The legendary automotive customizer Gene Winfield demonstrates hammer welding at the workshop held at Oceanside Kustoms Aug. 5-6. — Michael Briones photo

Local hot rod fans learn from a legend

Well-known automotive customizer holds workshop at Oceanside Kustoms

Local fans of classic cars and hotrods got a rare opportunity to learn from living legend Gene Winfield, who is known internationally for his creations of one-of-a-kind vehicles.

Oceanside Kustoms owner Paul Uren, who has become a good friend of Winfield after they worked together on several workshops and shows in the past, invited the well-known automotive customizer to come to the Island to go fishing. Winfield, whose unique automobile designs and creations have been sought-after by collectors all over the world, accepted the invitation and also agreed to hold a workshop in Parksville.

The workshop was held August 5-6 and it focused on metal shaping that included hammer welding, leading, basic metallurgy, metal repair, hammer and dolly, theory, shrinking, hole finishing, metal finishing and gas welding.

“It was truly an honour to have Gene here in our shop,” said Veronica Uren, Paul’s wife. “He has never been to the Island before. He only comes to Canada every once in a while because he travels around the world a lot.”

Twenty-one people attended the workshop and took advantage of the chance to pick the brain of the legend, who is more than willing to share what he knows to those who are willing to learn. Some took down notes while others had their smartphones out to capture some of the sessions on video.

The participants were in awe watching Winfield work. The American, who hails from California, is already 90 years old but he looks much younger.

Winfield had no assistants. He did all the work involved in the workshop. During his demonstration on the art of hammer welding, Winfield showed his adeptness and knowledge in handling the torches and in welding the metals with accuracy. He also showed his physical strength when he pounded on the searing metals to forge them.

“He doesn’t act like he’s 90 years old,” said Veronica. “You would never, never know it. We went dancing one night. We had dinner. He just goes and goes and doesn’t stop.”

“That’s how I want to do it,” Paul said of continuing in the customization business. “I guess I’ve got another 49 years ahead of me.”

The workshop was a success, said Veronica.

“The people who attended told us they’ve learned an enormous amount,” she said. “He started the day with the absolute basics and, by the end of it, people had a firm understanding of all the different topics that he touched on.”

If the opportunity arises again, the Urens plan to bring Winfield back to Parksville, she added.