You can call Jim Winter's bright purple and white 9-foot, 9-inch-long vehicle a "Mini-Ford," or a mini-car — just don't call it a golf cart.
"I don't play golf... it has no application on a golf course," Winter said. He says the scaled-down, all-metal 1955 Ford is basically a toy that he uses to entertain grandkids and turn heads at car shows.
"It's a true rubber-necker. People actually stop in their tracks to look at it," he said.
You may remember Winter from an April 2007 Wheels feature on his collection of 1955 and '56 Ford Crown Victorias. Those cars still draw plenty of looks, but Winter says the downsized '55 Ford never fails to attract more than its share of attention.
He was inspired to build it after seeing a similar car built by a friend, Bob Haas, who hails from Michigan. "He (and another friend, Curtis Johnson) came down and gave me three days to help in roughing it in," Winter said.
Using spare vintage sheet metal, bumpers and a grille, the trio began cutting things down to size.
"Everything is chopped down, the cowl, the grille, the bumpers, the gravel guards, the whole 9 yards. The fenders I had in stock. We shrunk it down from about 19 feet to 9 feet, 9 inches," he said.
One of the hardest things was taking a saw, drill or grinding wheel to perfectly good restoration parts, Winter said.
He confessed that the Mini-Ford is based on a Club Car golf cart chassis, but that's where any connection to golf ends. The little Ford, which can't be licensed as a street-legal machine because it doesn't have 4-wheel brakes, rode on 9-inch wheels. Winter modified a set of junkyard 13-inch wheels to fit, giving the car a more comfortable ride and boosting top speed from 12 mph to a blinding 17 mph. The original 1-cylinder Yamaha engine and single-speed transmission remain in use.
Just as the hood, bumpers and deck lid were narrowed, the factory '55 Ford dashboard had to be cut down, with the round radio and heater controls eliminated from the center section. Winter retained the full-sized Ford steering wheel, speedometer and original dash knobs and bezels.
Bill Armbrister sewed up the white vinyl upholstery, while Robbies Hobbies handled chrome plating the bumpers and Lustercraft Plastics provided the mini-wrap-around windshield. Carl Fry helped rewire the car, which features full working lights and turn signals all around.
"People don't realize the work that goes into one of these," Winter said. "It took 10 months to build and there's just about as much to do on this as an a full-sized car," he said. People who have asked him to build them a mini-car quickly drop the idea when they learn just how much it would cost.
So for now, if you see a purple and white half-scale Ford tooling up and down the aisles at a car show, it's a safe bet it'll be Jim Winter at the wheel. "It's just absolute fun," he said. "I am very, very happy with it."