GILS AUTO BUTCHERS
One of the most recognizable original Custom Car Club was, and is the Auto Butchers of East Los Angeles. Original founded by Gil Ayala in the later part of the 1940s.
In the mid 1940’s into the early 1950’s there were a couple of Custom Car clubs in the US that left a mark more than any other car clubs from that era. They left a mark, were recognized then, and still are today, because the members and their cars made it into the magazine, were winners of big awards at the first couple of Annual Car Shows, or perhaps. Because these cars survived, and are shown today with the car show plaques proudly displayed.
Two of these clubs were formed by the then leading Custom Car Shops, The Barris Kustom Shop, and Gil Ayala’s Auto Body Works. George Barris started Kustoms Los Angeles (original Kustoms Sacramento) for guys who had their cars restyled at the Barris Shop. The Kustoms Los Angeles club eventually grew out into the Kustoms Of America Car Club which we covered in this CCC-Article. Gil Ayala formed his Car Club, Gil’s Auto Butchers for the car owners that had their cars restyled by the Ayala shop. This article is about the early years of the Gil’s Auto Butchers Car Club. Today, 2018, the Auto Butchers ELA Car Club is still an active club.
Over the years I have been collecting all the info I could find about the Gil’s Auto Butchers, Auto Butchers and Auto Butchers E. LA car club. These are the three names this club went by, for as far as I have been able to find out. Info it rather rare, I talked to Jack Stewart, who was a member for a while, and a few other people who were there in the early 1950’s, but nobody could tell me much about the club. They all mentioned the brass cleaver plaque and how they proudly polished it for every weekend, and the “monster” shirts and jackets the owners used to wear.
Bob Selva mentioned this about the Auto Butchers.
“They were from all around East Los Angeles & Montebello, Whittier, Ca. They used to hang out at a Drive in called the Hula Hut in Whittier Ca. A guy named “Booter”, who was later shot to death, was the one who drew the picture for the Auto Butchers plaque and the Butcher moster picture. They would also all hang at Gil’s Body shop. I don’t know how in the HELL the Ayala’s ever got any work done lol.”
So far this is the only photo I have come across of an Auto Butchers Jacket. And by the looks of it it was hand painted. If you look careful you can read that is says Gil’s Auto Butchers, and it has an simplified or early version of the monster head that would be used later. The photo is from the John Mackey Collection. According to John the guy in the photo is Auto Butchers member Bernie Mackey wearing the Gil’s Auto Butchers jacket. The photo was taken in the mid to late 1940’s, but no exact date is known.
The photo from the John Mackey Collection shows this model A lake Roadster with a huge hand painted Auto Butchers with monster head painted on the trunk. Sadly we do not have any details on the owner.
From George Barris’s Kustoms Los Angeles club we know the made many trips to special places, car shows, but also weekends and vacations away from the city, or to Balboa Beach for Easter. But so far I have not been able to find out anything like this for the Auto Butchers club members. From what I have heard is that they did travel to shows together, and as Bob Selva mentioned they hung out at the Hula Hut Drive in.
There are plenty of photos of famous and not so famous cars that had the Auto Butchers plaque mounted on the front bumper, or hanging from the rear bumper. These photos showed that these owners were proud members of the Auto Butchers club and liked to show that their cars were created by the Ayala’s.
Close up of the Auto Butcher Monster face painted on the pillar at Gil’s Auto Body Works Shop at 4074 Olympic Boulevard in East Los Angeles. A guy named “Booter” did the design on the Auto Butchers plaque, and also the designed and painted of the Butcher Monster head on the wall.
I have studied all the photos I have been able to find and from that I think that Gil Ayala started a club which he named Gil’s Auto Butchers. This was toward the end of the 1940’s. A guy named “Booter” created the design for the butcher cleaver with the Auto Butchers ELA text on it. These plaques were unequally shaped and were very recognizable. Gil also decided to have them cast in brass, or bronze. The cold color would nicely contrast with the chrome on the car and the deep colors he love to paint his creations with.
At this time “Booter” also created a logo of a guys head, the Butcher, monster style. This became part of the club logo, and can be seen used on possibly the first “Monster Shirts” as well on leather jackets, and also on the trunk of at least one lake Roadster. This Monster head was also painted on the outside of one of the buildings at Gil’s Work Shop. Gil’s Shop served as club headquarters.
The Auto Butchers plaque came in several versions with the text Butchers, Auto Butchers, Auto Butchers ELA, and Auto Butchers E.LA Why there are so many versions of this plaque remains a mystery so far. You would say that once a pattern for a plaque is created, that is what will be used for each new club members. But not so with the Auto Butchers ELA club.
Gil’s Auto Butchers Shirts.
In the late 1940’s, 1950’s belonging to a car club was a big thing. These car clubs had been around for a few year, and they played a big part in the growth of the Custom Car and Hot Rod scene. This was basically the era before the car magazines, and getting information about style and technique was still hard to get. Relying on your club members for this was very important, the club members each had their own skills and helped out each other with projects. Together they went on trips, to car shows, and the weekend dance to pick up girls. The club plaque was one way to identify you and your car as a club member, other ways were special embroidered club jacket and T-Shirts.
The car club T-Shirts in the early days, late 40’s and very early 1950’s are rare, or at least they do not appear much on the old photos. But in the late 1940’s early 1950’s Gil Ayala set out to create some shirt for the Gil’s Auto Butchers Club. This would certainly set apart his club from all the others, since the club shirts he created did not just have the club name on it, like on most club plaques, it also had a very wild illustration on the Auto Butcher Monster Head. These might be the very first Monster or “weirdo” Shirts in the automotive field ever done.
Photo taken around 1950-51 shows that by then they also had Gil’s Auto Butchers Monster shirts created. Looks like the image was used both on the front and rear of the shirt. Al Ayala is seen working on the cowl vent of his brothers 1940 Mercury.
Close up of the shirt. show that the Gil’s and Auto letters are very thin, and a bit hard to read. It looks like there are a butchers cleaver and a torch in a cross below the monster head. I have only see these shirts done in white with black, or a very dark color print.
This photo of Gil’s 1940 Mercury with full fade away fenders was taken around 1951. Possibly the car was then already owned by Richard J. Stickley, the distinctive cleaver plaque was mounted on the front bumper. These are very few photos of Gil’s ’40 Mercury showing an Auto Butchers plaque.
Close up shows that the letters of the “Butchers” part of the plaque look to be different from anything else we have seen. Looks like it is done in all capital letter. However, perhaps its just the lighting or reproduction quality.
Wally Welch had the Ayala’s restyled his 1941 Ford Convertible twice. This photo from 1950 shows the car in the last version. Wally was a Auto Butchers member, and had the brass plaque mounted on the rear fender below the license plate.
Close up of the 1950 photo shows that this version of the Auto Butchers ELA plaque had three holes, or indents in the handle part of the cleaver, as well as a large hole on the top let corner.
The Ayala’s restyled Don Holland’s 1941 Ford in a similar way as they did Wally Welch his car. Don’s Ford used ’49 Plymouth bumper and the Auto Butchers ELA plaque was hanging from that.
Wally Welch’s next full custom was an 1950 Mercury. Responsible for the beautiful restyling were the Ayala’s. Gil Ayala painted the car lime gold, and it can be seen here at the 1951 Petersen Motorama show. It looks like the Auto butchers plaque was added just for the show, and tied down using some cord, or wire.
Wally and the Ayala’s were awarded with the Best Customs Award at the 1951 Motorama show for the stunning 1950 Mercury. For the occasion Gil Ayala had put on a suit and can be seen in this picture with his well known big smile, proudly showing the ’50 Mercury his shop had created. The winning award was held by an unidentified Auto Butchers member wearing an Auto Butchers jacket.
Johnny Rosier had his 1953 Mercury restyled at the Ayala’s and was a member of the Auto Butchers.
Not the best photo quality, but I wanted to include these here anyway. It shows that to become an Auto Butchers member you did not had to have a full Hot rod or Customs. This 1939 Pontiac with some minor custom work done to it, has the Auto Butchers ELA plaque hanging from the rear bumper. From the Jon Mackey Collection.
Memo Ortega Memories
“I remember that when I owned Gil’s 1942-46 Ford, the Auto Butchers plaque was under the front seat. When I redid and had it all nice and finished the car I took the Auto Butchers tag and hung it from the rear bumper. It was my tribute to my friend Gil Ayala. After a while somebody ripped it off when I had parked the car somewhere. I found the chains hanging with nothing attached when I returned to the Ford. Haha I thought that was something to mention, somebody wanted it more than i did i guess.”
The Ayala’s were best known for there work on Custom Cars, being it full blown Custom Restyling, or just more simple stuff, like lowering, shaving, ore even just a new paint job. But they also did a fair share of work on Hot Rods. And the owners of these Ayala created Hot Rods could also become a member of the Auto Butchers. We have found two samples, and heard there were more, but so far have not been able to find any photos to share here.
Eddie Dye’s beautiful Roadster was restyled at the Ayala’s with beautiful body work and styling. The track style nose, hood and belly pan had been created by Whitey Clayton, but the rest is all Ayala’s, including a beautiful maroon/purple paint job. Eddie Dye was a Auto Butchers ELA club member and proudly mounted the brass plaque on the rear, just below the trunk centered between the Pontiac taillights. The car was beautifully restored in 2017-18.
This nicely chopped ’32 Ford Coupe appeared in the early 1950’s “Cool Hot Rod” movie and had an Auto Butchers ELA plaque on the rear spreader bar. The plaque looks to be silver colored, most likely polished aluminum with red detail paint. This coupe, which was probably chopped by the Ayala’s, was recently found and will be restored to how it appeared in this picture. (thanks to Jamie Barter)
Hula Hut Hang out
The members of the Auto Butchers hung out a lot at Gil’s Auto Body Works on 4074 Olympic Boulevard in East Los Angeles, gathering at night and on Saturdays. Perhaps doing some maintenance on their cars and get it ready for a car show in the weekend. But they also hung out a lot at the Hula Hut Drive in on 9314 E. Whittier Blvd. This was a place very popular among other Hot Rodder’s and Custom Cars guys as well. I remember Jesse Lopez tell us about this place, and how he hung out there with his friends as well. The Hula Hut was around 7 miles from Gil’s shop.
The Whittier, Ca. Hula Hut Drive-In was the favorite hangout place for the Auto Butchers members. The Auto Butchers members would meet here at the Drive-In, or at Gil’s shop and then drive the 7 miles to the Hula Hut to hang out.
Auto Butcher Cleaver Plaque
These are the variations I have been able to find of the Club plaques. A) Cleaver with Auto Butchers ELA text and three holes in the handle, this one was used on the Wally Welch 1951 Ford in 1950. B) cleaver with just Butchers on it, this one was used by Wally Welch on his 1941 Ford in 1951. C) Not sure if this one actually says Auto Butchers, but it was used on Gil’s 1940 Mercury around 1950. If it says Butchers, then it looks like all the letter were caps. D) Brass cleaver with Auto Butchers ELA with the ELA in a serif typeface, there are cross marks on the handle. E) similar as D, only detail painted. F) Auto Butchers E. LA with a dot between the “E” and “LA” (in a serif typeface) and a smooth handle cast in brass. G) same as F, only cast in aluminum. H) Auto Butchers ELA with the ELA in a sanse font, cast in aluminum, and detail painted. A, B, C are original items photographed in the 1950’s, the others might be old or new casting.
Auto Butchers Members
- Al Ayala
- Bernie Mackey Ford Model A
- Eddie Dye Model A Track Nose Roadster
- Unknow 1932 Ford Chopped Coupe
- Unknown 1939 Pontiac
- Gil Ayala 1940 Mercury
- Don Holland 1941 Ford Convertible
- Wally Welch 1941 Ford
- Jack Stewart 1941 Ford
- Gil Ayala 1942 Ford, GMC Shop Truck
- Hank Griffith 1942 Ford Coupe
- Al Garcia 1948 Ford
- Wally Welch 1949 Mercury
- Johnny Rosier 1953 Mercury
- Gil Ayala 1955 Ford Thunderbird
The Auto Butchers ELA club is still around today, and people still put the brass, highly polished Auto Butchers ELA cleaver tag on their car. They still wear their embroidered club jackets and new Weirdo shirt and cruise together to local car shows. The Auto Butchers plaque are together with the Kustom Los Angles highly sought after items. But since there were so many variations of the Auto Butchers plaques in the early years, it is very hard to find out what is an original and what is a newly cast unit.
There are still a lot of mystery’s around the early years of the Auto Butchers ELA Car Club. Basically there is very little we know about it. Simply because it was never documented well. Nobody thought, back then, that this would one day become historical important information. Nobody most likely thought about saving those original club shirts, or jackets. I hope that this article on the Custom Car Chronicle about the history of the Auto Butchers ELA will bring back some memories. And hopefully some more stories, or photos, or other information will come from it. If you know more about the early years of the Auto Butchers ELA Car Club, or know of any other cars.owners that belonged to this club, please email Rik here at the Custom Car Chronicle. We would love to share your stories, or info to make this as complete as we can.
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