Nick Cozzitorto's 1952 Ford
1952 Ford F1 1/2 ton pickup restyled by Gene Winfield at Winfield's Custom Shop for Nick Cozzitorto.
The Winfield touch
In 1952, with barely 100 miles on the odometer, Nick brought the pickup to Winfield for a full custom treatment. Gene went ahead and chopped 4 inches out of the top of the truck. The rear window opening was not reduced the same amount, and the alteration method was identical to the one used on the Rod & Custom Magazine’s Dream Truck. The stock moldings on the hood sides were replaced with louvers. The only available louvering machine was not equipped with an extension capable of reaching the area decided on, so Barris Accessory louver plates were purchased and welded to the hood sides.
The louvers provided added ventilation for a 1952 Ford block that had been bored to 3 5/6 inches and stroked 1/4 inch. An aluminum flywheel cut down revolving weight and added greatly to initial acceleration. The clutch was taken from an Auburn. The heads and three-carb manifold were Weiand, and the cam was Iskenderian. The transmission ran a full set of Zephyr gears.
Flared 1951 Mercury type fender skirts were installed over the rear wheels. The skirts had to be heightened to fully cover the rear wheel cutouts. The fenders were dressed up with 1953 Buick portholes that functioned as exhaust outlets. Gene scrapped the original taillights in favor of 1947 Chevrolet units, while the rear bumper was shaved for unnecessary accessories. A center-mounted license plate was illuminated by a small light that Gene concealed by the bumper.
The rear of the truck was lowered by installing six-inch, king-size lowering blocks. Axle-frame clearance was kept by kicking up the chassis side rails and building a slight hump in the center of the bed floor. The front end was brought down by installing a 3 1/2 inch dropped axle.
All moldings and door handles were shaved, and a chromed grille assembly and dual spotlights were installed before Gene completed the build in purple primer. The front bumper was also shaved for guards, and the painted headlight rims were replaced with deep-set rims from a 1951 Mercury. Vertical grille guards were eliminated in order to rid the truck of as many vertical lines as possible. The bed featured a white tarpaulin, while the interior was upholstered in cream-colored leatherette. This iteration of the car was featured on the cover of Rod & Custom July 1954. The magazine did also include a featured story titled "Pace-Setting Pickup." The photos for the story, including the cover photo, were snapped by Dean Moon.
Reworked in 1956
In 1956 Nick brought the pickup back to Winfield for more work. This time, Gene channeled the body over the frame, and he sectioned the cab 5 1/2 inches. When the hood was sectioned, the louvers were also removed. A 1956 Chrysler Windsor grille was then reworked to fit the grille cavity. The grille was backdropped with expanded metal, and headlights from a 1952 Ford was nestled beside the grille. New dual taillight housings were sculpted from round rod bars and fit with 1955 DeSoto taillights. 1949 DeSoto bumpers were also installed during the rebuild. Once completed, the truck was painted maroon and dressed up with Chrysler hubcaps. This iteration of the truck was featured in Car Craft June 1958.
"He beat the crap out of it!"
By 1958 Nick had replaced the stock flathead with a 392 Chrysler Hemi, and he had began racing the truck. Repainted Gold Bronze, it was now capable of touring 105 mph at the quarter-mile drag strips. "He beat the crap out of it," Gene told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama in 2019. "Just bashed it! Wrecked the fenders. It was just a total mess," he recalled.
After Gene had restyled the car in 1956 Nick ended up owing him 250 dollars. "Everyone knew it all around the whole area," Gene told Kustomrama. After Nick passed away, Dan Vierra bought the truck. Dan had to buy a new bed, fenders, and other parts that Nick had messed up. He brought it to Winfield for an estimate. While there he also paid Gene the 250 dollars that Nick still owed him, "thirty years later," Gene chuckled, adding that he didn't get any interest.
In March of 2019, Winfield had just finished painting it, just like he did in 1956, and it was back with the owner for assembly. In February of 2020, the restored iteration of the truck was shown at the Sacramento Autorama.
Magazine features and appearances
Rod & Custom July 1954
Trend Book 133 Custom Cars 1957 Annual
Car Craft June 1958
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