AYALA WILDBIRD RESTORED
Gil Ayalas 1955 Ford TBird aka Wild Bird has been completely restored by Yarils Customs in Florida. New owner Bjorn Jansson takes it on a Kross Kountry Road Trip from Florida, to California.
In the mid 1950’s Gil Ayala Gil Ayala decided to built a Sports Car based Custom Car for himself. He found a 1955 T-Bird and together with his brother Al they discussed what all they could do to make it look better, more interesting, and more Ayala. They decided that both the front and rear fenders needed some more length to make the car look longer, lower and newer. At the front a set of mid 50’s Packard taillights were set into the extended front fenders. The whole front end of the car was reshaped. The stock bumper was removed and replaced with a two part unit of an 1955 Pontiac. Below these new bumpers a Studebaker lower grille pan was installed. The section below the hood and in between the two buper half was completely reshaped and an small oval grille opening created in the center. Al Ayala did most of the metal work on the car, and he continued with a new larger hood scoop created from sheet metal and round rod. In front of the hood a series of louvres were cut to help the engine breath a bit more.
To make the side of the car more streamlined than the rather “boxy” T-Bird, the two brotheres decided to install new more teardrop shaped mid 50’s Oldsmobile wheel openings, which changed the look of the car completely. The rear fenders were extended to accept a set of 1956 Lincoln taillights, which had a nice forward angle on them, making the top of the fender look very long and give the car some instant speed. Below the taillights the Ayals created some new bumperettes to stay in theme with the split front bumper. ’54 Cadillac rear bumper ends were modified to fit the Bird and the Lincoln taillights. The exhaust was rerouted to exit thru the Cadillac exhaust holes in the bumper ends. The section between the rear fenders and below the trunk was hand shaped from sheet metal and in the center a recessed section was made to fit the license plate. The hood and trunk were shaved and so were the emblems on the rest of the car, but Gil kept the door handles.
To make the the Bird really special Gil designed some rear fender extension, fins from round rod with pressed mesh inserts. The same material was also used to create a new hood scoop insert. On the hood scoop they added three large “teeth” similar in shape as the fins on the rear fenders. These mesh items were copper/gold plated.
The interior of the T-Bird was already very nice from the factory. In this car it was done in bright red with white pleated inserts. There was no need for a new interior. Gil painted the car a deep purple color that he mixed himself. Gil loved to mix new exciting colors, and was always experimenting with new paint. From the color samples found during the restoration we now know that the car was originally red from the factory. To give the purple more depth Gil painted the car with a black base coat first.
When working on the car Yaril found a patch of paint that had not been removed in previous repainting sessions. On the inside the window post all the previous paint coats of the T-Bird could be seen after Yaril had carefully sanded thru the layers. Factory red, followed by black base and “Easter Egg” purple. Then two sesions of gold with Candy-Apple-Red, one seams to be brighter than the other. (Perhaps Gil was experimenting with the best set up.)
Later Gil’s wife Lucille told Gil the car looked like an Easter Egg, which was a good enough excuse for Gill to do a new paintjob on the car. This time around he painted the car a deep darker red over gray primer. This is the color we know from the May 1957 issue of Motor Life magazine. Walter Leeman did the wild pinstriping on the Buick at an Hollywood show when he was just 18 years old. Gil let Walter do what he wanted on the car, having the confidence it would be good.. and right he was.
Around 1960, ’61 Gil decided to change the Bird once more. The Packard headlights were replace with more elegant 1957 Oldsmobile headlights. The mesh fins were removed, and the hood was replaced with a new one that was modified by taking out the factory hood scoop for a more smooth look. Next up was a new paint job of Candy Red over a gold base. Chrome reverse wheels were installed on medium wide white wall tires, and for this version there would be no pin-striping. This last version is how the car was restored to. In doing so most of the Ayala performed body work could be retained.
Pat Ganahl showed this interesting photo of the last version of the car in his second part of the Ayala story in the Rodder’s Journal. It is this later version that the new owner Bjørn decided the car should be restored to.
After that the Bird traveled around until Dan Ceullar from East Los Angeles find the car. At that point the car had been found abandoned and some people were selling off some of the parts before taking the rest to the junk yard. Dan heard about this old T-Bird Custom, went for a look and recognized the car right away. He bought the remains and was able to trace back a few of the parts, but the passenger door, the interior and the glass could not be found again. Not long after that Don decided to put the car up for sale, since he already had several other projects going, and Gil’s old Wild Bird needed a bit more work than he had time for.
The car was sold to Jim B. and ended up in New Jersey on the East Coats of the US. Jim worked a bit on the car, and painted the car with red oxide primer to keep it save from the elements. In 2014 he decided that he would not have the time to restore the car the way it needed to be. So he offered it for Sale on the Custom Car Chronicle and on the HAMB. The car was still missing some parts, as the interior, glass and door. Asking price was $13,000 – $14,000 USD. In the autumn of 2014 Bjørn Inge Jansson found the ad for the Gil Ayala Wild Bird and decided this would be the perfect project for him. He bought the car and planned to have the car restored completely in the US, before taking it to his home in in Oslo, Norway.
Bjørn choose to have the car shipped to Hialeah, Florida, where Yaril Quintana runs his Yaril’s Customs Shop. Yaril was going to do a full frame off restoration on the car. Over time Jaril and Bjørn searched for all the parts missing on the project, and the actual work on the project was started in 2015. A donor car was found which supplied the missing drivers door, glass as well as the fiber glass top. The original top had some major damage, and since the top was left stock my the Ayala’s it was decided the replacement top would would save a lot of time and money. The project progresses slowly for quite some time, but at the end of 2016 Bjørn decided it was time to get the car done, and a special cross country trip with the car was planned.
Yaril Quintana “I will try my best to make this car as nice as it was in the 50’s without “over doing” the restoration, i know how important it is to keep it true to its roots. with that said the owner has decided to move forward with the second version therefore maintaining as much of Gil’s work as possible. this means we need more pics of this version! its a tough choice but its the right one.”
A few photos taken during the restoration at Yaril’s Customs. The whole process can be seen on THIS CCC-Thread.
Yaril Quintana “discussing with the owner, we concluded that this un-louvered hood is a hood Gil must have purchased during the second phase to eliminate the louvers on the first version, making it easier on him to only have to weld shut the scoop hole. it has lead work on it and the welding looks consistent with the other work on the car.”
In early March 2017 the restoration on Gil Ayala’s Wild Bird 1955 T-Bird was completed, and Bjørn had arrived in Florida to pick up the car and start his Kross Kountry in a Kustom road trip. His first stop will be the LoneStar Round Up event in Austin Texas on April the 7th, 2017. After that Bjørn will drive to Las Vegas were the car will be shown at the Viva Las Vegas event on April the 13th, 2017, then on to Los Angeles to meet up with some people, including some Ayala relatives. The end of the trip will be when the car will be left at the San Francisco shipper where the car will be secured in a sea-container and shipped off to Norway.
Bjørn standing proud with the freshly finished Gil Ayala 1955 T-Bird “The Wild Bird”. Bjørn had just arrived from Norway, and had to get himself and the car ready for the Kross kountry Trip.
Photo opportunely in front of the famous Colony Hotel on Ocean Drive in Miami Florida. The car looks amazing in sunlight, and on the road. Yaril and team at Yaril’s Customs did an absolutely amazing job on the restoration. (Although the tourist in the background do not see how gorgeous the car is!)
Dan Ceullar (left) drove from LA to meet up with Bjørn and see the restored Wild Bird, Gil Ayala’s car he saved in 2011. Without Dan the Wild Bird might have been lost forever. Thank you Dan… What a great moment.
Entering New Mexico on the way to California.
Bjørn Inge Jansson together with Lynn Ayala (Gil’s Daughter) and Ralphy Morales holding an unfinished copy of the Auto Butchers E LA fresh from the mold. Ralphy worked for Gil & helped build the original Wild Bird.
After the Viva Las Vegas Show they drove back to Los Angeles, and then on to the end destination of this epic road-trip, San Francisco, California. From here the car will be shipped to Oslo, Norway, where Bjørn lives. Thank you Bjørn for this amazing journey in this historic Custom Car.
Gil Ayala liked his ’55 T-Bird a lot and it must have been a very popular car at the time. In fact Gil decided to put an image of the car on the large shop sign next to the small building at his Gil’s Auto Body Works Shop. This photo was taken in the early 1970’s and by then the image had faded, but it you look carefully you can see the top, the rear wheel opening, rear tire and fender fin of the illustration. The actual sign is still there in 2017, but sadly nothing is left for the original illustration.
Remembering The Wild Bird
Bob Selva is married to Gil’s wife’s Evelyn. Bob was around the Ayala shop a lot when Gil finished the car.
It has been a long time ago, but Bob remembered that Gil and Al “fought” over the design of the car quite a bit and came to a final decision late at night at the shop. They started building it right away that night. Bob also remembers that he had a few drives in the car, it drove very nice, “a good ride in between a soft hard ride,like a sports car on the MG side”. The Bird was not Gil’s avery day car, he did use it, and a few friends and employees also used the car. But for every day use, going home in the evenings Gil did not use the bird. He rather used the Gil’s Auto Body Works shop truck and later Gil had a ’62 Cadillac convertible also. Gil had painted the car a beautiful Candy Apple Red. Bob remembered one night that Gil, Bob along with their wife’s went night clubing. When Gil Backed up the car in the dark he hit a pole and chipped a piece of paint off the right rear fin. Gil went out to see the damage, saw the paint chip, picked it up, and the next day pasted it back on the car. “You could not tell if it was ever chiped”.
Gil’s T-Bird… if I remember right he got it a little latter after my friend Richard Aguerrie had the Ayalas built his brand new ’55 Merc Montclair. Hard to remember the dates, but I remember when they were doing the taillights Gil explayend a little how he was going to change it around. One thing I remember, he was thinking about building a couple of fins for the top of the quarter panels but at that time he didn’t know yet if he would do it. Latter on he decided he would go for it, and after seeing the fins on it I really liked the new fins. Good memories from back then the Ayala’s sure did some great kustoms and the T-Bird was one of them. I hope the new owner installs the fins execly the way Gil did them at a later point.
I remembered I striped Gil’s T-Bird the this show in Hollywood. I don’t remember which show it was, but at this show Earl Bruce introduced me to Von Dutch while I was striping. Rattled me a bit! Gil made me a set of lowered A arms for my ’51 Chevy that I had in high school and he let me take one of his personal ’55 T-Birds out cruising one Friday night. Gil was always really nice towards me. When he redid the Bird I had joined the USAF and never got to see the second version and apparently he never had it striped by anyone else.
More photos of the Kross Kountry Road Trip can be seen on the Custom Car Chronicle Forum.
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