The House of Chrome

 

THE HOUSE OF CHROME

 

In the 1940’s and early 1950’s, the House of Chrome shop was supplying chrome plated goodies from their small building,  on their corner, next to the Gil Ayala’s body shop.


Gil Ayala’s, Gil’s Auto Body Works (also named the Ayala Shop) was located at 4074 Olympic Blvd. in East Los Angeles. In the late 1940’s, Gil started renting out the small office building, at the corner of his property to Phil Aguirre. Phil would use the building for his House Of Chrome – a small store that sold all kinds of chrome (and none chrome) after-market products for custom cars, and hot rods. The address for this shop was listed as 4084 E. Olympic Blvd. Los Angeles. Which is on the corner of E. Olympic Blvd and S. Eastman Ave. It is unclear if Gil had anything to do with the shop at all, or if he just rented out the place. In any event, the Chrome shop on the property drew new clients from the Body Shop, and the body shop clientele, most likely, took a tour in the small Chrome accessory shop, while waiting for Gil or Al. So the small shop was good for business both ways.

CCC_House-Chrome-Pick-Up-00-WThe House of Chrome shop truck was customized by the Ayala’s. Here we can see the freshly but still unfinished chopped truck. The spare tire cover was already chrome plated at this time. (photo from the Rodder’s Journal)
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House of Chrome Pick-UpThis photo from the David E. Zivot collection shows the finished truck in front of the House of Chrome building. The chopped top and the 1946-48 Ford bumpers and sombrero hubcaps on wide whites give this truck a really nice look. The building on the far right behind the parked car is the Eastman Avenue Elementary school. Below we can see the pick up truck at one of the dry lake races.
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The Ayala’s were responsible for customized the House of Chrome shop truck. The guys of the shop needed something special to deliver, and pick up parts, something that would make people watch twice. The Ayala’s work on the House of Chrome pick up truck included a chopped top, lowered suspension , 1948 Ford bumpers Custom hubcaps and most likely a paint job in an unknown color. The Chrome shop advertised their business on the truck, by showing off a wonderful chrome plated spare tire cover, running boards and some other off the shelf chrome plated accessories.

CCC_House-Chrome-HRM-WThis photo from the May 1953 issue of Hot Rod magazine shows the shop window from the House of Chrome shop. This is the only photo we were able to find showing the actual shop and some of its products.
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House of Chrome ads business cardThe House of Chrome did some advertizing in a few magazines including Hot Rod magazine and Motor Sports World. These ads show that besides the chrome plated parts they could also provide you with fender skirts and a selection of engine hop up parts. The Phil Aguirre business card (lower left) comes from the David E. Zivot collection.
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ccc-house-chrome-autorama-displayI spotted this The House of Chrome vendor booth in the background of a photo of the Kenz & Leslie streamliner at an early 1950’s Car show (Possibly the 1951 Motorama show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium)
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Walter Leeman, who used to pinstripe in the early 1950’s and was frequently at the House of Chrome and Gil’s Auto Body works location, told us a story about the House of Chrome Spotlights. Phil Aguirre had his own Appelton S-112’s Spotlight housing created in brass. He had them plated and used smaller spotlight arms and components to create the more popular S-112’s style spotlights. Sometimes these brass shelled spotlights pop up today, and most likely those where done by the House of Chrome, back in the very early 1950’s. We can see in the ad above that The House of Chrome was offering the Appleton spotlights a lot cheaper than the regular prize.


The building on Olympic Blvd, where the shop started, is still standing today. The rest of the property where Gil had his body shop is sadly, long gone.


CCC_House-Chrome-Bird-48-WThis aerial view from 1948 (http://www.historicaerials.com) shows the small building already at the corner of the property Gil rented (marked in blue) for his shop. This early view also shows the other buildings on the property where Gil’s Auto Body works was located. The school is on the lower right corner.
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CCC_House-Chrome-Bird-10-WA recent satellite view shows that the House of Chrome building on the corner is still standing. The rest of the buildings from Gil’s Auto Body Works are gone now. The Eastman Ave. School is still there and can be seen on the lower right side. Makes you wonder how many guys have started out of the windows to see the Ayala’s work on their custom creations and the House of Chrome shop install the shiny details.
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CCC-1979-blvd-nightsThe 1979 movie Blvd nights was party filed at the old Gil’s Auto Body Works location. The “upholstery” building was the former House of Chrome shop.
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CCC_House-Chrome-Shop-Now-WThis photo shows the building from the street. It also shows the sign is still up. This sign was created somewhere in the mid 1950’s.
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In the mid 1950’s, Phil Aquirre moved the shop to a new building, out on Beverly Blvd., near the Newhouse Automotive Speed Shop. There is not really that much known about this little chrome shop, especially not after it moved from Olympic Blvd. If you happen to know more about this, please contact us, we would love to ad more info to this story on this little shop, that provided all the shiny custom car stuff, we still admire today.


CCC_House-Chrome-new-shop-leemanWalter Leeman took this photo of a ’57 Ford he pinstriped and added some small flames to at the new House of Chrome shop on Beverly Blvd.
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Resources and more info:

  • Rodder’s Journal #39 and #40
  • Hot Rod magazine, May 1953
  • Google and Bing maps
  • www.historicaerials.com



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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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