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Ayala Custom ShopMemo Ortega Files

Richard Aguirre 55 Mercury


After failing to buy a famous Barris Custom, Richard Aguirre buys a brand new 1955 Mercury and drives it straight to the Ayala Shop for some Custom work.

By Memo Ortega

There use to be a Barris car that was in the 1955 movie “Running Wild”. It was a chop 1951 Mercury with a Carson top belonging to a guy who lived in Azusa, Ca. Me and my friend, Richard Aguirre, went to a car show in Los Angeles, close to Beverly Hills, if I remember correctly. My friend liked the car so much he fell in love with it. We talked to the guy, it must have been the original owner, Fred Rowe, to see if he would sell the car. He went back and forth, yes and no. And finaly he said yes, come to my house next Thursday, so we did and they agreed on a price. Richard got the money together and we went back to the guy with the Merc, but then the guy backed out, and aid he decided not to sell the car anymore. Bummer…. and it broke my friends heart. He was all hyped up because we were almost about to ride back in a Custom Mercury. So we went back home, when Richards said… enough of this, “lets go to the Mercury Dealer tomorrow”.


Richard remembered the Fred Rowe from the Rod & Custom magazine when he saw it at the car show we went. There the guy showed the movie posters.

The next day we went to the Mercury dealer, and Richard bought a brand new 1955 Mercury Montclair, straight from the showroom, and paid cash for it. The next thing he said was… “were going to the Ayala Bros!” We drove up to East Los Angeles, to Gil’s Auto Body Shop and Gil and Al give him a price for the work he wanted done for the car. They were happy that we took this brand new car over there. They did not get to work on brand new cars back then. The work they agreed to do on the car was to fill in the hood and the trunk and shave the door handles add door poppers, add custom skirts with a flare, Appleton spotlights and they suggested to repaint the work that was going to be done back to the factory color which was a light green and off white. Kind of like a shell on a mercury and their suggestion was awesome.


Richard Aquirre with his brand new 1955 Mercury Montclair shortly after the Ayala’s had nosed, decked it, removed the door handles, added custom skirts, and Appleton Spotlights. But before they had dropped it really low. That made the car look even better. Sadly we do not have any photos of that version of the car.


The hood was shaved of all the trim and emblems and touched up with factory paint. 

After these pictures in this article were taken, Richard took the car back to the Ayala’s, to have them lower the car as low as they could. The Ayala’s , re-worked the A-frames, tunneled the floor and inside drive shaft, modified the rear of the frame and springs. After that the car was really low, but still very drivable, and looked absolutely stunning. The Ayala’s also installed dual pipes on Richard’s Mercury


This photo was taken a little later, and the rear was already dropped a bit more, which looked really good. Richard was also a member of the Vagebonds of La Verne, just like me, and he had the plaques on his Merc.

When I was just starting with the Memo Ortega stories here on the CCC I was thinking about Richard again, and about his Mercury, and wondered if he was still around. I asked around a bit and found out he was still around,about 20 miles from where I live now. So one day me and Terry decided to go for a drive and see if Richard was home. He sure was, at first he did not knew who I was, but I recognized him right away. After a minute or so he remembered me, and this big smile came on his face. he was really happy to see me, and Terry, and so were we to see him again. We stayed there for a couple of hours, talking the good old time, and about the cars of course. I told him I was still building cars, and really never stopped doing that, he could not believe it. I asked him if he had any photos of his ’55 Mercury. He went to the back and came back a little later with these three photos, “you can keep them” he said. “Wow, thank you Richard“. I told him I would use them for the CCC stories and show the people about this other Ayala car… I now had the proof.


Memo Ortega on the right with his old friend Richard “Kayo” Aquirre who he had not seen in a long time.

It shows that not all Customs the big shops did back then were full customs. The Ayala’s did a lot of these smaller job cars. It kept the money flowing, and the bills paid for Gil and Al Ayala.


Vagabonds of La Verne club plaque.




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)

6 thoughts on “Richard Aguirre 55 Mercury

  • I always liked it when I saw a “brand new” car that was customized back in the 50’s and 60’s. Thanks for sharing this good story and glad that you got to talk to your friend again about his custom Mercury.

  • Keep ’em coming, Memo. So glad you looked up your friend. And was able to find photos to share. More’s out there, we just have to shake them out!

  • Great story and a great car Memo. I have a real soft spot for these Mercs as my main car in High school was a 1956 Montclair. 2 door Hardtop with the 312 Y -block engine.
    Black on black with a pleated interior and Dash Pad.
    On mine the area in the trim that is under the door windows was done in Gold cob webbing. I still miss that car.

  • thanks guys glad u all like this storys, takes us back when we were younger,we all have memories of what we did back then, i give a lot of thanks to rik an the ccc for making this possible,

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