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Wally Welch and his passion for cars




Want to know more about the late Wally Welch? You are at the right place. We will be sharing many more stories, background information, and photos from the Wally Welch Photo Collection, in future CCC articles. This is a short introduction piece on Wally Welch, and his dearly beloved machines.

When we hear the name Wally Welch, most of us will be thinking about his Ayala/Barris Mercury, built in 1950. This Merc was featured on the cover, and inside the April 1952 Hop Up magazine. However this Mercury was not Wally’s first custom car. He had a few other custom cars, hot rods, and a hot bike, before his famed Mercury.

William Wallace Welch was born on September 24, 1928 in Glendale, California; he grew up in Burbank. At a very young age, he choose to go by the name of Wally. Even as a young guy, he always had a passion for cars. Custom cars, and hot rods to be precise. He studied advertising, but before getting his degree, he changed careers, and went into sales and management. He worked for the well known hot rod and custom dealer: Andrews & Evans. Wally Welch enjoyed a good career, working at various dealerships in sales and management.


Wally’s 1950 Mercury, was among the first customs based on the iconic 1949/1950 Mercury model. Gil and Al Ayala of Gil’s Auto Body Works created this milestone custom car. Gil Ayala painted the car in lime green which was chosen by Wally. But Wally’s girlfriend, Jeannie Chrisman, never cared much for the color. So, to please his girlfriend, Wally took the car to Barris for a redo, including some extra grille teeth, and perhaps more importantly, a brand new, very deep, purple paint job.

According to Wally’s daughter Terri, he preferred this Mercury over the other customs he had in the 1940’s and 50’s. Wally loved to tell his daughter stories about his Mercury; how all the body work was done in lead, and how the handle-less doors were opened. The Wally Welch scrapbook – that survived all these years – shows mainly his 1941 Ford, some of his hot rods, and his friend’s cars. It is assumed the album was created before the Mercury was built. Later a few photos of the Mercury were added. Unfortunately, Wally did not share many stories with his daughter about his older cars, his bikes, boats, or even the plane he flew.

CCC-Wally_Welch-Machine-03A young Wally Welch looking over the engine of his hopped up 1929 Model A Roadster with 32 Ford grille.

CCC-Wally_Welch-Machine-07Wally enjoyed all kinds of automotive transportation. His custom cars and hot rods were his first love. But he also had some bikes which were tuned up to go fast.

CCC-Wally_Welch-Machine-05Unfortunately we do not know anything about Wally’s 1939 Ford convertible he had shortly after WWII. It was only mildly customized with a perfect speed boat stance, single bar flipper hubcaps on black wall tires and a set of Spotlights. Typical for the early/mid 1940’s are the home town name stickers in the windshield. Burbank in Wally’s case. We have no idea who built the car.

CCC-Wally_Welch-Machine-06Another early ride for Wally as this sinister looking 1939 Chevy Coupe. Skirts in the back, lowered speed boat stance, single bar hubcaps on black wall tires, and not visible in this photo, a nice set-in license plate in the back. Wally looked tough!

CCC-Wally_Welch-Machine-09Wally standing next to a Model A Hot Rod with some of his car buddies. The car is parked in front of the family run Welch Drug store in Burbank.

CCC-Wally_Welch-Machine-01Wally on the left looking tough with his sun glasses ad leather jacket leaning against the first version of his 1941 Ford Custom. A friend is stadning next to him leaning against his own similar styled 1941 Ford custom. Notice that both cars had an aftermarket filled center grille filler panel. But that the friends car had an extra grille opening cut into this panel.

CCC-Wally_Welch-Machine-02Wally looking cool with the first version of his 1941 Ford. The car still had the two stock side grilles, and stock bumpers. Along with black wall tires.

CCC-Wally_Welch-Machine-10Wally standing next to his girlfriend Jeannie Chrisman, in front of the later version of his 1941 Ford. The car now sports a 1942 Ford grille, 46 Ford bumpers, and white wall tires. The photo taken by Felix Zelenka was part of a photo shoot for the October 1951 issue of Motor Trend cover. (TRJ article)

CCC-Wally_Welch-Machine-04Wally even had a flying permit, and loved to go out into the air.





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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