Custom Car Chronicle
Memo Ortega Files

Memo Ortega Stories Part 29




Memo helps out his friend Peppy Bravo to create his dream custom based on a 1936 Ford four door sedan.

[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]

Memo’s Flashback

The Famous Buzzard

Back in 1960 when I was working at Kolberts Kustom Shop in Pomona ca (Now Congoras body shop) I had this mild kustom Olds. I remember one Saturday at around noon when I got out of work I pulled my Olds in the back of the shop and cleaned and washed it getting it ready to go kruzing on the weekend. Well the word was out there was this hightway patrol officer harassing hot rods and cool cars going up Gary ave. to Henrys – a hangout where we all went on fridays Saturdays and Sunday nites – Well when I got done washing my Olds I told Kolbert I would see him Monday morning and I left the shop.
On my way home to La Verne, by the Pomona drags, I saw this officer on a bike coming towards me. Well he passed me, I looked in my rear view mirror… guess what! He made a U-turn, and came after me. I said to myself, oh man he is coming after me. And sure enough, he got behind me and gave me the red light.


He got off his bike, came over, “let me see your drivers license“.  So I gave it to him and asked him whats the problem? “I got to check your car” I asked him whats wrong with it? “Well I don’t like it” So I said, you mean you stopped me cause you dont like my car? “Thats right”  Oh you must be the bad guy on the motorcycle everybody’s been talking about. I suppose your the famouse buzzard.  “Yeah if thats what they call me” “Well I’m gonna cite you! You guys should leave these cars the way they came out of the factory!” I said to myself man this guys has it for our fixed up cars.

CCC-memo-ortega-29-flashback-olds-02My olds in 1960. The car was low, but not too low, however the Buzzard thought otherwise.

Around this times some of us had scavenger pipes, these were really popular on our cars, and I had four of them under the rear-end, about four-feet long and about two feet past the rear end on my Olds.  Well he saw them, gave me a ticket for them, and told me to get rid of them. He went to the front of the car and told me my car is to low in the front, so he gave me another ticket for my front licence plate being to low. I told him; You sure are not making manny friends around Pomona Valley. He said “when you get it fixed bring it to the station and I will ok it for you. I took the ticket and made a U-turn after he left.

CCC-memo-ortega-29-flashback-h-gribbleThis photo comes from my friend Howard Gribble’s Collection. It shows the kind of scavenger pipes I had on my olds.

I went back to kolberts opened, one of the stalls and drove my Olds inside. I was upset that I had encountered the Famous Buzzard. I jacked up the Olds, cut the scavengers off and put them on the side. I said to myself “good, one down”. Then I jacked up the front and raised the front, making sure my front plate was legal height. I did this real fast, man I was ready! So I closed the shop back up and drove straight to the station. When I got there I rang the bell, well guess who came out, it was non other then “The Buzzard” himself. “Yes can I help you” So I said, yeah you just gave me two tickets a little while ago, and I came so you can ok the car. “Oh yeah, I remember you.” “There is no way you can have fixed it this fast!” Well I’m here to get it ok-ed! So we went by the Olds, he scratched his head, “Well I be darned!” He checked everything. He gave me a ticket for proof he ok-ed it. Let me tell you, he was pissed off and walked away.

I went right back to Kolberts opend up the stall, jacked up the Olds, welded the scavengers back on, and went to the front and dropped it low again. It was the same way as when I had left to go home earlier that day. I did all this in 3 hours. When I went home I was keeping my fingers crossed I did not run into the Buzzard again…. Great memories from back then.

Peppy Bravo 1936 Ford Sedan

Back in the 1990’s when we did the car shows with our Knight Prowlers club, Peppy and his familly were always at those shows. They always had a lot of fun at our shows. One day Peppy asked me about fixing up his 1936 Ford that he had gotten from his uncle. He new that I worked on cars and he specially wanted me to do the work on his ’36. I asked him what did he want me to do on it. He wanted all newer running gear and custom work. Well Peppy I will be more than happy to work on it, but right now I’m really busy, I have a couple of cars I have to do, and when I’m done with those I sure would like to do the work on your ’36. Peppy asked me how long before I can work on it. I told him about six to eight months if you can wait. He told me he will contact me latter on. So way latter Peppy got a hold of me and told me he had somebody else already install the running gear in the car and he was not to happy the way it was done. He wanted me to look at the car and if I could not be mad at him because he had this other shop do it, and it turned out pretty bad.  Of course I will not get mad Peppy, just bring the car over and I will have a look.

So Peppy came by while I was working on Wills 1941 Chevy 2dr sedan. I had just finished Mendez car, so now I can work on Peppy’s ’36. We went on the street to check out the ’36. Peppy told me what he wanted done. He wanted to lower the car more in the back and in the front. But he told me everytime he hit a bump the front tires would hit the top of his front fenders and the fenders got dented because of that. I told him thats not good and I took a look what was happening. Turns out the car was subframed and it was just to wide, the tires were hitting in sides of the fenders each time he hit a bump in the road. I can fix that I said. What I can do is, narrow the top and bottom A-frames, that will bring her down a couple of inches.

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-02Peppy and me checking out the early progress on the Ford. I had to do quite a bit of work to get the dents out and the body straight.

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-01The 1941 Ford bumpers and Dummy Spotlights have already been added and changed the looks of the car. Two happy guys, but the job is far from done.

Peppy asked me if I could do all the body work first and then do some custom work, ok with me Peppy I told him. He asked me when could I start. When ever you want. I’m working on wills 41 but I have to wait for some parts and I can start on yours now. So he left the car at my house. First I took care of all the dents. The car also had the spare tire mounted on the deck lid and he wanted that to be removed, so I took it off and the big tire bracket. I filled in the holes and smoothed the back. Now it was looking kool. He asked me what taillights would look good. I had a pair of ’41 chevy lights laying around, I took them apart and taped the glass and chrome bezels on the deck lid and placed the licence plate in between the lights on the 1941 Ford rear bumper. Peppy liked that. So I installed them just like that. I suggested we get a pair of teardrops spotlites and a tall antenna. The real Appleton’s were hard to find, and if we found them they were so expensive, so Peppy ended up using a set of dummy spotlights.

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-05Here you can see a bit of the bad work done on sub-framing the car. I had already started the work to narrow the top and bottom A-frames, and see what else I could to so save the situation.

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-06The 36 Ford wheels and tires waiting patiently under my lemon tree.

Peppy asked me what would you do to make my car look mean, treat it like it was your own car. So I ended up painted it in black suede, and it looked killer… just like back in the days. Then we got some white walls and painted the rims red with some one bar flipper hub caps. Now the car really kicked, Peppy really liked what I had done to his car. We also got a pair of teardrop skirts that was the icing on the cake. The whole package took the car back to the 40’s and early 50’s… Well he told me to do the car like it was mine… so I did.

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-04Peppy and me putting the 36 back together.

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-16Time for some serious cruising.

Well peppy wanted the car lowered now, so I took the front suspension apart an narrowed the top and bottom A-arms, cut the coils, got them back on and this lowered the front a couple of inches now already looked a lot kooler. The back of the car was just as badly done as the front I could not lower it any more becuase the way it was done. Peppy said “memo I don’t care what you have to do to get this car lowered I know you can do it. Just do what you have to do.” Ok Peppy, I’ll do it. They had put parellel springs and to top it off, they were real long sticking out the back looked shady. So off they came, I took them apart and cut ten inches off the back end and de-arched them. Then Peppy wanted airbags. I said ok we can do it while im working on the back. I then cut the floor to crate space for the drive shaft. The car could now sit very low. I put everything in the trunk, installed airbags under the car and everything worked good. So Peppy was happy now … well almost!!!

After enjoying it for some time in suede black with red pin-striping, he brings the ’36 back again. Now he wants me to spray it green, similar as how he got it from his uncle. So I sprayed the car again, now in the green shade he picked. And he drove it like that for a while. Then he asked if I could do some more work on his ’36. Sure bring it over.

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-07Trying to figure out what I can keep and what has to go. 

He now also wanted his car way down in front and with proper using airbags. I told him “Peppy the only way I can do it is if I get rid of the subframe and start from scratch and built you a new frame from the fire wall to the front. “Memo just do what it takes” he told me. Peppy I will get a Mustang II  and install that. Then the car will ride an handle good. Ok lets do it memo.

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-08Peppy thinking “If I only had waited for Memo to have some time and do all this work on my car right the first time instead of going to this other shop!”

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-09After marking everything on the floor, and making sure the radiator remains in the right position I cut off the badly done sub-frame and planned to make my own frame.

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-10The new subframe I made, almost ready to be installed on the 36 Ford frame.

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-11The new subframe in all welded in place Still need to add all the brackets and supports.

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-13With the frame done I had to make sure the front fenders and grille surround could be mounted and fit properly. Testing, adjusting, testing.

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-15Creating some of the brackets and supports to add to the new subframe.

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-12When the front body panels all fitted the way they supposed to do, and the frame all done I could mount the Mustang II suspension.

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-14Next up was mounting the wheels and tires to see how the airbags work and if the car gets low enough for Peppy… looks like he is happy with the result… and so was I.

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-18The finished car… it looks great and Peppy is happy.

CCC-memo-ortega-peppy-36-ford-17Peppy wanted his ’36 Ford low… so thats what he got. But it will never been on the ground! The air-ride makes sure Peppy can raise it when he wants to drive it long distance.

After doing all that, the car rides and handles really good and it also looks very kool. You think Peppy is happy… well he is…. he finally is completely happy…. thats Peppy Bravo!

Go to Part 30 of the Memo Ortega stories… coming soon!
Go back to Part 28.


(this article is sponsored by)

CCC-Sponsor-KingKustomsTShirt-602Contact Rob Radcliffe at King Kustoms for more info on these T-Shirts Email Rob






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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