Custom Car Chronicle
Memo Ortega Files

Memo Ortega Stories Part Five


Its 1950, Memo is working hard to improve the looks and power on his ’37 Chevy, he even takes on a job so he can pay for¬†better parts.

[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, 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


Continuance¬†of¬†my¬†’37 Chevy

(Rik Hoving: I had emailed Memo a few old custom car related photos I came across on the internet, in the first paragraph Memo responds to those photos, which are shown below) 

Rik, amazing on the first picture. Check out the solid hood panel you will hear about that on my story. This car with the guys in front looks¬†like Panya’s, only his had a trunk but looking the same. Also the last guy on the right wearing a¬†leather jacket just like Papitas and mine… what a trip!¬†Your are gonna be surprised more… The other¬†photo with the Chevy in it, is the way my car sat before I¬†lowered the front end. Man the way the back end looks on the last photo is so much like my car looked from the back. Right now im im land!¬†you will like the continuance of my ’37 story…



CCC_memo-0rtega-part-five-03-wThe photos above come from the Wayne Miller Collection and are taken in Oregon, they have nothing really to do with Memo’s stories, other than illustrate that the scene in La Verne was very similar, and the cars shown in these photos are very similar to the once in Memo’s stories.

Its 1950, and im 15 yr’s old.¬†Enshelada’s¬†brand new¬†1950 Merc. He started working on the car right away, he removed the hood an trunk emblems took off the door handles an did his electric pop doors. I¬†had seen him doing that before on other cars. I¬†allways checked out what he was doing on his cars. He got his new Appletons spot lites on the car. These cars looked so cool with them on. The car came with skirts, well he customized them to be lower. This really blew my mind. He was gonna sand his new paint an primer it black… he sure did. Man this car looked awesome going down our street… low an mean. Latter on, he took the car to¬†Tijuana¬†in Mexico for a white tuck an roll job to the famous Rikeys upholstery. Man I¬†loved his merc.¬†Back to my 37. Next one its still 1950

Im still working on my ’37, and cruzin as well. Its taking a long time but I’m having a good time. I¬†finally got offered a good steady job from Lo Lo who had¬†a¬†’42 Chevy Fleetline. He is the main boss for this big packing house. I¬†took the job, now¬†I¬†can get more goodies for my car. I¬†have been thinking of putting a ’37¬†Packard grill on my 37,¬†I¬†had seen one at the bone yard. I¬†asked Zekiel= enshelada If he would go with me to the bone yard (means junk yard lol.)¬†I told him what I¬†wanted to do. He said that would look cool on your car, thats a good idea lets go. He knew the guy at the bone yard. We found the car the grill was still there, we got it for forty-five bucks. It was a good one, good chrome, no dents Zekiel said your gonna be the only with that grill, it will look chingon (means awesome). I¬†pulled the original one out an did a bunch of work and got it on. It totally changed the whole car. I¬†hung the stock¬†grill in the garage. The only drawback was I¬†could not install my hood back on, so I¬†ran it like that for a while. It sure looked good along with the ’40¬†Ford head lites. We were getting a little bit older, but still cruzin 2’nd St Pomona on Friday nites, listening to rhythm and blues music from¬†D.J Hunter Hancock it was the thing to do.


I¬†finaly decided that I had to have my hood back on the car so I¬†took off my packard grill. And installed the original Chevy back on it. I ended up selling the Packard grill for 75 bucks. I¬†got my money back and more…not to bad. I¬†took my car to this body shop to fill the door handle and trunk, and where the head lites had been. Since I¬†did not know how to do that till latter on. I¬†got the car back right away, and it looked so much better. Next thing I¬†did was take off my factory hood side panels. I¬†got me 16. guage sheet metal to do my smooth panels. I¬†did those myself, very carefully, learning along the way.¬†The came out like a pro had done them.¬†I¬†installed the hood back on the smooth sides¬†made the front-end look longer. I¬†got me a ’46 front bumper and made the car looked even better. On a Sunday we were cruzin La. Verne, checking out the scene. the radio blairing out good songs, good times can’t forget that.

Next thing I¬†did, was sand the car down and I¬†borrowed a friends house painting compressor and gun. Went and got me some white primmer an sprayed my ’37. It looked so cool man, I¬†was ready for the streets. The older Cagabond Cruzers would tell me looking good kid. I¬†allways said thanks. In Pomona, the guys cruzin 2’nd st Down Town coined my car the white ghost car. They were the Hover brothers and the Veieras they were Hot Rodders an Custom afecionados.

Panya Cracheshis ’49¬†Merc.¬†I¬†was always racing out on the streets blowing out transmissions. lucky I¬†never got caught. Lots of guys doing that at the time. My cousin Panya was racing on east,¬†by where the Pomona Drags are now, there was Orange Groves there then. He crashed his ’49 merc at the South end of the street, lucky no one hurt. He got it fixed and never raced again with his merc. I¬†say don’t do that on the streets guys too dangerous!¬†where I¬†worked, this out of state trucker saw my car with my Vagabond plaque hanging from my rear bumper, told me that car looks mean whose car is it.¬†My car, thank you.¬†He told me he had a couple of plaques in his truck if I¬†wanted them. I¬†said, yeah, I’ll take them. One said Traveralers of¬†Arkansas¬†or Kansas the other said Whislers, I¬†cant remember from where. I¬†ran each of them for awhile, just for fun, every body liked them. I¬†went to Ensheladas, I¬†asked if he still had his old Appletons from his 37¬†‚Ästthat he sold¬†‚Ästwhen he got his new 50 Merc.¬†Guess¬†what, he still had them. The chrome was a little faded, but who cares.¬†He sold them to me, very low price. He had gotten new ones for his Merc. I¬†went home an installed them with a guide he loaned me.¬†I¬†was in custom heaven… lol.

After running my car in white primmer for some time, I went to black primmer. I was working a lot of over time. Saved money and got me new white wall tires. Those really made the car.
I wanted to do something to my motor. I decided to built me a stock intake into a triple carburetor intake. I took it apart an started drilling the two extra holes. Papitas told me that‚Äôs going be so cool when your done. I drilled my hole and got me some exhaust flanges from Ben Rizzo, a Muffler Shop in Pomona. The owner was an drag racer. I had my old friend at the foundry weld them for me. I got me a couple of used carburetors an installed them. I also made my own linkage an fuel lines guess what… the car ran quicker¬†and a lot faster on take-off. Now I could race the other cars that tempt me. Guess what… I won a few, even fifty dollars one time, from one of my working buddies, who drove a Merc.

Go to part Six.
Go to part Four.










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 Five

Leave a Reply