Custom Car Chronicle
Memo Ortega Files

Memo Ortega Stories Part 25




Ted Solis asked me if I could chop his already chopped 1954 Chevy two door a little more, and make it look a bit meaner… Sure I can.

[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]

By Memo Ortega

Let’s start this new article with a early 1950’s flashback.

I remember one time back in late ’53, perhaps it was even ’54. Me and a couple of my friends were cruzin around in my ’37 Chevy four-door, the one with the 40 ford headlites, it was a Saturday night, around 7pm, one of the guys… “Hey Memo why don’t we cruze up to the Legion Stadium see whats happening out”,… “Sure why not its allways jumping out there… lets go!”¬†The Stadium is¬†far from where we are at¬†cruzin Pomona’s Second st. the American¬†Graffiti¬†of the ’50,s I¬†call it.¬†Another place to be full of cars and chicks, checking out the scene.¬†We left and went to El Monte, it takes a while to get there, since back then there was no freeway yet.¬†As we were going we rolled all the windows down, we could smell the blossom smell from the orange trees… Aaah so good!¬†We allways had the radio blaring out Kool Sounds of oldies as we know them now. And to put the iceing on the cake… rapping pipes all the way from my triple carburated 216 Chevy 6 motor.¬†Aah that sound making good music. Along the way this guy came along the side of us at a stop, he asked me if I¬†wanted to race… I told him no not this time were just cruzin. I guess he had seen the triple carbs and chromed motor since I¬†did not have my hood on it. He waved and left, good thing I¬†did not race him, he had a big giant blower on his coupe.¬†We kept going, along the way we stoped and got some burgers then continued, we finaly got to El Monte to the Legion Stadium and went into the big parking and found us a good spot to park.
The place was jumping we got a great space where we could see everything that was going on out there. I comb my duck-tail makeing sure it looked look kool.¬†We got down and stood by my car, we could see the guys and chicks dancing outside since they could not get in anymore the place was packed!¬†We could hear the kool singing of Don and Dewey and their music, plus the other famous singers there. Don and Dewey were always jumping on top of the piano when they had the crowed jumping to there music. it was so cool to see that. Every Saturday they had famous rock &¬†roll singers. We finnaly decided to leave and when we got on Ramona blvd, and came to the stop signal at Valley blvd. when this kool ’53 Olds came to make a U-turn on Valley. This ’53 Olds really got my attention. I said it was kool, in fact it was the koolest Olds I¬†had ever seen. It was glossy black with the hood, doors and trunck all filled in, and with side chrome pipes on it. The car was real low, and just as we saw it coming.. only moments later¬†it disapeared into the dark of the night again….¬† never to see it again.¬†It was of course an inspiration for the Olds I would get later in the 1950’s.¬†My memories from¬†back in the 50’s.

Ted Solid 1954 Chevy

One day about eight years ago¬†(around 2007) my wife Terry told me she had seen this chopped 54 Chevy cruisin around by our street. Well I¬†had never seen it, but one night me and Terry were sitting outside, it was a hot summer night, when we seen this Chevy¬†coming up the street under the street light. Terry yanks my arm… “Memo thats it the ’54 I¬†had told you about,… I jumped up an ran into the street and waved them down.¬†They stopped and I¬†introduced myself and Terry. The driver told me his name was Ted, and that he had just moved to a house¬†not to far from us. I¬†told him what Terry had told me about seeing his kool car cruisin by, an I¬†went around looking for his car. I told Ted¬†I¬†really liked his car. From that day we became friends.
One day he came by to see me, and we talked about kustoms and he also wanted to see¬†my 53 chevy “Vandolero”¬†which¬†means the wonderer in Spanish.¬†Anyway we got to talking and he asked me if I¬†could rechop his ’54.¬†He wanted his¬†’54 chopped a bit more than how it was.¬†I¬†looked at his car and told him “yeah iI sure can”. Well he was real happy that I¬†could do it. He asked me how soon can I¬†do it. Well I can start on it next week if u want me too.¬†Great he told me, he left with a big smile on his face.¬†I¬†told Terry he looks like Ricky Eglesias,¬†the singer, anyway Ted came by the next week and left his car and I¬†started working on it.

Before I started the re-chop I removed most of the paint from the car.


Before I started the re-chop I removed the paint from the pillars where I wanted to make the cuts.


I cannot remember how much I cut from it, but I think, and by the looks of this photo I removed about another inch.


I cut the whole top off a couple of inches in front of the rear window, and then let the top sit down on some wood I had laying around in the shop.  I moved it around until it had the perfect profile, then tacked the A-pillar.


Here you can see it from the rear, see how the piece of wood holds the top in place. This allowed me to get it right and to show it to Ted, to see if it was low enough for him now. He said Perfect, then I could start laying the rear window forward to meet the new lower profile. 


I pulled everything off the car to make it easier for me. I recut the top and got it lower. I called him to come by to¬†check it out to see how it looked now. He came over¬†and looked at it.¬†“Perfect¬†just right! Just how¬†I¬†wanted it, it looks so much kooler now!” Ok now I¬†can go ahead and do all the welding and Finnish the top. Once I¬†was done with the top he asked me to french the head lights as well. So I¬†did them, and he also wanted the taillight frenched in… So I did those as well, next came the hood, I welded the center of it to give it a one piece look, and a few other things like sealing inside the trunk an getting it ready for upholstery.¬†Then we took the car to my friends spray both an sprayed it in a similar color to the UPS¬†trucks, real dark brown, but it looks almost black in most photos. Then Ted wanted some kool scallops also, so I did those as well. I did them in candy burnt orange, which went really well with the dark brown.¬†The car sure looked nice when it was all done, Ted was so happy the way his car looked now and so was I. Once in awhile you¬†might catch him kruzin the boulevard in his Kustom Chevy…


Got the door tops back in place again. Love the profile of the new opening.


Most of the chop now done and some primer added to get a better look. Ted was really happy with the new profile of his car.. and it does look really great.


The door window has a slight taper towards the rear, and a small radius on the rear top corner. Very nice.


Ted was really happy how the re-chop had come out, so he asked me to do some more work on the Chevy, including frenched taillights for some custom bubble lights.


More primer added when the rest of the work was done. And now its time to get some paint on it. Ted chose a really dark UPS truck brown semi gloss paint.



With the car now in paint Ted also asked me to do some work inside the trunk. A new floor had to be constructed to cover the new large gas tank and kicked up frame.

Always busy at my home shop!


CCC-Memo-ted-solis-chevy-18Ted also wanted me to do some scallops on the Chevy. Here I’m laying out the design for them.¬†


All taped up and masked with newspaper, with the paint carefully sanded and ready for the burnt orange scallops.


I had painted the dash, steering column, and garnish moldings in a nice burnt orange, the same color as on the scallops. Here I’m working on getting the vent windows to fit.


Then it was time for Little Paully to outline the scallops in white to make then really POP.


Next up was all new upholstery. We took the car up to my friend Darrell from Upland Ca, Darrell was a real great upholstery guy, sadly he has passed away since these photos were taken.


Getting the new upholstery installed at Darrell’s shop. The off white with burnt orange paint looks really sharp.


CCC-Memo-ted-solis-chevy-21And all finished…¬†


Ted ready to go cruising with his freshly re-chopped Chevy with all new upholstery.

Got to Part Twenty Six.
Go back to Part 23.




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)

9 thoughts on “Memo Ortega Stories Part 25

  • memo, another fine piece of skill & craftmanship ! no high tech tools, a hacksaw & a gas welding torch ! very cool !

  • Memo, each story tops the last one! So happy you took photos as you went. So much has been lost, but you take us back to magic times. “Those were the times, my friend. We thought they’d never end,” as the song goes. You’re the magic man, Memo. We are blest with your sharings.

  • thank u all guys, for ur comments im glad i can still remember a lot of my fun days an times an shairing them with everybody like u guys an every body eles out there, if not for rik an ccc it would not be posible ,we all have little storys that we cant for get of things we did when we were younger, glad to share them with u my friends from all over an thank u for enjoying them memo, just a little guy having fun,

  • Memo – great story and great work! the car came out beautiful! Now I am off to read your others!

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