Custom Car Builders

July 9, 2013

Wally Welch 1951 Pan Pacific winner

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Written by: Rik Hoving
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The second Petersens Motorama show was held in November 1951. The show was open to the public from November 7 till the 11nd. Just like the previous year the show was held in the Architectural Icon: the Pan Pacific Auditorium.


Wally Welch entered his freshly finished 1950 Mercury in the second Petersen’s Motorama show. After enjoying his Ayala built 1941 Ford for several years, he brought a near new 1950 Mercury to the Ayala brothers to built a radical, yet subtile, custom for him. The car was chopped relatively mild, had its front fenders extended with frenshed headlights. Reshaped grille opening with 5 partly covered 1951 DeSoto grille teeth added. Gil Ayala painted Wally’s merc an brilliant lime green with gold powder added for extra sparkle. The car looked stunning in this color and it sets Wally’s Mercury apart from most other customs, which were painted with dark organic paints. It might very well be possible that the judges were very impressed with Gil’s brilliant color and his bold choice of painting a large, almost brand new car, with such a “In Your Face” kind of color. In any event Wally did win the Best Custom award at the 1951 Pan Pacific Petersen’s Autorama show.


Wally’s daughter still has the original plaque which was part of the awards. Sorry for the poor photo which we took at the 2011 GNRS Customs Then & Now exhibit under very poor lighting conditions.

This kind of fuzzy screen shot was taken from an 1951 movie made by Petersen Publishing/Trend Publishing about the 1951 Motorama. It shows the Wally Welch Mercury being surrounded by the audience.


Above we can see the locations were The Wally Welch Mercury was shown in the Pan Pacific building (the 1950 Mercury placed on the floor plan is not to scale).


The Pan Pacific Auditorium was a landmark structure in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles, California. It was located at 7600 West Beverly Boulevard, near the site of Gilmore Field, an early Los Angeles baseball venue predating the Dodger Stadium. The Auditorium stood within sight of both CBS Television City on the southeast corner of Beverly and Fairfax Avenue and the Farmers Market on the northeast corner of Third Street and Fairfax. For over 35 years it was the premiere location for indoor public events in Los Angeles. The facility was closed in 1972 and destroyed in a fire in 1989.

Designed by the Los Angeles architectural firm Wurdeman and Becket – which later designed the Music Center and the space-age “Theme Building” at Los Angeles International Airport – the Pan Pacific Auditorium opened to a fanfare of Boy Scout bugles on May 18, 1935 for a 16-day model home exhibition. Noted as one of the finest examples of Streamline Moderne architecture in the United States, the green and white facade faced west, was 228 feet (69 m) long and had four stylized towers and flagpoles meant to evoke upswept aircraft fins. The widely known and much photographed facade belied a modest rectilinear wooden structure resembling an overgrown gymnasium inside and out. The auditorium sprawled across 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) and had seating for up to 6,000.(Source Wikipedia)

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About the Author

Profile photo of Rik Hoving
Rik Hoving
Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 8 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)



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  1. Profile photo of Renaud Zed Legardez

    first time i notice the desoto teeth were covered !! nice car !

  2. Profile photo of Bickford

    His is he best way the De Soto have been used. Plus it’s the first time thy were used on a mercury.

  3. Profile photo of Jeff Neppl

    This is a great story about a great custom.I have always loved this mercury and its early history. I really think the Ayalas came out of the gate hard by bringing this car to the Pan Pacific.

    We all know that Ayalas didn’t get all of the praise and coverage they deserved .Maybe that is just how we as Custom fans see it all these years later.We maybe somewhat brainwashed because we see so many books and mags about other builders.The fact is the Ayalas didnt to bad at the shows in the early 50s.Gils car won Oakland in 51 and Wallys won the Pan Pacific later that year.That to me is speaking louder then any amount of promoting the other shops did.

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