Custom Car Chronicle
Memo Ortega Files

Cousin Panyas Photos




After looking for a long time Memo Ortega finally was able to get access to some old Custom Car related photos from his friends and family

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 2016, 81 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

Cousin Panya Photo Flashback

By Memo Ortega

You know how I have mentioned multiple times that I have a hard time to get old photos from people I know from back in the day. Some of those old photos are long gone, others might be in boxes at the attic. Well a little while ago my late cousin Panya’s son came across some of his father’s old photos and remembered me asking for them. He came over and brought me a few I know you guys would like to see. These snapshots from Panya’s album show his 41 Chevy, 49 and 50 Mercury. All mild customs. He also brought a photo of Panya with the last classic car he had before he passed away, a neat four door ’41 olds.

The first photo I saw showed Panya with his old ’41 Chevy four door. He got this ’41 after he sold his ’36 ford 2dr sedan that was a big hit where we lived in La Verne, Ca. Wish I had photos of it to show you, it was really nice. He bought his ’41 around 1947-48 this car was real cherry like it just came out of the factory. It was a dark blue and like the other guys around, he had to have it dragging tail. So he right away lowered the back with 4 inch blocks and raised the front a little to give it the speed-boat look that was real poplar at the time where we lived. Then he installed the one bar flipper hub caps, really made the car look good. And of course the long antenna from Pep Boys, that were so poplar back then, on the rear. He brought the license plate down to the rear bumper and some time later he had the tail lights removed and trunk filled in,  and he installed Harley motor cycle tail on the gravel pan that really looked good.

Panya all dressed up with his ’41 Chevy four door with aftermarket single bar flipper hubcaps.

Then in ’49 or early ’50 he sold the ’41 an got himself a black ’49 Merc and of course right away he started working on it. There was three guys there in the barrio in La Verne, that got Mercs at the same time. Panya my cousin, the Pagluso brothers and my friend Ezeqill aka Enchilada. Acencio kustom guys thats how I got stung by the kustom bug. Well back to Panya’s ’49 Merc, he went and got a set of Appleton Spotlights and installed them that really made it look good then he took the car to have the kustom work done on it in LA. I did not see it for a whille it was either at the Ayalas or the Valley Custom Shop that did the work, I never asked him. I kinda figurerd that from seeing the other kustoms there in my barrio, meaning the part of town where I grew up. When he got it back from the shop it looked awesome as a semi kustom with awesome shinny black paint… beautiful. The sad part of this Merc is that one night Panya an his friends were coming from a dance and one of his friends drove the Merc. Somebody wanted to race them which they did. They crashed the Merc by the Pomona drags at the end of the long street.

Panya’s friend Shappo drives Panya’s 1949 Mercury that they mildly customized right off the dealer. The car was later crashed and he bought a new 1950 Mercury.

After the merc was crashed he had it fixed but he didn’t like it after that. So then he got another Merc, a 1950 this time, and he got it all done again. Thats the one with the Olds grill and motor cycle tail lights on the rear guards. This 1950 Merc was painted a metalic light blue, it looked awesome. Way later he sold the ’50 Merc and got a ’38 ford 5 window coupe that was an other one he had kustomized also, so far I have not been abele to get any photos of this one. The last car my cousin Panya had was a maroon ’41 Oldsmobile he fixed into a really nice car before he passed about 2yrs ago, in 2015.

Panya’s 1950 Mercury mild Custom Cruiser in 1954. The car was Nosed, headlights frenched with ’52 headlights, grille shell molded in, an 1950 Oldsmobile grille bar installed and a set of Appleton Spotlights.

At the back the Mercury taillights were removed, the emblems removed from the trunk and all holes filled for that desired smooth look. Two small motor cycle taillights were mounted net to the bumper guards.

Panya’s Mercury was lowered a few inches and ran on wide whites with the stock smooth 1950 Mercury hubcaps.

Looking COOL!

Panya’s friend Shappo standing next to Panya’s 1950 Mercury. Notice that Panya had installed a set of lipped 1951 Mercury fender skirts, which were a must for your 49-51 Mercury back in 1954.

Frank “Panya” Ortega Hernandez with his last Custom Car, a 1941 Oldsmobile, which he owned and enjoyed up into 2015 when he passed away.

This and That

Since some time Memo is more active on Facebook and with the help of the Custom Car Chronicle’s Memo Ortega Stories Memo has become quite an well known name in the international Custom Car community. From time to time people share some neat photos and stories with Memo. We thought it was nice to share some of that here on the Custom Car Chronicle as well.

Memo shared some photos he got from Mario L. Moreno on Facebook. Memo’s old ’37 Chevy Four door Custom was used for some glamour photo-shoots which were used for a series of Ontario Valley Department Store ads.


1980’s photo shoot with Memo in the background on the right.

My old GMC Pick up… now in Japan.
We have done a full article on my GMC Pick-Up, and people all around the world are still reading the CCC-Article on it. From time to time people send me some stories that they have seen my old truck or sometimes they send me some old photos of how the car looks now in Japan.

Japanese magazine The California St. from the early 1990’s featuring the original version of Memo’s GMC Custom Pick Up.

Spread one of two from the feature, shared by a Japanese fan.

The second spread from the feature.

After being bought by a new owner from Japan the GMC Pick Up was redone at the famous Paradise Road Shop. Some updates were made including an new paint-job.

And new taillights tunneled 1959 Cadillac lights into the rear fenders.

In front of the old Paradise road Shop.

Finished for the new Japanese owner and displayed as part of the Pharaohs Car Club display some years back.

Memo Chop Garage Projects
Memo has been doing some work on the 1941 Chevy Coupe for his friend Jerry. Memo chopped the top twice on the car, first rather subtle and when it was finished in primer Jerry took it home. Jerry then got inspired by an heavily chopped coupe at the GNRS and took his ’41 Chevy back to Memo to have him take out a some more, to get a very radical chop. Jerry wanted it very low, but in the end Memo and Jerry compromised and it was decided to take out another inch and a half. Less subtle than before, but still very much in proportion with the rest of the car.

Memo proudly standing with his freshly re-chopped ’41 Chevy for his friend Jerry. We will do close up on this Chevy at a later point.


Working on Jerry’s kustom and dancing while listening to Coldplay’s Viva la Vida on my garage big speakers from my i-pod.

Memo has also been steadily working on his new personal ride… Ford F-100 with a lot of cool custom touches. More on that another time.

Petersen Museum Low Rider Exhibit
A little while ago there was a nice Low Rider exhibit at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles. Part of the show was an exhibition of work from the late Teen Angel. Howard Gribble invited me to go with him to the exhibition. It was awesome, lots of people there. They had som many great things there and I sure got a surprise when I saw they had one big poster they were selling at the exhibit. It was the one that Teen Angel did for the cover of his magazine with my ’37 Chevy on it. That blew me away! They printed 100 of these posters and they sold em all Friday when we went there. They had kept a few and asked me if I would put my name on the last ones they had.

They also sold out on the T-shirts with the same photo of my ’37 Chevy Teen Angel Art that was on the poster. That was so crazy. They said they did not have anymore of those for Saturday or Sunday, but they still had a lot of other teen angels shirts. On the photo below you can see this Teen Angel work shop they had recreated in the museum, and on the left, on the desk, you can see the yellow posters They had left. They were big posters.

Howard Gribble took this photo of Memo Ortega looking at the recreation of Teen Angels studio at the  art exhibit in LA which was set up by David DeBaca in early 2017.

Memo Ortega points to original Teen Angel cover art that features the 1937 Chevy he owned when he was a teenager.

(This article is made possible 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)

7 thoughts on “Cousin Panyas Photos

  • Great to see you still at it Memo ! You are an inspiration to us all.
    Really cool that you were able to get a hold of some of your cousins pictures. Maybe more will show up.

  • Memo.. I always look forward to your stories and pictures and really enjoyed these. Since one of my customs is a 51 Merc. I always hope you will post more on yours. Do you still have it and/or are you still working on it ? The best to you and your family during this Christmas season.

  • Memo, I like the pictures of Panya’s Mercury and the motorcycle taillights brought back memories of customs in the fifties. The chop that you did on that ’41 Chev coupe is very nice. Keep up the good work!

  • Memo, Would you be kind enough to sign a photo of one of your early personal customs please to add to my BRRIS / WATSON / ROD POWELL collection please….
    Can I get you contact number to call you …
    Luke kustomland

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