AYALA 1942 FORD COUPE
1942 Ford coupe full custom restyled by the Ayalas in the late 1940’s to showcase the shops abilities and give shop owner Gil Ayala a unique set of wheels to drive and race. The Ayala 1942 Ford Coupe
The Ayala’s sure had their own signature style when it came to customs. Well balanced chopped tops and ultra smooth with as much of the body panels blended in, flowing perfectly from front to rear. The 1942 Ford in this story is no exception to this. The car is known as the Gil Ayala 1942 Ford and as far as we have found out Gil created this car before doing his famous 1940 Mercury and it was created as his own personal cruiser, this must have been around 1949. The oldest photos we have come across have 1949 license plate tags. When researching this Ayala Ford I came across several aspects that are a bit of a mystery to me. And when I think about it, there are so many historic Custom Car that have some, or more mystery around them. I guess that this “mystery” aspect is just part of what makes looking into the time line on these cars so interesting.
This was the first photo I ever saw of Gil Ayala’s 1942 Ford. It was in Pat Ganahl’s The American Custom Car book. The removal of all exterior trim and the ultra smooth chop are true Ayala trademarks, especially from the early years. The car is parked in front of Garfield High School.
The photo material I have gathered on this car shows what most likely is the same car with three different license plates in 1949, 1950 and 1951. We also have the name of a possible second owner of the car – in the early 1950’s – appear in at least two publications. The photos also show the car with some changes over time, medium and very dark paint, 1946 Ford bumpers, 1949 Plymouth bumpers, and then these two bumper options mixed on the car in some photos. Some say there might have even been two near identical 1942 Ford’s restyled by the Ayala’s that are mixed up in the photos over the years. Perhaps there are two similar cars… perhaps just one. Doing the research for this article has not really given me a clear answer to this, and at this moment in the research I think there is just one 1942 restyled by the Ayala’s that possibly changed hands not all that long after Gil had finished it. We have not been able to find any material on the car from 1952 till 1959. But we know that Gil Ayala owned the car in the mid to late 1950’s, because Memo Ortega bought the ’42 Ford from Gil in 1959 and held on to it till 1962.
Before we go more into all the mystery details, lets first take a closer look at this great looking typical Ayala Restyled 1942 Ford.
The Ayala 1942 Ford in 1949
This photo is part of a digital, kind of fuzzy photo taken from a collage from Bernie Mackey who spend some time at the Ayala shop in the early days. The photo shows Gil’s Coupe shortly after the body work was completed and the car was in primer waiting to be finished and painted.
The Ayala’s created this 1942 Ford Coupe in the late 1940’s. Business was starting to really boom, and it was during the time the first major Custom Car shows were started. Perhaps Gil restyled his personal 1942 Ford with this in mind, creating it as a showcase for what the shop could do. The Coupe has all the key ingredients for a typical Ayala Custom Car for that era. It starts with the really smooth heavy chopped top. The rear of the top was chopped more than the front creating an very pleasing downwards swoop towards the rear. Most likely the shop ordered pre-shaped panels from the California Metal Shaping company to save time, and to get the transition from the trunk to the top as smooth and flowing as possible. The drip rails were shaved off completely, as most of the customs from the Ayala shop had in these days (including those from the barris and other California based shops). To make the door opening more pleasing to the eye after the drip rails had been removed the top corners were rounded so that the eye flows better from the door towards the rear quarter windows. These rear side windows had to be completely reshape and have the perfect balance compared to the flowing c-pillar and door side window. All four fenders were welded to the body, and nicely integrated with shaped metal and leaded in for that desired one piece look. The lower panels were reshaped and smoothed.
Neil Emory’s (Valley Custom Shop) son Gary Emory shared three snapshots of Gil’s Ford taken at Gil’s Auto Body Works shop in East LA in 1949. The photo shows how perfect the rear window is located in the flowing top.
In this photo we can see how well balanced all the shapes are, how the rear fenders were molded, the taillight pods flowing from the rear fender character line and the molded in rear splash pan.
The hood was smoothed and welded and the stock 1942 Ford grille surround discarded for a hand made molded in surround. The stock grille remained in the car, but the center piece was removed for a much smoother look. The stock headlights rings were molded into the fenders giving the front a very smooth appearance. The splash-pans both front and rear were molded in place with a nice radius which made them look very nice with the molded in fenders. At the rear the trunk was smoothed but the corners were not rounded. A set of stock 1942 Ford taillight buckets was reshaped and molded into the rear fender at a lower than stock position. The new lowere position made the car look lower, and also made the taillight units flow better with the rear fender character line.
A set of long 1941 Ford/Mercury fender skirts was installed and the suspension was lowered all around for a perfect stance. The bumpers on the first version are either the stock 1942 Ford units, or 1946-48 units. The interior garnish moldings were all reshaped to fit and later painted body color. Once all the body work was done Gil painted the car in what is listed as a bronze metallic paint. Most likely a color he mixed himself, since mixing unique deep lacker color was the thing Gil absolutely loved to do. The end result was an ultra smooth 1942 Ford Coupe with a heavy chopped and wonderfully flowing top, showing what the Ayala shop was capable of doing. The finished car had very little bright work. Only the bumpers, grille windshield and rear window surround and the smooth moon disk were plated or polished stainless. The car did not even have a set of Appleton’s mounted.
The only early publication (as far as I know) that identify’s the coupe as Gil Ayala’s car, is the 1950 Russetta Hot Rod and Motor Sports show program. It shows two very nice photos of the car.
The interior of the car was also finished with a full custom upholstery job. As far as I can tell now it first had a custom interior in a dark color (brown?) with a light piping. there is one interior photo in an 1951 Motor Trend Magazine showing an all new light color interior in the car listed as done in honey gold and brown. But if I looks at the photos It does look more like white or off white with the honey gold for the inserts and perhaps the brown for the carpets. There is only one color photo of this car that shows a bit of the interior, but as part of the “mystery” aspect it appears to have the early dark colored interior in this particular photo.
Three different plates and bumper combinations.
The late 1940’s early 1950’s photos we have seen of the Ayala 1942 Ford Coupe have three different license plates.
1949: GL 47 09
The mix of the license plates in combination of the mix with the 1946 Ford and 1949 Plymouth bumpers make it a real interesting mystery. I have tried to figure it out… but so far it does not make sense. I cannot figure out what the front bumper was replace with the Plymouth unit in 1950, to be swapped back to the 1946 unit in 1951.
When the car was outfitted with only 1946 Ford bumpers it had the 1949 GL 47 09 license plates at all time. But then there are at least two photos showing the car with the 1950 78A6243 plates with 1949 Plymouth bumpers both front and rear. Most of the photos of the car appear to have the 1951 9N30226 plates combined with a 1946 Ford front bumpers and 1949 Plymouth rear bumper. In 1952 the car then had a set of two 1949 Plymouth bumpers again.
New owner for the Ford?
In 2008 Pat Ganahl did an excellent two part article on the Ayala brothers. Included in this article was a great color photo showing an bronze painted 1942-48 Ford coupe. The color slide came from the Ayala family and Lucille Ayala (Gil’s widow). According to Lucille the photo showed a car belonging to Bob Gillum and that is was an 1942 Mercury. Well the photo clearly shows that this car has the shorter 114 inch wheelbase (shorter hood and front fenders), and not the longer 118 inch wheel base most Mercury had in those years. But Mercury did offer a 114 inch model for the Canadian market, so it is not ruled out completely with this photo. However, perhaps the photo was labeled Mercury somewhere because of the Mercury engine the car had. At first this car being owned by Bob Gillum sounded a bit odd to me. To me it clearly was the Gil Ayala 1942 Ford, and I just could not see why the Ayala’s would create two nearly identical customs in the late 1940’s.
But I was intrigued about this news, and I was also very intrigued about the color photo of the car. It was really amazing, Sadly the front and rear of the car are either cropped off in the magazine, or perhaps missing on the original photo. but the fact that we can see so much of the sides on the rear splash pan indicates that this is the early version of the car when it still had the 1946 Ford bumpers. Another thing I noticed was that the back of the front seat appears to be upholstered in a dark brown, with white piping. Quite different from the Motor Trent interior photo I had seen before. So could this perhaps be an early version with an older interior? None of the 1949 photos show a light colored interior, so it could very well be possible that in late 1949, early 1950, a new light colored interior was added to the car.
The Ford looks absolutely stunning in this color photo, and must have caused quite a stir where ever it went. It appears that the car had a very deep scratch in the paint on the rear quarter above the rear fender. (It does not appear to be a scratch in the photo) The Rodder’s journal article mentioned that Lucile did not know who the guy was standing behind the car. Most likely this is Bob Gillum, who bought the car from Gil Ayala.
In early 2015 Harley Peters from the Uk is on vacation in the US, and on his trip he visits a speed meet at El Mirage. At this event he meets with an older guy who has a scrapbook full of early Hot Rod, Bike and Custom Car snapshots. Absolutely great material Most of the photos showing custom cars show just one car… the Ayala 1942 Ford. Uniquely there are a few color photos in it as well. Sadly Harley forgets to ask the name of the old guy, and only took small size photos with his cell phone. But it is absolutely unique material and we have added a few from that in this article. In late 2015 this becomes even more interesting when Brian Huck from Sacramento shares an photo with caption from an 1980 Street Rodder magazine article about an photo collection from the 1940’s and early 1950’s. But what is even more exciting is that the one photo in this article shows the Ayala Ford, same photo as Harley shared, and that the caption mentioned the car is owned by Bob Gillam from East Los Angeles. The same name – except for a small misspell in one of them – that Lucille Ayala mentioned as well!
Brian Huck shared this photo with caption from the September 1980 Street Rodder issue. “Pages from a street racer’s scrapbook.” (George Bentley’s) Mostly pictures of Bentley’s ’29 A-V8 and other Vultures club cars. This is the only custom in the article. The caption identifies it as Bob Gillam’s 1942 Merc and shows the 1951 9N 30 226 license plate on the 1946 Ford bumpers.
With the information I have gathered on the Ayala 1942 Ford so far, I think that all the photos used in this article are from one car, and not two nearly identical 1942 Ford customs. Gil Ayala originally created the car for himself, but most likely not all that long after he finished it he sold it to Bob Gillum (or Gillam) who owned the car till at least 1951. Memo Ortega, who would buy this Ford form Gil Ayala in 1959, recently remembered that Gil had mentioned to him that he had his old Ford coupe back and that he was freshening it up with quad headlights. At the time Memo did not really pay much attention to it, but now it all seams to all in place. Gil sold the car and later in the mid/late 1950 he was able to get it back.
The Ayala 1942 Ford in 1950
Based on the idea that the car changed hands in early 1950 it makes sense that the new owner Bob Gillum wanted to change a few things on the car to make it really his own personal Custom. As far as we can tell right now it appears that Bob replaced the the 1946 Ford bumpers with a set of 1949 Plymouth bumpers front and rear. All the photos with the 1950 License plate on it also show that the car now has a news light colored interior. The suspension of the car is also modified and the car sits a lot lower now, especially in the rear, but also the front appears to be lowered a bit more. It looks like nothing else changed at this time.
The Ford parked at a drag race meet. The paint number on the rear quarter passenger side window indicates that the was raced at this event. Spectators admire the custom interior. The license plate is 1950 and the bumpers are both 1949 Plymouth.
Snapshot from the George Bentley’s album shows the car at the dray lakes with 1950 plates and 1946 Ford front bumper. Perhaps the tall guy in this photo is the same guy, Bob Gillum, as the one in the color photo?
The Ayala 1942 Ford in 1951
I think this is my all time favorite photo of the Ayala Ford, low angle, perfect stance, with its nose up in the air and the tail close to the ground. perfection. Sadly the photo is rather dark due to the fact it was copied, perhaps even several times. Its hard to tell if the car has been repainted here or if it just looks dark from the bad photo quality. Notice the race number painted on the rear quarter window.
Another snapshot from the George Bentley’s album shows the Ford with the hood open and a guy and girl checking it out. This is the same photo that was used in the 1980 Street Rodder magazine article.
A few more of the snapshots from the George Bentley’s album show two more badly faded color photos of the car at the dry lakes. The bottom left photo is very interesting showing the engine and the full custom light colored interior.
This interior photo appeared in the July 1951 issue of Motor Trend Magazine, it shows the great looking interior of the Ayala Ford. According the caption it was upholstered in honey gold and brown. But judging this and other photos I have a feeling the light color might be white, or off white, the inserts honey gold, and the carpets brown. Interesting note is that the car appears to be using a 1946 Ford steering wheel.
David E, Zivot shared three nice snapshots of the Ayala Ford taken at an 1950? dry lake event. These photos gives us a good look at how beautiful the car was restyled and how everything was shaped to flow at its very best.
One of the unique things about the chopped top on the Ayala 1942 Ford coupe is that the top flows all the way into the trunk. On most similar chopped 41-48 Ford and Mercury’s there is a bit of a “flat” spot just behind the trunk before the bulge of the top starts.
Lot of dust and dirt on the car. Custom Cars back then were meant to be driven, and in this case even raced, although it looks like the Coupe was parked in the spectator section on this particular event.
The Ayala Ford drag racing at an official drag strip. It look so great in this photo, low, and even lower in the back due to the powerful engine. Rob Radcliffe came across this great photo years ago at a car show where a guy was sharing his mostly Hot Rod photo-Collection. He took this snapshot of the photo. Glad he did, its one of my favorites of the car.
It also seems that during this period the car was repainted, possibly from its original bronze metallic color to very dark blue. This article shows three photos that shows the car most likely all three with the 1951 plates with a new much darker paint job.
The Ayala Ford at the Hot Rod show in the National Guard Armory in Los Angeles held at April 24-27, 1952. The car was most likely painted deep, dark blue at this time. The light brown color of the sand on the floor and unknown velvet carpets behind it most likely all made this a stand out presentation. Notice that the car now has two 1949 Plymouth bumpers again.
One thing that I noticed is that even though the car has changed a bit over the years 49-51, including a new paint-job and bumper swap the hubcaps remain the same, and were not updated to for instance the very popular – at the time – Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps. The photo taken at the 1952 Hot Rod show is the last material we have been able to find of the car for the 1950’s. We have no idea what happened to the car from 1952 to the late 1950’s.
Memo Ortega buys the Ford in 1959
Memo Ortega had told us stories how he became good friends with Gil in the 1950’s and eventually was able to buy Gil’s old 1942 Ford Coupe in 1959. Memo had seen the Ford at Gil’s place for some time, although he was not sure for how long. But Memo always liked the Ford and Gil knew that. In one of the many conversation Memo had with Gil about the Ford Gil mentioned that he had the car back and had some plans for it to update it. Some time after that Gil started to update the car with quad headlights (Ford units) but never finished the work. Memo had seen it sitting unfinished like that a few time and then asked Gil if he wanted to sell the Ford to him. Gil said if I sell my car it will be to you because I know you will fix it up nice like your 1937 chevy with the ’40 Ford headlights. If you get it you will be getting a one of a kind car. Not long after that Memo was able to buy the car from Gil.
One thing that really gets me is that apparently Gil had a real soft spot for this 1942 Ford. He sold it in 1950, and several years later, after having had several other cars, including his magazine cover 1955 T-Bird, he decided to get back his old 1942 Ford and even update it even though the base car could be considered old by then. Gil still decided he wanted to spend time and money on it.
One of the photos showing the car with the quad headlight taken in 1961 at the Pomona Drag Races. Memo remembers going to this event and the guy from back east must have taken the snapshot, we are glad he did. So far this has been the only photo showing this version of the car we have found.
After Memo had taken the car back home to Pomona he finished the work on the Ford quad headlights that Gil had started. When Memo got the car it was painted in a dark blue metallic. The paint was faded quite a bit, most likely from being parked outside in the bright sun for a longer period. Memo decided to take off the paint and get the car back to bare metal. He remembers finding black primer underneath, but could not remember if there was any other colors underneath. When he got it the car had a dark blue and a off white vanilla interior. It still was in very good condition a he liked the color combination so he left it alone. He repainted the car in a color close to the color that was one the car when he got it. Memo also added a set of dummy spots to the car. You know something most customs had back in the late 1950’s.
Memo enjoyed the Ford for a few years, had a really great time with it, but in 1962 he decided to sell it and move on with other cars. Memo does not remember who he sold it to, or where the car went. This is the last we know about the car. Memo remembers that a friend took photos during the time Memo worked on the car, and most likely also after it was completed. But the friend has since then passed away, and the photos are long lost. Memo never had a photo of his version of the car until 2013.
When I was visiting the US for the 2013 GNRS with Palle Johansen to show the Jack Stewart Ford in bare metal and promote the Jack Stewart Ford book I was talking to a guy at the show who said he had a nice photo album with great photos. Unfortunately I misplaced the name of the photographer who took the photo and the guy who shared the album with us. But among the photos there were two photos of Gil’s old 1942 Ford with the quad headlights on it. The photos were taken on a trip the photographer took from the east coast – where he lived – to California, where he took the photo at a drag strip. At this show I also met Memo Ortega for the first time in person, and I was very happy to be able to show him this photo of his old car he had not seen since 1962. Memo was visible touched when he looked at the photo, brining back a lot of memories for sure.
Timeline on the Ayala 1942 Ford Coupe
The time line below is based on all the information we have gathered on the car so far.
- 1949 – Gil Ayala created a super smooth 1942 Custom Coupe as his own personal driver, and possibly as rolling advertisement for his business. The car was originally painted bronze metallic and had a dark interior with white piping. Car uses 1946 Ford bumpers front and rear.
- January 1950 – Gil Ayala enters the Coupe at the Russetta Timing Association Hot Rod and Motor Sports show.
- Early 1950 – Gil sells the Ford to Bob Gillum.
- 1950 – The new owner has a new white, honey gold and brown interior installed.
- 1950 – 1946 Ford bumpers are replaced with 1949 Plymouth bumpers front and rear.
- 1951 – 1949 front bumper is removed and replaced by an 1946 Ford unit. Rear bumper stays 1949 Plymouth.
- 1951 – Car is repainted in a deep metallic blue.
- 1952 April 24-27- Car appears at the Hot Rod show in the National Guard Armory in Los Angeles. Unknown who entered it.
- 1958? – Gil Ayala gets the Ford back and decides to update it with quad headlights, he starts the work, but never finishes the job
- 1959 Memo Ortega buys the car from Gil Ayala, finishes the headlights, takes the car to bare metal and repaints it metallic dark blue.
- 1962 Memo Ortega sells the Ford to an unknown buyer. This is the last we have heard about the car.
1942 or 1946?
One of the other “mystery’s” about this Ayala coupe is the actual year of the car. In most publications it is listed as a 1942, including the Hot Rod show program from 1950. But Memo Ortega remembered that car being registered as a 1946 Ford. Memo was not sure if the registration year had been changed and if so for what reason. In a way it does not really make sense for the car to be a 1946 Ford, because the front end of the car would have had to be replaced with an older 1942 grille/front. Especially not in the late 1940’s when one of the major ideas for custom restyling was to make your old car look newer. But who knows perhaps this modification of the grille swapping was already been done before Gil bought the car after a frontal accident or something like that and the 46 grille was replaced with a 42 grille that was laying around? Who know. Dave Snell (a.k.a. rodncustomdreams) pointed out that the steering wheel used on Gil’s Ford is a 1946 model, and it is not very likely that the 42 steering wheel would have been swapped for a 1946 Ford model.
The few big questions left are what ever happened to the car in the period from 1952 to 1958, who was Bob Gillum? and what happened to it after memo Ortega sold the car in 1962. Is it still around today? As always I hope this Custom Car Chronicle article will brighten up some memories of those guys that were there back when this car was driven and at the shows. An possibly remember a few more things about it. If you have any more info on the history of the Ayala 1942 Ford, or know about its current whereabouts, please let us know, Email Rik and we will add the info to the article.
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