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McClarens Ayala Shoebox




Bruce Bartlett share another great photo with us, Jim McClaren’s chopped 1949 Ford Coupe.

(Original Article October 2014 Updated on January 22, 2022)
One thing I like about old photo collections is that most of the time they contain some amazing custom cars that I have never heard about, or seen before. Some of those cars are really beautiful and I always wonder why they never did make it into the magazines or books back then, or more recent. Bruce Bartlett has already been sharing a few photos of his own personal rides from his amazing collection, and more will follow in the future. Today he shared a photo of a car owned by a friend and fellow Ramblers of Long Beach car club member Jim McClaren. A really well proportioned 1949 Ford Coupe Custom, that turned out to be built at one of the famous shops!

Jim McClaren shared this photo with Bruce. It is Jim’s 1951 Shoebox taken in 1951-1952. ¬†Amazing lines on this chopped coupe¬†they do not come any better than this.

The photo shows an amazingly restyled Shoebox Ford with an really well shaped and proportioned chopped top. My first thought was that it really looked like Sam Barris chop. But Bruce mentioned that he thought Jim had brought the car already customized when he came to California from Missouri, so down the drain with that theory. At the time Bruce only showed one photo showing the car from the side, and he mentioned he thought he might have one or two more photos of the car, and that Jim himselve was also looking for more photos, and would get back to him with details on the car.

About a week after Bruce share the photo Jim got back to him with the amazing information that his car was customized by Gil and Al Ayala at the Gil Ayala Auto Body Works on East Olympic Blvd. in East Los Angeles in 1952.
WOW… another, never before published, Ayala Custom Car identified.¬†


Lets hear¬†Jim’s story about his¬†car.

(words by Jim McClaren)



I bought this ’49 Ford Coupe in Sept. of 1952 from a dairy in Artesia. It had been sittting outside of the milk house (not covered from the weather) since the dairy man’s son bought it new in 1949 before he went into the service. The father was anxious to sell it after his son was killed in action in 1951 in Korea. I had seen the “For Sale” sign in the window of the car several different times, but finally decided to stop and inquire about it. My ’46 Ford Tudor Sedan was getting pretty worn out.

I bought the ’49 about a week later and my good friend, Big John and I towed it home behind his ’37 Ford pick-up. We were able to get it started several days later, but it smoked a lot from sitting so long. The mice had taken most of the seat material to build their nests in it (it really stunk inside!)

Big John said he knew about this shop up in East L.A. that he had bought some custom mixed paint from. We drove up there one Saturday morning to see if they would be interested in painting the car. This turned into a whole new plan. The shop was called “Ayala Bros. Custom Shop“. Al¬†Ayala was the body man, and his brother Gil¬†Ayala was the painter.

They were located on East Olympic Blvd. ( I can’t remember the actual address, but it was not far from the Sears Store in down town L.A.) I had to think a lot about the cost. Could I afford for the chop job, body work, and the custom paint job? I decided to go for it!

I was really excited about it. They had the car in the shop from October 1952 until about December 1952. They painted it a sort of candy apple red. I picked up the car and drove it to my friends John and Gerri’s house in Artesia near Norwalk Blvd. and Carson Street. Big John helped me pull the flathead out & we overhauled it. The car already had the original overdrive tranny in it. It took about 5 or 6 weeks to get the engine and all the parts ready to go back in.

It had dual 97 carbs and a mild cam grind, new pistons, rings, bearings, clutch, etc. Also new brakes. I found some used seats at a junk yard up on Signal Hill. They were actually in pretty good shape.

I had the door panels done at Gaylord’s in South Gate, but couldn’t afford to have him do the whole interior!! I drove the car that way for about 2 years I think.

Bill Lovelace and I drove it back to Missouri (on old Highway “66”) and we were gone for about 3 weeks. We had a great time! Those were the days!!

I sold the car in 1956 to a guy that was in the Air Force Stationed in Wichita, Texas and that was the last I heard of it.

The California License Plate was 5A26363 (black and yellow plates).

This is my story! I had a blast in that car!


My initial thought that it could have been a Sam Barris chop was not too far off. But when I saw the smoothed belt line, I should have known better, that it most likely was an Ayala chop. Before Jim had supplied the additional info on his car, I though this was¬†an 1951 Ford, since the bumpers and the grille surround and grille end pieces look to be 1951 models. But most likely those were updated by the Ayala’s in 1952. The Ayala’s really did an amazing job on the chop.¬†These coupe tops are very¬†hard to chop and get right, but they sure did it on Jim’s Ford. The¬†chop with the drip rails removed is absolutely perfect. The large radius on the top door corners really help with the flow of the top. And the shape of the rear quarter windows is probably the best I have ever seen on one of these chopped Coupe bodies.

The belt-line has been filled in and smoothed, the headlight frenched, and the hood spear removed and peaked. The side trim is a stock 1949 Ford Custom unit. The car was updated with a set of Ford chrome plated taillight wind-split. The car was lowered, front and read with the same amount for a perfectly level stance. At the rear a set of cut down 1951 Mercury fender skirts were used.The car rides on the perfect width white wall tires and Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps.

Bruce mentioned that most likely this is the only photo Jim had saved of his old car. And he thought it was taken in 1951 or 1952. Jim McClaren originally came from MO and moved to Long Beach, in the early 1950’s. Jim became a member of the Ramblers of Long Beach car club whch was formed in 1950. Bruce did find two more photos of Jim’s Shoebox in the Ramblers photo album.

CCC-jim-mcclarens-shoebox-bartlett-02One of the picture of McClaren’s chopped shoebox, that Bruce¬†found in the¬†Rambler scrapbook taken in 1953.

CCC-jim-mcclarens-shoebox-bartlett-03This was taken at one of the Ramblers Car Club¬†get togethers at Big Bear in the 50’s. It shows Jim’s Ford on the right.

Ramblers of Long Beach club plaque.

CCC-jim-mcclarens-gaylord-01-wIn the Barris Kustom Techniques of the 1950’s book Volume 3, there are two photos in the chapter on Bill Gaylord’s 1953 Oldsmobile that show Jim’s 1951 Ford getting upholstered in the background.

CCC-jim-mcclarens-gaylord-03Cropped from the original photo shows Jim’s Ford with one of the guys working on the door panel.

CCC-jim-mcclarens-gaylord-02-wLarger portion of the photo shows how the guys at the Gaylord shop used the side walk to work on the cars.

Jim’s 1949 Ford Coupe is another of those cars that you wonder why it was never featured in the magazines back then. It has the perfect look plus the fact that is was restyled at one of the major Custom Shops back then.
We have to be very thankful to Jim McClaren for hanging on to this photo of his car for so long,¬†and to Bruce Bartlett for sharing Jim’s photo as well as the other photos of Jim’s car from the Ramblers Car Club album. Without these people we would have never known about this really great car. It shows once again how important it is that these old photo, albums and stories need to be shared. The Custom Car Chronicle it the perfect place for it. If you know about some old photo, or old Custom Car related stories, let us know.¬†Email the CCC.

January 22, 2022 UPDATE!

Rob Radcliffe @chopt50 did a really fantastic discovery yesterday. He was browsing through some older @mecum_auctions Auction results when he came across an 1949 Ford Coupe with a chop that looked very familiar. After comparing the 2021 photos with the photos of an article on the Custom Car Chronicle about the Jim McClaren Shoebox Ford restyled by Gil and Al Ayala, he came to the conclusion that this must be the same car. WOW… Another Ayala Custom Car Found… well, discovered.
According the Mecum auction site the car might not have been sold, it is listed as $45,000 High Bid. Does anybody from the Huston Texas area knows the cars current whereabouts? It would be so great if this one could be received of all its 80’90’s ugliness and turned into it’s 1952 Ayala beauty again. (More info later)



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)

12 thoughts on “McClarens Ayala Shoebox

  • Such a cool insight into this neat kustom shoebox! I can almost picture the areas he is talking about as I have driven around LA many times. A little bit different nowadays, though haha. What a clean shoebox…

    • I love this Ford. Such a great looking car. When i first saw these pics I thought of Dan Landons chopped chevy. There was something about the rear quarter windows and beltline that just reminded me of Ayalas work. I really didn’t have time this past weekend to really study the car like I would like to,just some quick glances.

  • Great spotlight Rik! Definitely has a lot of the tell tale Ayala traits. I agree Jeff the car has a real Landon vibe to it.

  • Glad im not the only one Ian. ūüôā

    The rear shot of that car just flat out dominates for me. I’m not sure how to explain it. Maybe its the street or background of that shot ,im not sure what it is but its something. That ford looks so fu**ing good.

  • they jeff, your right the back end sure looks mean , what a clean smooth looking kustom out of the ayalas stables, love that color,

  • Yes Memo. .. this car has really shaken me up. I have been looking at it several times a day since they pictures were posted. The Ayalas owned L.A. without hardly promoting.

  • ayala bros. their name goes waaay back in customs history ! the cars of the 30’s – 60’s were a dime a dozen easy to find back then many years ago. now they are hard to find ! the new generation of today saw what was cool back then and went on a shopping spree like a kid in a candy store ! there’s still some hidden treasures in someones backyard or barn yet to be found, but with a large amount of $$$ ! the ayala bros. helped pave the way to custom car building along with the famous & the unsung backyard oxy acetylene, lead slinging torch masters of the world !

  • Hi everyone,

    yes I think this shoebox is still at Five Star Ford in Carrolltown, Texas now.
    Call (972)-242-6415 and ask for Sam, the lot no. should be C-168

    Stay tuned, Johan Norlin
    Stocholm Sweden

  • RIK, thank you for this great post and the recent (exciting!) realization that the red shoebox IS the Ayala car. My good friend, Megan, has continued to help me track the car, as it recently sold from Sam Pack’s collection to a new owner in Arizona. The car is available but it’s not officially advertised and the new owner can’t seem to land on a price. He is/was totally unaware of its actual Ayala history. I had the daydream of the current (or next) owner bringing it to me and allowing me to return it to its former 1952-’53 Ayala iteration…one can only dream! Perhaps that dream can come true? I would jump at the chance to take on this restoration/correction. If I find out more about the car and what its next step is, I will be sure to update this post. As for now, it is safely hiding out in a private Arizona collection.

    • Anymore info?! Im looking for more pictures of this particular cars chop as I want to replicate it on my 49 business coupe.

      • Good morning,

        No further information- I have asked a few times now. If I hear anything, I will update you privately via Facebook. From my understanding, the car is not advertised for sale but it can be bought. I do not know its price.

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