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The Memo Files: an Ayala Coupe, quad headlights and a found photo


In the Memo files, Memo Ortega aka Memo Chop  shares his amazing memories from the 1940’s and up. This is his first story.

Memo Ortega has been into customizing since he was a young kid who customized his bicycles. He would later graduate onto real cars and hang out at the Ayala shop were he became good friends with Gil Ayala. In the late 1950’s Memo even bought Gil’s famous 1942-46 Ford coupe which Gill had started to remodel with quad headlights. Memo continued building custom cars and bikes and is still at it today.

The Ayala controversy

In the past couple of years there has been some controversy about Gil Ayala’s personal 1942-46 Ford Custom Coupe. The question was if there was just one car, or perhaps two very similar styled cars. And then there was the info and drawing about a later version of Gil’s Coupe when it was owned by Memo Ortega. Well the first question is still sort of unresolved (although I personally think there is only one car that was owned by Gil styled like the inset photo on the bottom left side). But the main photo shown here shows the later version of the car when it was owned by Memo Ortega.

Memo had told us stories how he got good friends with Gil in the 1950’s and eventually was able to buy Gil’s old Coupe in 1959. Gil had started to rebuilt the car for himself and had included the quad headlights (Ford units) but never finished the work. When Memo bought the car he finished the installation of the headlights.
Not the most beautiful styled mods on this car. But we have to remember, this was 1959 and the quad headlights were the trend. Memo also cleaned up the rest of the car and painted it a nice dark blue. Close to the color it once had when Gil Ayala still owned the car. Also note that the car has a set of dummy spots, again very popular in those days.

A found photograph

We came across this photo in an old photo album at the 2013 GNRS, when we had a booth selling our Jack Stewart Ford book. Unfortunately we misplaced the name of the photographer who took the photo. We know that the photo, showing the car with the quad headlights, was 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.

The most wonderful thing was that – about an half hour before we discovered the photo – we met with Memo Ortega in person for the first time. Later that day, when Memo came by the Kustom Kar Books booth again, we asked Memo (Inset top Right) to sit down for a moment and showed him this photo.

He hadn’t seen a photo nor the car since 1962, when he sold it to an unknown person. Memo stared long at the photo and was really touched. He was so happy to see his old ride once again. He finally was able to show his friends the quad headlights on his old car, which he bought from Gil Ayala. We think it’s really great to have another photo of this historical important custom car in its last known version.

The one million dollar question is…what happened to it after this photo was taken?


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)

3 thoughts on “The Memo Files: an Ayala Coupe, quad headlights and a found photo

  • Nice story here about the Ayala Coupe. It’s great to here Memo talking about his time of ownership…..I hope it’s found someday?

      • Always love stories of old customs, Momo commends are just very cool. I never really liked quad headlights on most customs, the quad lights seem to work quit well on the this Ford couple. Example, the quad lights on the late version of the the “Bugarin Merc” big mistake, we all know that the quads were the latest custom trend, it didn’t work for all customs.

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