Memo Ortega stories part 17


In the early 1980’s Memo customized Greg Perez’s his Camaro Low Rider to become a show stopper. Sadly the car was never finished.

[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 2014, 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]

Early 50’s Flashback

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]¬†remember when we went cruzin back in the early ’50’s. I would go pickup some of my buddies in my metalic green ’37 Chevy with the ’40¬†Ford headlites. That car was so much fun, it was an eye cacher where ever we went with it.¬†We would leave from my home in La Verne, and just cruze all over the place. It did not matter where ever we went, as long as we had a great time rolling down the blvds. Back then you would see a Customs running around,¬†Hot Rods and low down Bahito Cars, thats the way it was. Not like today, now the only time you see these cars are if there’s a car show or swap meet. Not to many running around like the old days anymore. I¬†guess its the modern times, wish they would still cruze them like back in the day… its all good. Got a little distracted…
Anyway back to the early ’50’s I¬†remember one time we were rolling through Santa Ana, Ca.¬†going down this street where there was this big park. There were a¬†lot of chiks around there, and when we got towards the end, there was a big baseball diamond. All of a sudden these guys came out on to the street and started waving us to stop. It just happend that they were base ball players from La Verne, our home town where we lived. We sure were surprised to see them out there, and so were they. They asked me, “Memo what are you guys doing way out here man“, just cruzin, checking out the chicks and having a good time, thats what we do. “Yeah but you guys are far away home”¬†. Its all cool, I¬†told them. But what are you guys doing way out here, I¬†asked them.¬†“We have a base ball tournament, and we are winning!” ¬†We told them good luck and we left.


We continued going down towards the beach… Well guess¬†what, we ended up by¬†Pappy Hart’s Santa Ana Drag Strip¬†by accident. The road ended right into the strip so since we already drove there, we just went in. We sure got a lot of good looks from everybody around there, admiring and checking out the ’37 Chevy.¬†And so were we checking out the fine Hot Rods and a couple of Custom Cars parked there.¬†We got to see Art Chrisman racing his ’29¬†Model A, and his flathead dragster. We¬†saw¬†the Bean Bandits and a bunch of awesome Race Cars. And what was really funny is that¬†I¬†wanted to go to the strip all this time,¬†but I¬†did not know exacly where it was. An this Sunday we ran into it by luck.¬†What a great time we had that cruzin sunday. I’ll never forget that day. I wonder how many of you readers were there that day.
Memo Ortega

Greg Perez Camaro

I¬†meet Greg Perez at a car show, he belong to a car club “Elite” from Pomona Ca.¬†He owned this awesome Camero Street Show Car. He asked me about doing some custom work on his Camaro. I told him, why not, thats what I¬†like to do. Richard Mendez brought him over to my house, to check out some of my photos. He really liked¬†my ’53 Oldsmobile¬†with the “fingernail” style covers over the headlites. He told me how awesome that car looked.¬†He said “I¬†want you to do something like that on my car“. Greg I¬†can do any custom work you want on your car just gimme an idea of what you want.¬†He said, “just do some crazy stuff thats different from the rest you see. I want my car to kick butt at the car shows. I told him his car allready is doing that.¬†“Thank you“, he told me, “I¬†know it’s not going to look the same anymore,¬†but thats what I¬†want. Something that nobody has right now.”¬†I¬†gave him some pointers of stuff that would look cool on his ride, and he liked my ideas. He asked me when can you start working on my car. I¬†can start when ever you want me too. I can put my stuff on the side for now and do your car. “lets do it”¬†ok with me.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-01Greg’s Camaro was a real looker when he took it for me to have the body customized. A friend of Greg painted the car for him.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-02Side view shows the great looking graphics and chrome wire wheels with thin line white wall tires. And hydraulics of course.
I will have to take out the interior first. Ok by me, bring the car back when your ready I’ll be here.¬†By the way , Greg is a Custom Car Interior guy doing interiors for a lot of cars in the Show Circuit such as the Los Angeles Sports Arena the San Bernardino Orange Shows, and others around.¬†So you know he is into Car Shows heavy. A friend of Greg had painted his Camaro in a good looking darker metal flake yellow with multi hue green graphics. And Greg himself had done the olive green velvet button tufted interior. When he brought me the car, I have to say, man it looked funny with no interior inside or in the trunk. Well I really¬†hated to ruin his paint job but the show must go on… like I¬†always say.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-03Greg himself did the wild bucket seats and center console and upholstered everything in olive green button tufted velvet.
I¬†started with the headlights, creating the “fingernail” style covers over the headlights. I mocked it up and called Greg¬†to come over and have a look to see if he liked what I did.¬†He would tell me, “yeah thats what I¬†want, a different look”.¬†He was real happy the way the car was looking with the new changes. An so was I.¬†After that I¬†did the¬†grill opening in a similar way as what I done with the headlight cover¬†mock up.¬†I would call greg to come and check the updates again. He approved and I did the other headlights and fine tuned it all.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-05After mocking up one of the headlights I first did the grille opening. Here I’m back at working on the headlights figuring out the best way to make it look similar to the grille.
Passenger side headlight and grille opening are all done, driver side is mocked up.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-19With my hammer and torch in my hand I can not help but smile.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-09Front end restyling all done and in primer. Note the marker lines, sketching out some more ideas.
He next¬†asked me if I¬†could install some 1971 Mercury Cougar taillights on the rear. He liked the way they looked and the way they flashed with the turn signals on a sequence.¬†Yeah, sure I¬†can do that. Hey Greg you¬†are¬†the customer! You know what they say, the customer is allway right. “Thats right do it.”¬†¬†So I¬†did install the Cougar lights. It was a¬†bunch of work, but they came out looking cool on the car.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-23New opening for the Cougar taillights was created in metal and smoothed with body filler. Test fitting of the bumper.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-22Test fitting of the 1971 Mercury Cougar taillights. They sure did look great on that car.
Greg¬†asked me about chopping the top.¬†Why not?…¬†I¬†told him you want to go all out be different. “Yeah chop it.”¬†Ok but don’t start crying when¬†I¬†start cutting!¬†We both lol.¬†Richard¬†Mendez would come by to see¬†Greg’s car. “Man its gonna kick butt when its done” he said.¬†I¬†reinforced under the car before¬†I¬†started cutting so the doors would not¬†buckle when you open them. Then¬†I¬†started ripping her open across the top,¬†wiping¬†out the mean looking paint job… man that did hurt!¬†After cutting the opening as wide as¬†I¬†wanted¬†it¬†to be. I’m going “poor car its suffering but your going to be cool when im done”¬†I’m saying to myself. I¬†went ahead and cut the top lower¬†until it had the look I was after.¬†It was looking good.¬†Greg would come by once in a while,¬†to see¬†the progress on his¬†car.¬†He would tell me. “Memo its looking good, I can’t wait till its done
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-04Before I started cutting the top I stripped the paint off. This was very hard to do, the paint¬†looked soo good on Greg’s Camaro. Note the taped shapes I had marked for the cut out section.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-06After that I chopped the top, the rear pillars first. 
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-16Followed by the A-Pillars. Notice the special shapes I cut into the windshield header panel.
Greg¬†I¬†have another idea,¬†I’ll show¬†you.¬†I¬†want to run a 6¬†or¬†7¬†inch strip from the back portion of the top curving all the way down¬†to end on the console between the¬†bucket seats. He looked at me funny?¬†Here¬†I’ll show you. So I cut¬†a piece of¬†cardboard, bend it¬†and taped it in place to show Greg. “Man you got some crazy ideas,¬†I¬†like it, do it!¬†Man¬†it¬†will be looking good in the car shows“,¬†Gregg really liked indoor shows. Me¬†I¬†like out door¬†shows¬†much better.¬†On the top of the windshield, the header board,¬†I¬†cut me a piece of metal and¬†I¬†punched¬†four¬†louvers¬†nicely¬†paced out across the¬†piece.¬†I¬†welded the metal in and presto, awesome looking.¬†When¬†Gregg and¬†Richard Mendez saw¬†that, they said…¬†“Its outta site man that is so cool looking.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-12After showing Greg what I wanted to do, and he had given me his aproval I bend some sheet metal to create the shape from the floor towards the back portion of the roof.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-13To make the shape more interesting I added v-shaped bend round rod…
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-14And filled it with another layer of sheet metal, for a nice 3-D effect.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-18The windshield header still needed a lot of work. 
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-20Getting there with the cut and reshaped windshield header.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-21The nice pieces with four louvres after I had welded them into the header.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-08The rear of the car looked really great with the Cougar taillights. The back glass i laid it way down.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-24These last two photos were taken on the day Greg came by and picked the car up. It was the last time I saw the car. Greg was going to have the windshield cut by a friend.
Well when¬†I¬†was done, the car looked really cool. Greg and Richard were so happy the way it turned out.¬†I¬†was happy they liked it.¬†Greg took the car back home and told me he was¬†going to custom paint it. He had this all new wild interior on his mind he wanted to create for the car, and he planned to rechrome everything. I¬†could just picture¬†the car all finished.¬†Greg¬†was so happy when he left.¬†Well sad thing happened.¬†A¬†while¬†after he took the car¬†home with him,¬†the way¬†I¬†understand it was that some¬†guy¬†talked¬†Greg¬†into making the whole front a one-piece unit that would open up from the back of the hood with the fenders all¬†as one piece. Well it was a no… no. They completely¬†ruined it I heard.¬†And Greg¬†was extremely¬†dissapointed and lost intrest in the car.¬†To bad¬†I¬†did not know Greg’s plans, otherwise I would have talked¬†Gregg out of doing that, and that car would have been a show winner for him at the car shows.¬†I just¬†know¬†Gregg would have put that car together to be an absolute awesome car.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-11Greg took this photo of his Camaro at his home garage after he took it out of the shop that had ruined the whole front end of the car. It was then when Greg lost all interest in the car, he never finished it.
CCC-memo-ortega-part17-27Summer of 2014, Memo celebrating his 80th birthday with his family (they are all behind the camera waiting for memo to cut the home made cake) and his wife Terry.

Go to part Eighteen.
Go to part 16.






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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)

One thought on “Memo Ortega stories part 17

  • December 31, 2014 at 01:07

    memo i remember greg’s camero when it was flaked out a guy named art painted it in gregs parents driveway. greg lived up the st. from us.i loved the paint & graphics on it alot of guys did not care for that style of paint job. they were wrong! i learned how to paint,candy,flake,pearl & graphics using 1/8″ & 1/4″ masking tape watching some very talented painters such as, you,my dad (papitas) my brother art, tom stratton, bugs ochoa, big ed madrigal, mario gomez ! i watched & learned ! i was amazed what a little backyard spray gun in a garage could do! when i heard you were working on greg’s car back then, i was like wow ! it will be bad ass when done. greg’s car club members Elite would cruise by our house & just peek in our driveway to see what car from Style c.c was being painted. the work you did on greg’s camero was 2nd to none! Love it ! thanks Rik & Memo !


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