his creation.

Highly esteemed by his peers in the industry, Gene Winfield has been inducted into "Darryl Starbird's Custom Car and Hot Rod Hall of Fame", and was honored as "Builder of the Year" at the 2008 Detroit Autorama.

Star Trek interview

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