Custom Car Chronicle
Memo Ortega Files

Memo Ortega Stories Part 33


SoCal SHOWS Part 5


More Flashback stories and more photos from the Memo Ortega files from the time Memo went to some of the famous West Coast Kustoms shows in Los Banos.

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

Memo Ortega Flashback

A while back one of my friends had bought a pair of Appleton Spotlites, and ask me if I could take them apart so they could be chromed. He also asked me to take them to the chrome shop. “Yeah I’ll take em apart, and take them to be chromed“. So I went to this chrome shop that I had heard good things about. I got there and there were two guys there. One was talking to the owner, and the other one was standing there, outside. He was about my age, he looked at me an said “by any chance are you Memo that used to work at Kolberts Kustom Shop back in the early ’50,s in pomona”. I said “yeah im Memo”. He said “do you remember me?”

I looked at him “Oh dang, I do remember you now. You are the one I met at your house when I heard of you installing aircraft cylinders on cars to make go low and high. One of my friends told me about that and I did not belive him. Thats when we went over to you house to see it with our own eyes. That was a long time ago back in 1950, we were so young lol. I remember your driveway was all full of oil allover the place.” He remembers… “Yeah I sure had a big mess, and now everybody is doing hydro’s.” We got to talking and I wanted to ask if I could talk to him about another time about about his back in time working on them cars an maybe he could share some photos if he had. But he declined, so I did not push it. It seems he wanted to remain low-key. I can respect that. However he did take my number an I’m still hoping he calls me. So I will not mention his name here.

Wow… when I left I kept thinking, nobody was doing what he was doing back in early 1950’s. Lowering cars with aircraft cylinders, just a few years after WWII. I will never forget that day we went there to his house. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he will call me some day, and we get to talk some more.

Memo with the two freshly plated and put back together Appleton Spotlights.

The Car Shows

Lingering memories of great times many of us had at Los Banos and Paso Robles with Richie and Penny at the West Coast Kustoms shows. When I found out they were gonna do a show in Los Banos I got very excited, and decided visit that show also, remembering how cool Paso Robles always was. We drove there with our kustom GMC. I liked it there a lot. There were some kustoms I had never seen, and met some old and made some new friends from all over. Of course I liked Paso better, since it was closer for us, we caravand there with our Knight Prowlers Club and had great times there in the past. Too bad Paso is no more, but it was great when it was held there. We will allways remember Paso.

But now we have the show in Santa Maria, we are all getting to like it more and more as we get used to it in Santa Maria. The fair grounds is not bad, plenty of parking space for the cars in the show, and the crusing at night is awesome with four lanes of cars going and coming back back and fourth. You really have to keep you eyes on track. So many cars to see. How kool is it that some of us are sitting down, eating burritos or burgers or the smell of some of the guys cooking carne asada next to us… So awesome. The first pictures, all 49-51 Mercs, are from Los Banos, and I also ad a few from some of the Paso Robles fun.


Your friends Memo and Rik

Los Banos Show

Cool 50 Merc wit heavy chop, burgundy metallic paint and slick flames.

Very classic looking ’51 Merc with nice chop with the original ’51 rear window. De Soto Grille and super smooth black paint.

This ’51 Merc was wild, typical for the late 80’s. Heavy chop, very small rear window, scoops on the rear of the top and on the front that had antennas in them. Sunken taillights and hand made fender skirts. Wild!

This photo shows that the rear of the roof flowed right into the trunk, like a fleetline.

I liked the Buick side trim and two tone pale blue paint. The headlights look to be handmade… I cannot remember what there were, but they looked cool with the rest of the car’s restyling.

Black chopped coupe looks very nice with the dog leg removed from the fender line and nice pointy side trim.

Dan McConnell’s Mercury had work done by Joe Bailon, Butch Hurley and Rod Powell. Beautiful Deep Purple paint job with Rod Powell subtile scallops. ’52 Ford bumper, De Soto grille and frenched Buick headlights with the perfect chopped top and shaved drip rails, this one was very nice.

Bill Reasoner’s “Cool 51”. This one really has THE right look in my eyes.

Paso Robles Show

Squeeg Jerger 1941 Ford convertible. This one was so good to see in person. Every panel has been changed on it and it has a very nice mix of styles.

Cruise night at Paso was special… very special.

I liked this ’54 Chevy Hard-Top a lot. Beautiful chop, extended skirts, white with green paint and some nice striping going on.

Another ’54 Chevy that got my attention was this beautiful purple coupe looking soo fine.

Still at it

Memo Ortega is still at it up in his 80’s. Howard Gribble took some photos of Memo at work re-chopping a clients ’41 Chevy Coupe. Memo had already chopped to top on it, and looked really good. But after a few week the client decided, being inspired by a radical chopped Chevy at the 2017 GNRS, that he wanted the coupe to be chopped more. So Memo took out another inch and a half. Looking forward to show more on Memo’ work on this Chevy at a later date.



(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)

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