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custom carsMemo Ortega Files

Memo Ortega Stories part 19


Back in the late 1980’s Memo owned¬†two Mercury’s, one from 1950, the other one from 1951, for both he had customizing plans…

[box_light]Memo Ortega is a well known name in the SoCal Custom Car and LowRider Scene, but perhaps not as well known as it should be. Memo has been working on custom cars and Low Riders since the early 1950’s. He became good friends with Custom Car Icon Gil Ayala, and in the late 1950’s he even bought Gil’s famous 1942-46 Ford Coupe as a persona driver. Today, in 2015, 80 years young, Memo is still chopping tops, and any other custom car work you can think of from, his garage work-shop. Check out more of the¬†Memo Ortega Stories¬†in the¬†Memo Ortega Files¬†on the CCC[/box_light]

Flashback, one day Car Show

I¬†remember one back in the 80’s I¬†got a call from Rich Pichette president of West Coast Kustoms…. can you belive that!¬† “Memo,¬†this is Rich Pichette,¬†since you are a West Coast Kustoms member, I would like to know if you would like to go with me and¬†Jerry to a one day show at the chrysler dealership¬†in¬†San¬†Bernardino.”¬†If I¬†remember right Jerry had a Candy Apple red 1950 Merc that you can see in one of the pictures.¬†He asked me that if I¬†decided to go, if I could bring another car with me. I my memory is right I think that Richard Mendez went with us for that special one day event kustom car show that day¬†as well. Rich mentioned “I¬†would really appreciate if you could come with us with your kustom GMC.”¬†Sure Rich, I¬†would love to go with you guys, its an honor you inviting me to go with you guys. “Memo thats really great I¬†thought you would not want to go”¬†Wow my brain is thinking “Rich Pichette, West Coast Kustoms president on the phone, calling me to join them aah wake up memo”.¬†“Memo we will¬†be by your house Sat and then cruze over to San Berdo…” “Great I’ll be here.”
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-01My GMC Pick-Up and Jerry’s Candy Red Merc at the Chrysler dealer one day Kustom show in San Bernardino.
Come Sat…. they show up and I’m ready to go.¬†Rich asked, “Memo what are you working on?”¬†I’m working on this 1951¬†Merc, come in the back I’ll show you. They checked it out… Wow thats looking good!¬†Thanks I¬†told them. So we left, cruzed Foothill Blvd all the way to Berdo.¬†Man we sure got a lot of attention going there. We got there, at the car dealership and he set us up the way he wanted us to park. Well every one of us had a great day there, and so did the people visiting¬†the little one day kustom car show. I already had met¬†Rich and his wife Penny at one of ¬†their¬†West Coast Paso Robles shows. They were such great people ¬†and so polite to me I just¬†can never forget this. Rich RIP,¬†for you will never be forgotten for your kindness to all that new you.
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-02Some spectators checking out my Pick-Up.

The 1950 Mercury’s

Back in 1986 I¬†decided to built me a 1951 Merc. So I¬†started looking for one… kinda crazy cuase I¬†had a couple before the one I¬†sold to Mike Kever, and an 1950 I¬†also sold earlier. The 1951 that I¬†sold to Mike Kever was on a trade for my 1954 GMC¬†Pick¬†Up. I¬†never did nothing to it, but clean it and sold all the flat head engine parts that came in the car when I¬†bought it.¬†Let me tell you, it was full of the flat head parts inside and in the trunk. It still boggles my mind why they would do that!¬†That 1951 was lowerd with all that stuff inside, anyway.
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-04The day I took the 1950 Merc home. Michael, one of my grandsons is steering the car from the hauler.
The other 1950 Merc I¬†did do a lot of work on it but then¬†I¬†decided to sell it. Just because¬†I¬†had to many cars… Crazy how we buy cars an can’t keep up with them, and they go to pot trying to work on all of them.¬†So thats why I¬†also sold this 1950,¬†Merc. Funny, nobody wanted to buy it back then.¬†I told everybody I¬†had a 1950 merc for sale…. ehh not interested! I¬†wanted 2ooo grand, still no bites.¬†Finally some guy came and got it.¬†As soon as¬†I¬†sold it everybody wanted to buy it from me. I¬†kept telling them “its gone!!!”¬†Even nowdays people ask me all the time if I have¬†any Mercs for sale! No mercs I¬†tell them…
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-05Me…. proud new owner of a 1950 Merc… parked in front of my garage…. and lots of plans for it.
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-06Working on the rear fender and gas filler cap, thats about as far as I got it before I decided to sell the car. 

The 1951 Mercury

Well this 1951 merc I¬†found in San Diego Ca.¬†Somebody from my area told me about it, they wanted to buy it, but they decided it was to¬†far to buy and get it. So I¬†called the owner for info on the car, and we made a deal. We took a trailer, went payed for it and took it back home. My plans was to built it slowly. I¬†started chopping the top, as you all know its a lot of work on these cars, but I¬†got it done.¬†In between I¬†was doing other side jobs after work hours¬†at my job…¬†with my boss approval.¬†Come weekends we go cruzin all over, and having lots of fun rappin pipes all over the place with the windows down the wind hitting your hair an the rock &¬†roll music jamming. It don’t get better then that.¬†But it left not much time to work on the Merc.
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-07The back of the picture is dated November 1987. I let my oldest grandson Will cut the A-pillar after I have removed the door window frame. Thats another grandson Robert inside the door.
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-08With the A and B-pillars cut, it was time to lean the rear window forward. I moved the whole top forward to have some more workspace to get cut the rear window surround. 
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-09Checking out the new profile. Lots of work left to be done to get the flow of the top to the angled forward rear window right.
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-11The top of the windshield opening was cut and then I spread out the A-Pillars from the top section to line up with the bottom sections. (Thats my chopped GMC in the garage in the background)
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-13Next up was to weld the B-pillars and get the door tops back in place.
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-14Grandson Buba holding the top of the frame showing how much needs to be added.
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-12When the door frame was all welded it was time to move to the back and removed the whole rear window so that I could modify the opening to make it fit the new flow of the top.
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-15Most of the chop is now done and the bare metal sections in primer to protect it from getting rusty.
Well I¬†finally did get the Merc in primmer. It was looking good allready, but then I¬†started again… “why do I¬†want more cars?” So I¬†decided to sell this one¬†also.¬†I told one of my grand kids if he wanted the car you can have it.¬†He said no, I¬†told him I’ll help you finish it till its done. “Nahh I¬†don’t want it.” Again I¬†told everybody I¬†had another Merc for sale, this time a chopped one from 1951 and guess what…. nobody wanted to buy it.¬†Finally¬†some guy called me… “are you Memo?¬†and is it¬†true you have a chopped 1951 Merc for sale? “Yeah sure”. So he asked me if its ok to come and look at the car. He came, looked the car over and I¬†told him I¬†have everything that belongs to the car.¬†I told him what I¬†wanted two¬†grand an its yours. “I’ll buy it!” So he came back with a trailer and we loaded it on the trailer and off he went.
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-16More work was done on the body getting it all straight and in primer. At this point I decided I wanted to change the tail to 1950 Ford units.
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-17You can see I even tested some dark blue paint on the rear drivers side fender. Work has started to add the 1950 Ford taillights on the passenger rear fender.
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-18I hand made the pod that would hold the taillight. I shaped it to make it look like the wind-wing on the 1950 Ford.
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-19Test fitting the Ford taillight in the new taillight pod. This is as far as I got with the 1951 Merc. I never even got around to do the drivers side taillight. This is how I sold it…. where is it now?
Later I heard from a friend of him what happened after that. After he picked up the car from me he¬†went on the freeway and some guy waved him to stop, he wanted to see the car. And right there, on the freeway the guy offerd him bucks for the 1951¬†Merc!… So he sold it¬†right there.¬†I¬†would have done the same thing¬†too I¬†told his friend. Funny how nobody wanted to buy it.¬†I¬†did end up with a bunch of part the guy¬†did not want.¬†Just another one of my cars stories from back in 1987.

The Mercury bug came back to me… many years after this I found myself another 1951 Merc, and this time I planned to keep it and build it into my dream custom. I have been working on this one off and on for the last couple of years. And now in January 2015 the car is painted a real dark blue. My good friend hector has just finished the cut and buff¬†on the paint and soon I will start to put it back together. I will be doing another CCC-Story on this one later, this was alll for the Memo Ortega Stories number 19.
CCC-memo-ortega-story-19-20My new 1951 Merc for the first time out in the sun on January 21, 2015. Boy it looks good. I can’t wait to get all the chrome back on it. More on this one at a later time.

Go to Part Twenty.
Go Back to Part Eighteen



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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)

11 thoughts on “Memo Ortega Stories part 19

  • Love the stories Memo. It’s like sitting around talking with an old friend.
    Can’t wait to see and hear more about your current Merc.

  • Memo I love your stories , especially 51 Mercs. Its great that you used the 51 rear window when you chopped it. Do you have any more pictures on how you laid the rear window down , especially the bottom corners? I think your current 51 looks great. Hopefully you will do a story on it soon. Bob

    • hi bob, glad you like my stories, bob i dont have more photos how i laid my rear window down , the bottom corners came out nice on that merc,i hope what you see onthere helps you get an idea,

  • So good to get another Memo installment! I love your stories, Memo. Your new Merc is awesome, and I, too, wonder whatever happened to the earlier ones. Your use of the ’50 Ford tail lights, with a hand-built pod: brilliant.

    un abrazo grande, mi amigo nuevo.
    Larry Pointer

    • thanks larry, it sure would be nice to know where those mercs are today, my ford tail lites glad you like that allso,

  • Really enjoyed the story on your Mercurys. The new ’51 mercury is very nice looking and I will be waiting to see more pictures and to read your story on building it.

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