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Custom Car Builders

April 11, 2017

John Geraghty 1940 Ford

Ayala John Geraghty 40 Ford

 

JOHN GERAGHTY 1940 FORD

 

John Geraghty had the Ayala brothers create this subtile brilliant irridescent green painted 1940 Ford convertible Custom in the late 1940s.


Brothers Gil and Al Ayala are usually known for their very slippery and super smooth Customs with a lot of body modifications all moulded-in to create truly one of a kind Custom Cars. Custom Cars that were very recognisable as an Ayala Custom, Custom Cars that really made a mark in the history of the Custom Car. But not every car that came out of Gil’s Auto Body Works on Olympic Blvd in East Los Angles was built conform these typical Ayala features. One such sample is John Geraghty’s 1940 Ford Convertible.

The Ayala’s customized Johnny’s 1940 Ford Convertible in two stages. The first version was a really wonderful traditional looking chopped – three inches – and Carson topped custom with the running boards removed. In the second stage the front fenders where raised up into the body and the hood was sectioned to match.


Ayala Body Shop

The First Version

For the first version built in the later part of the 1940’s, Gil and Al Ayala chopped the windshield frame 3 inches, and they removed the same amount from the vent windows. The body was smoothed by removing all exterior handles, and trim. The two piece hood was welded solid and a very subtile peak was added to its center. The running boards were discarded, and the front and rear fenders were modified where the running boards used to mount to. A new panel was hand shaped to fit below the body, where the running boards used to be, to cover the frame. This resulted in a completely level lower body line, from the front fenders all the way to the rear fenders. It brought balance to the car.

First version of John Geraghty’s 1940 Ford shown together with a bone stock 1940 Ford convertible. Wally Welch took the photo, and most likely Wally and John were friends. There are several photos of John’s car in Wally’s photo album. Perhaps they belonged to the same car club, the Auto Butchers.

 



For the first version built in the later part of the 1940’s, Gil and Al Ayala chopped the windshield frame 3 inches, and they removed the same amount from the vent windows. The body was smoothed by removing all exterior handles, and trim. The two piece hood was welded solid and a very subtile peak was added to its center. The running boards were discarded, and the front and rear fenders were modified where the running boards used to mount to. A new panel was hand shaped to fit below the body, where the running boards used to be, to cover the frame. This resulted in a completely level lower body line, from the front fenders all the way to the rear fenders. It brought balance to the car.

The first version of the car had a more traditional look. Fender skirts, removed running boards trim and handles all shaved with 47-48 Ford bumpers and Sombrero hubcaps.

 



The rear fenders were modified when the stock taillights made place for 1940 Buick units. TheBuick taillights are positioned low on the rear fenders so that it looks they emerge from the rear bumpers. The bumpers, front and rear were updated with 47-48 Ford units, with a license plate frame installed just behind the center of the rear bumper. A set of bubble teardrop skirts was installed. For this version of the car the rear was dropped with a kicked up rear portion of the frame and lowering block. The front axle was changed with a dropped unit. This version of the car was not as low as some other customs at the time.

We are not sure what color this first version of John’s Ford had, this version of the car never appeared in any magazines, and nobody we asked could remember any details about the car. But the gray hue’s in the black and white photos does look a bit similar to the later version black and white photos. So perhaps the car was already painted brilliant Iridescent Green Lacquer by Gil, the same color it had later on. The car was taken to the Carson Top Shop for a nicely balanced and shaped Carson padded top. The interior was later handled by L & L Upholstery Shop in Glendale. The Ayala’s installed wide white wall tires dressed up with Sombrero hubcaps.

Photo taken at the Santa Ana drag strip in 1950 shows John’s Ford getting ready to make another run. The Wally Welch 1941 Ford is sitting next to it on the left of the photo.

 



John was a fanatic Hot rodder and drag racer, and he used his car for both on the street as well as on the drag strip. Something Gil Ayala most likely very much enjoyed. There are several photos of John’s 1940 Ford in the Wally Welch photo album, indicating that the two were friends, and possibly both members of Gil Ayala’s Autobutcher’s Car Club. Some of the photos show Wally with his ’41 Ford and John with his ’40 Ford (first version) at the Santa Ana Drag strip in 1950. Both cars were used to race.

More work done underneath John’s car at the drag strip. According the October 1952 issue of Hop Up magazine John’s Ford had a an hopped up Ford engine using Navarro 3 carb manifold, a winfield cam. The bore was 3-7/16 and the stroke was just under 4 inches, giving a total of 279 cu. in. John turned 93.90 at the Saugus Drag Strip with this set up on the quarter mile.

 


John at full speed, interesting to see that he did not even removed the Sombrero hubcaps on the front wheels for the run.

 




Second Version

The restyling on the second version of John’s ’40 Ford was also handles at Gil’s Auto Body Works with Al doing the body work. John wanted a new look for the car, not the heavy look of the first version with the teardrop skirts and high hood. He was more into a subtile European Sports Car look for his 1940 Ford. It was decided that the front fenders should be raised and the hood be sectioned so that the sides of the car look longer and slimmer. The hood was thinned three inches and the front fenders were moved up the same amount. The rear portion of the front fenders had to be extended down so that they would still be level with the bottom of the rest of the car.

Low angle shows that the car sits with a slight forward rake. The skirts are now gone, and the sectioned hood and raised front fenders give the car  a completely different look than the first version. Very elegant, almost with an European Sports Car vibe.

 



According the 1952 Hop Up magazine article the car was channeled, but an interior photos of the car shows that the floor of the car is still in its stock position. According the Hop Up magazine the front axle was dropped, possibly more than 3 inches, to get the right effect. The dropped axle in combination with the raised front fenders made sure the car could still steer without the tires hitting the front fenders like some very low cars did. John was an Hot Rodder and engineer and liked his cars to perform well. For this version of the car the skirts were removed and the sombrero hubcaps were replaced with very subtile single ripple disk aftermarket hubcaps. Everything else on the car remained the same, but the changed made so far already had changed to look completely. Gil Ayala painted the car with a brilliant irridecent green lacquer. According the Ayala Article in the Rodder’s Journal #40, Gil used about 30 coats of an emerald green lacquer over an silver base coat. He named it “Glamour Green”.

Here we can see how well the 1940 Buick taillight units fit the Ford rear fenders. It also shows how the bottom of the fenders are level with the custom pan created the hide the frame. The new version uses aftermarket hubcaps that are a bit more subtile than the Sombrero’s from the first version. The Carson padded top flows right from all angles. The slight forward rake is evident in this photo even more.

 






A very small section of John’s Ford can be seen in the famous Motor Trend cover photo taken at the Gil’s Auto Body Works. The color photo from which this small section is taken was used by Pat Ganahl in his two part story on the Ayala’s. The photo comes from the Wally Welch Collection. This is the only photo we are aware of that shows John’s Ford in the Gil Ayala applied brilliant iridescent green lacquer paint job. (The photo/scan is a bit dark, so the real color might have been even more brilliant than this photo shows.) Wally Welch his maroon painted ’41 Ford is parked next to John’s Ford.

 


This is a scan of the actual October 1951 Motor Trend cover showing a slightly different moment than the photo above. The photo for the magazine cover was hand colorized and John’s Ford was colorized in a lime-gold color.

 



The Hop Up article also mentioned that the car did not have push button doors, one simply reached inside for the interior door handles to open the doors. The trunk however was opened remotely from a pushbutton on the dash. John’s Ford was featured in a three page feature article in the October 1952 issue of Hop Up magazine. The car was also on the cover of the 2001 Hop Up magazine with two more photos inside on an article about Dean Batchelor and his photo collection. All photos for this Hop Up article were taken by Ralph Poole.

This higher point of view shows how nicely shaped the sectioned hood fits the car.

 


The interior was done by L & L Upholstery shop in Glendale Ca. Beautiful tuck & roll panels with white piping outlining the dark sections. This photo shows that the car was not channeled as the ’52 Hop Up magazine mentioned.

 


Close up of the ’40 Buick taillights and 1947-48 Ford rear bumper. Notice that the fenders were not moulded to the body, this helped give the car that very nice crisp look and feel. (colorized photo)

 



Like with to many of the old Custom Cars, we have no idea what happened to John’s Ford. He sold the car, without the engine in 1953, but there is no trace of it after that. So far we have not been able to find anybody who knew where the car is today, or if it is even around.


John J. Geraghty, an automotive engineer who made his mark in hot rod design (John Geraghty Automotive) passed away on May 27, 2015 at his Glendale home. He was 85. John was an early mechanical wizard. One of John Geraghty’s first hot rods set a Bonneville speed record of 230 mph, when he was only 22 years old in 1952.










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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 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)




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3 Comments


  1. Profile photo of Tom Kelly

    Cool!
    Thanks for sharing this one Rik. For some reason I had always imagined the car as a metallic Rosé/pinky colour…..


  2. Profile photo of Larry Pointer

    Love both versions. A person can study them for hours. A study in two periods of an evolving custom scene. What is exciting is that the updates with the changing times were SUBTLE. Those car show requirement for change…for the sake of change…too often obliterated really classic styling. The Ayala brothers in this case gave us a clinic in styling through shifting times of the Fifties.
    Thanks, Rik



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