Purple Haze: 1953 Buick Gene Winfield Custom

Words: Craig Metros Photography: Luke Ray

After Luke had captured numerous shots of the Sakuragi brothers’ custom Mercurys, Yoshi asked if we had time to see his custom ’53 Buick; ‘Purple Haze’. The car was located around the corner at his home. We of course made time and headed over to Yoshi’s house. With a whitewash finish and a white cyclone fence, his house resembled an East Coast American homestead.

Once inside the gate, we went straight to the adjacent garage. Yoshi-san swung open the garage door to reveal a deep candy purple 1953 Buick Special Riviera. He immediately jumped in it, fired it up, and proceeded to relocate the low slung Buick into the late afternoon cloud covered sunlight. Luke and I were astonished.

This would be another unplanned, must-have shoot that would normally take most of an afternoon. Since we still had two more places to see on our agenda, Luke had thirty minutes to shoot the car, if that. Moving the Buick to another location wasn’t an option, it was ‘now or never’. The garage was positioned in a way that allowed for the Buick to pull out directly in front of the house. The wet looking purple paint job contrasted well with the white washed house and front porch. Luke worked with the little space he had and began snapping away.

The body work and incredible paint job was done by Yoshi’s good friend, Gene Winfield.

Once outside, the vertical fading of the purple was more evident and an obvious Winfield signature. Yoshi bought the car in California in 1997. At the time of its purchase, the car was black with a poorly executed chopped top and no glass. Everything else on the car was stock.

Leaving the project in the very capable hands of Winfield, Yoshi would fly from Japan to California once a year to work on the car with his friend. Winfield re-chopped the car. The A posts were sectioned four inches and the rear went down six inches giving the roof silhouette a subtle taper towards the rear. A ’50 Mercury back window was used to complete the new slope of the roof line. Other modifications include the use of ’59 Cadillac bullet shaped taillights housed inside ’55 Packard tail light lens. The larger front bullet shaped bumper guards are also from a ’55 Packard and the rear bumper used to be part of a ’53 Chrysler.

Looking inside, the stock dash panel matches the body colour and is complete with all factory gauges and trim. All of the upholstery was done in California as well. The seats, door trims, headliner, and the inside of the boot were completely reupholstered in striking white, featuring local areas of tuck and roll and purple piping.

Power is sourced by the stock straight-8, 263 cubic inch Buick engine. A new front and rear hydraulic suspension allows the hefty sled to lower completely to the pavement. Though the car was finished in 2002, Yoshi is still tinkering on the car. He is in the process of detailing the engine compartment with more chrome replacement parts.

After Luke wrapped up the shoot in record time, Yoshi assured us him and his brother had no more custom cars to look at. As Luke packed up his gear, we thanked Yoshi and Kyohei for their time and said our goodbyes. Four stops were done, only two more to go.

This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 18.

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Craig MetrosJapan, Custom