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The Ayala covers




Gil Ayala’s Auto Body Works never had as much magazine exposure as the Barris shop had. Gil was always hard at work, not spending the time George Barris spend on promoting the business using the car magazines.

[box_light]This was one of the first articles I created for the Custom Car Chronicle. I still needed to learn a lot about the website software we are using, so this article was far from how I thought it needed to look… time for a reshape… and some additional material. (Original publish on June 27, 2013)[/box_light]


The Ayala’s however¬†did have¬†a couple of very nice magazine covers in the early 1950’s. Actually some of the very best Custom Car magazine covers done in the Custom Car golden era. And perhaps the best one was the¬†October 1951 issue of Motor Trend.¬†On this cover an fantastic color photo was taken by Felix Zelenka at the Ayala shop with a gathering of Ayala Custom Cars.

Lets take a look at the Ayala Custom Cars that made it on the cover of the magazines.

Motor Trend November 1950

The first magazine cover exposure the Ayala’s had was on the Motor Trend of November 1950. Even thought the Mercury was on the cover, the inside only showed two photos and a few lines¬†of text on about a quarter of a page. The text mentioned builders Gil and Al Ayala, but not Gil’s Auto Body Works as the body shop. The cover photo was taken by Thomas J. Medley, the model is Anita Houck and it was Al Ayala inside the car. According to Motor Trend magazine the photo had this “back-to-school” motive. It’s still kind of odd that the finished version of this Mercury in black paint is on the cover of the November 1950 issue, while the in¬†-progress photo¬†was used on the Oktober 1951 cover.

Motor Trend November 1950, edition C

This November 1950 Motor Trend cover with the Gil Ayala 1940 Mercury on the cover is a rather rare magazine. As can be seen on the cover,¬†on the top right it reads “Edition C”. As far as I have found out,¬†the Mercury was used on the cover of the magazine distributed to California only. The Rest of the US/World had a cover with a Henry J on it, as can be seen in the inset. The cover and the description about the cover photo on page 5 is the only thing different on the inside of¬†these magazines. So if you ever come across one with Gil’s Mercury on it you better get it.

As for the Mercury… Gil and All chopped the top on the car, they had special metal shaped panels made to fit the back of the top, as well as the full fade away fenders by the California Metal Shaping company. The rear fenders and rear bumper where replaced with 1949 Cadillac units. At first the car used a stock front end. Regular headlights and a 1946 Ford bumper. This is how Gil drove and raced it for a while. The body was in primer, but later they modified the front section of the front fenders, molded in a set of newer headlights and used a 1950 Studebaker bumper on the front. Gil painted the car in a very deep glossy black.

Motor Trend October 1951

One of the best and perhaps most beautiful Ayala covers was taken by Felix Zelenka for the October 1951 issue of Motor Trend. The original photo must have been taken quite some time before it ended up being used for the cover. Odd is that Al Ayala can be seen working on the unfinished 1940 Mercury on this cover photo from October 1951, while the finished car was already on the cover of the November 1950 issue of Motor Trend!

Motor Trend 1951.

In Pat Ganahl’s Ayala articles in TRJ he showed that Felix originally shot a color transparency of this Ayala shop scene. But it was decided that the cars needed a bit more color and light for the magazine cover, so a colorized version was made by Don Fell. In this colorized version some of the cars received different colors than original so that they would look better, more attractive on the cover of the magazine. In this photo we can identify most of the cars as Ayala Customs.

On the top right we can see Wally Welch with his girlfriend – Jeannie Christman,- in front of Wally’s 1941 Ford Convertible. Below that the 1940 Ford of John Geraghty. On the bottom right the 1942 Ford with Cadillac rear fenders of Hank Griffith. On the bottom left side we can see Gil’s personal 1942 Ford Coupe. The car on the top left side is probably D. Hollands 1941 Ford convertible, but thats the only one I’m not 100% sure of. Gil Ayala is leaning on the cars front fender. And in the center of the photo is Gil’s 1940 Mercury with Al Ayala sitting on the fender/hood. The fade away fenders where all done, but the chop was unfinished. The c-pillar filler pieces still needed to be done. What a great photo‚Ķ I hope that one day more photos from this Felix Zelenka photo session will show up.

Custom Cars 1951

(the first of the Custom Car Annuals)

In 1951 the Ayala had one of the car they worked on, on the cover of the Trend Book No. 101 Custom Cars. The first book that would later become an Annual until 1962. There where two cars on the cover of this book. One was the 1940 Ford based Coachcraft built roadster (shown in green on the cover while the car was actually dark blue) and the other car was the 1942 Ford Coupe Ayala did work on for Hank Griffith, colorized in red. The scans of the Cover where made from the first edition of this book. The first edition was printed in July 1951, and the cover was printed on uncoated coarse paper giving it a dull look. While the second edition, printed in October 1951 was printed on a coated glossy paper. Other than the cover, as far as I know, nothing changed between the first and second print. I guess the first edition in July was printed in a relatively low amount. This was a new type of book and Trend Publishing had no idea what to expect from it. Apparently it did better than they thought, hence the second print.

CCC-ayala-cover-custom-cars-1951First Custom Car Annual Custom Cars 1951.

About the Ayala car on the cover. Hank’s 1942 Ford coupe had a full page insided the book, on page 77 (see inset). Three photos where shown of the primered Custom. And as far as I can tell the cover photo must have been taken at the same photo shoot as that was used on the Cover of the October 1951 issue which I showed earlier. High point of view (most likely from the Ayala shop building roof. This photo was also taken by Felix Zelenka and colorized (Flexichrome) by Don Fell. The Ayala’s grafted a set of 1951 Cadillac rear fenders to the extended front fenders for a completely unique look. The grille was replaced with a 1949 Cadillac unit. More about the Hank Griffith 1942 Ford can be read in the CCC-Article on the car.

Although the car was colorized red on the cover, I have never seen a photo of this car with finished paint. In the gathering real color photo shot by Felix that TRJ used in their Ayala article we can see the car in dark gray or black primer. And in the October 1951 issue of Hop Up magazine there is a photo showing Hank’s Ford in white primer with black wall tires.

Hop Up March 1952

Although not a Custom Car, this is still an Ayala Customized car that made it on the cover. The Eddie Dye 1929 Model A Roadster on the cover of the March 1952 issue of Hop Up magazine. Inside the magazine the car had two whole spreads on one was used for three quart with a really great cut away drawing created by Jim Richards. Although the articles stated that all the body work on this Roadster was done by the Ayala’s we do know that the grill was formed by Whitey Clayton. But as far as we know the rest was done at Gil’s Auto Body works, including the channeling of the 1929 Model A body over the 1932 Ford frame.

Hop Up March 1952.

They also hammer welded the door shut, and created a really smooth body by doing that. A new roll pan was created at the back which had nice little cut outs at the bottom for the exhaust pipes. They also constructed a full belly pan. Not sure if the Ayala’s or Clayton did the hood and hood sides. But those where custom made as well, and had some very nice tear drop shaped bubbles to clear the engine. The cowl was modified to accept a DuVall windshield and the dash was modified to accept a 8 gauge panel and a Ford accessory steering wheel. The interior built and upholstered by Berry’s Custom Upholstery in white leatherette and a contrasting dark with white piping carpet. Gill mixed his own dark red color for this car, and applied it with great care. The end result is flawless. The white wall tires with hubcaps and beauty rings and the perfect very low stance are the best option for this car to make it look absolutely stunning. The Hop Up Cover also featured the Barris/Quesnel built Jerry Quesnel’s 1949 Mercury.

Hop Up April 1952

In 1952 the Ayala’s had another custom car on the cover of one of the major magazines. It was on the cover of the April 1952 issue that Hop Up used the very first full color photo of the Wally Welch 1950 Mercury Custom taken by Jerry Chesebrough. It turned out to be one of the best¬†Hop Up magazine covers ever. The photo agains a brick wall with a single palm tree is really fantastic and with the bold HOP UP Letters a really strong graphical image. The color reproduction in those days was far from perfect, and even the full color printing left a lot to be desired. I have included a photo made from the original color transparency that was used for the cover. It has faded over the years, but it still looks amazing. I hope one day it will be used in a magazine really big on a page.

CCC-ayala-cover-hop-up-1952Hop Up April 1952 (inset original color slide).


The article inside – two full spreads – showed a nice selection of photos of this early chopped Mercury. And it did mention Gil And Al at Gil’s Auto Body shop as the builders. I really like the look of this Mercury in this first lime gold color. But it did not stay long in this color. Wally Welch brought the car to the Barris shop for a redo which they did in deep purple, and they added two more DeSoto grille teeth in the process as well. This Hop Up cover shows the beauty of the Ayala restyled Custom. Everything is just right on this car. The chop, not to much, just right, the stance, and above all the color in combination with the rest of the restyling. Gil Ayala had a very good eye for picking the right color for the right car. You can read more on the Wally Welch 1950 Mercury in the full CCC-Article on this car.


Hop Up May 1953

The Ayala’s had another Custom Car on the cover in 1953. Al Glickman’s 1949 Mercury customized at Gil’s Auto Body shop was used in color on the cover of the Hop Up¬†of May 1953. For the Ayala’s this was a really great magazine because not only Al’s Mercury they had built was featured in it. There was also a two page feature on the Gil’s Auto Body Works 1951 GMC shop truck in it.


Ayala-Al-Glickman-1951-MercuryHop Up May 1953.


If you are not familiar with this particular Motor Trend issue… you might want to check it out next time you see it. It has a ton of really great Custom Car features, including a very nice 4 1/2 page article on the Barris Customs history. If there was ever any competition between Barris and Ayala in building the best Custom Cars, then this battle continued in this issue as well.
Back to the car on the cover….¬†Al’s 1949 Mercury. The car is rarely seen elsewhere. Only a very few photos of this typically Ayala different designed Custom Car have been published in magazines other than the feature in this Hop Up article. The one things that pops out on this Custom are the 1952 Oldsmobile 98 rear fenders grafted onto the body, and the upward body crease flowing from the front fender where it usually had the dip. The other thing that stands out from the rest is the use of the 1952 Ford Meteor grille (Canadian Ford) which flows nicely in the molded grill surround.

The Ayalas also rounded the hood corners with a large radius, just like they did on the Bettancourt Mercury. Also the rear corners are rounded, and now flow nicely into the A-pillars, a very nice touch you rarely see. Of course the windshield was chopped and Chavez was hired to do the padded top as well as the interior. Gil Ayala painted the car in Devil Red Maroon, which is most likely a bit darker than it shows in the colorized cover photos. According the Motor Trend article Al was called overseas soon after the car was finished, and he sold it to Tommy Kamifuji… and I have no info what happened with the car after that… anybody knows?

Rod & Custom June 1956, Car Craft March 1958

The July issue of Rod & Custom Magazine featured another Ayla Custom on the cover. A very nice full page color photo of the Johnny Rosier 1953 Mercury. The car was a collaboration between Johnny and the Ayala brothers. But most of the work was done at Gil’s Auto Body Works shop. Johnny’s 1953 Mercury with its unusually dark blue (with a greenish hue)¬†and gold paint scheme made it¬†look¬†very good on the cover of the magazine. Another color photo of the Johnny’s Mercury¬†was again used for the cover of the March 1958 issue of Car Craft magazine (right inset photo) as part of a expanded metal grille feature, showing the copper plated material.¬†The Ayala’s did not chop Johnny’s car, but that does not mean everything else was mild on this custom as well.

Rod & Custom June 1956, Car Craft March 1958.


At the back they narrowed a 1954 Cadillac bumper to fit below the 1955 Lincoln taillights which were mounted in extended rear fenders. The scoops in the rear quarters where opened up and chrome 1955 T-Bird front fender louvers trim was mounted inside the opening. The front end was modified heavily as well with a new grille opening filled with gold/coper plated expanded metal and the use of three 1955 Buick bumper bullets. The front fenders where extended and a set of 1956 Packard headlights trimmed to fit the Buick bullet and stock Mercury bumper ends. The unusual upwards shaped side trim was created from 1955 DeSoto items, flipped and turned upside down. The upward movement of the side trim makes the car looks kind of strange.¬†But I think back then, was it first built, it was something really new and exciting.. Details like this¬†might have helped getting the car into the magazines. Johnny was a Auto Butchers member, so the brass Auto Butchers cleaver plaque was mounted on the front bumper. Pinstriping on the car was done by Von Dutch. Acording Memo Ortega who hung out a lot at the Ayala shop, Johnny and his Mercury where always over at Gil’s shop, and his car looks so good going down the road when he would leave the shop.

[box_light]The “About the Cover” text from R&C is:¬†The California sun looks down on many sights, and pretty girls, custom cars and swimming pools are more often the rule than the exception. Models Paula Westrope (foreground) and Maura Martin wonder why Johnny Rosier doesn’t leave his Black Gold Custom Mercury long enough to take a dip in the extremely inviting La Canada pool of Fred Tayberry. Cover Ektachrome by Al Paloczy.[/box_light]

Motor Life May 1957

Another Ayala Custom car was used on the cover of the May 1957 issue of MOTOR LIFE magazine. This time it was Gil’s personal customized 1955 T-Bird.

The Ayala’s reshaped the front using a set of 1955 Pontiac bumpers, Studebaker pans and a small oval grille opening in the center. The front fenders where extended, and 1955 Packard headlights installed. In the photo is clearly visible that the passenger side chrome headlight insert is missing. A new much larger working hood scoop was fabricated. Both wheel openings front and rear where reshaped. The rear fenders where also completely reshaped and the crease running from the front fenders all the way to the back now stops shortly after the door. It looks like the whole back portion of the fender comes from a 1956 Lincoln, including the taillights.

Below it sits a modified 1954 Cadillac bumper end piece, which now also houses the exhaust pipes. Gil fabricated a new roll pan for the back starting just below the trunk and he recessed the license plate into it. In 1957 it was the latest trend to use expanded metal, so Gill used it to create brass plated fender fins at the back, and screens for the hood scoop. Then Gill added one of his signature Candy red paint jobs.

Motor Life May 1957.

The wild pinstriping on Gil’s 1955 T-Bird was done by Walt Leeman who later used to pinstripe out of the House of Chrome which was housed on the corner of the lot where the Ayala Brothers where at. Walt striped Gil’s T-Bird at a hollywood car show. Walt was striping the car just when Von Dutch was brought over by Earl Bruce and the two where introduced. It must have been a touch job striping while the pinstripe master Von Dutch is watching you over your shoulder. Later Gil redid the car and removed the over the top expanded metal, reshaped the front fenders and added different headlights.¬†Fortunately this car survived, and¬†is currently (summer 2015) being restored for a Norwegian caretaker by a shop in Florida


This is the text that was on the inside of the cover of the Motor Life magazine.

COVER STORY: (Left inset photo) Setting up for one of several color shots made for the cover of this issue of MOTOR LIFE, is Bob D’Olivo, seen here focusing on Gil Ayala’s flashy Thunderbird (details on pages 52-53). The young lady, both here and on the cover, is Ada Hume, student at UCLA who spends her summers in the chorus line at the Sahara in Las Vegas.


Speed and Custom Spetember 1961

Another Ayala Custom Cover Car is this 1953 Chevy Gil’s Auto Body Works created for Bob Lomax from Harbor City, California. Inside this September 1961 issue of SPEED and CUSTOM the car is listed as a Bob Lomax owned candies ’53 Chevy. The two page feature does not mention anything about the cars Ayala origins at all. However the May 1960 issue of Rod & Custom magazine also has a two page feature on this car. It looked a bit different then, with an mid 1950’s look and in this article the car is mentioned to be a Gil Ayala built Custom Car. In this article it is mention that the car¬†has been collecting custom trends over that past few years.

Speed and Custom September 1961

The Ayala’s build this car from Bob in¬†the mid 1950’s,¬†and it was updated every few years. The two inset photos on the bottom show how the car looked in the 1960 R&C feature. The front wheel openings where flared and radiused, a new grille opening was created in which a Barris tube grille was mounted. Although I can imagine this car had a different floating type of grille earlier. The headlights frenchend, and taillights are now 1954 Packard units in extended fenders. The side trim comes from a 1956 Plymouth.¬†CCC-ayala-bob-lomax-spread

In 1961 The stance of the car had changed completely, now with a forward rake and with the fender skirts and Spotlights removed looked much more sporty than before Bob also added a set of chrome reverse rims to replace the wheels with hubcaps on the aelier version. In the Speed and Custom article it is mentioned that the car had 20 coats of Candy Apple lacquer, but no mentioning of who applied it. We all know Gil Loved to paint cars, and Candies where his favorite type of paint, so perhaps the paint job was his. Louie Chavez is credited for the interior and padded top.


(this article is ponsored by)







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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