Custom Car Chronicle
Memo Ortega Files

Memo Ortega Stories Part TEN


Late 1959, early 1960, Memo dates his future wife Terri in his 1946 Ford, and later in his third 1952 Oldsmobile. One that Memo painted in pearl white with candy green and candy purple panels and outlines!

[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 personal 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

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith the ’46 Ford I got from Gil Ayala all finished, I was crusin all over, just like my other cars. I was also working on my ’52, olds. I had just met Terry, my future wife to be in the sumer of ’59, so you could say I was pretty busy working at work, and working on my olds and dating her. Some of my friends had all ready gone there ways. Jhonny was still working with me at Kolberts. We were allways busy, I would go over to Terry’s house in my Gil Ayala redone Custom Coupe, we had a lot of fun with it, cruising and going to the local shows. Below are a few of the snapshots I still have of those shows in the late 1950’s

CCC-memo-0rtega-part-ten-06-wThe old Ed Roth’s ’30 Ford Model A Tudor after he had sold it to Lee Rhodes.
CCC-memo-0rtega-part-ten-05-wNice 1953 Chevy Tudor with scallops and chrome tape on the roof center. Typical Custom for the time.
CCC-memo-0rtega-part-ten-16-wHarold Johnson’s 1951 Chevy with Larry Watson scallops in green at a show I¬†was with one of my cars.¬†Harold also used to cruze in Lakewood where we sat checking out the music like Little Richard’s¬†good golly miss molly good times.

My 1952 Oldsmobile

On the ’52 Olds I did the same work as on the other ones I had before. Nosed and decked it, with Jhonny’s help I got my Olds done pretty fast. I lowered the front by cutting the coils instead of reworking the A-arms, the back was easy to lower. On the exuast pipes I installed four scavenger chrome pipes, two on each side under the rear end, about foot long each. The scavengers got real poplar in the early 60,s. Me and Jhonny were making our own, shot guns, we called them. In around the bellflower area they were called Bellflowers. We made them out of old car drive shafts, we cut them to the size we wanted an welded a curve exhuast pipe from Pep Boys or Western Auto to the narrow end. If you look close to one of my olds photo you can see the scavengers under the car and the shot guns we made. I lowered the car more in front than in the back, so you could see the scavengers from the back. I realy liked the way it looked from the back. Any way, we got the car ready for paint, with Jhonny’s help we painted the car white, and then added pearl to the clear for the last coats. That really made the paint standout. I left it alone for a week to let it cure good.

CCC-memo-0rtega-part-ten-01-wMemo on the far right haning out with my friends Puero and Chicho in Ganesha park in Pomona.
Me and this friends Chicho and Puero, which means cigar, were crusin my custom ’46 ford all over, and it was a head turner where ever we went. Back to my ’52 Olds, I wanted a give it a wild paint job, so I outlined the car with quarter inch tape allover the way I wanted it. I had jhonny help me mask the whole car to cover the white pearl that needed to stay pearl white. After all the masking and scuffing was finally done the car was ready to paint. I mixed my candy green, and shot it where I wanted it, and let it dry for a while. In the summer lacquer dries fast. After that we masked the candy green with more panels. I mixed candy purple, and shot the other panels. After letting the paint dry we very carefully took off all the paper and quarter inch tape covering the green candy. Then cleared the whole car with about 5 coats of clear, and again let the car sit for a while. We then pulled the rest of the paper and tape off car, and it looked awesome, just what I wanted. Later on I buffed and hand rubbed it to a glossy finnish. I then took it to get the car striped by Bob Dunn known as Bobbo in the Pomona area, he was a master striper, he lives in Colorado now.


CCC-memo-0rtega-part-ten-03-wI wish you could see this pictures in color. White pearl with outlines and panels in candy green and candy purple. It looked really wild.
Bob Dunn really ran straight long lines, I was very happy the way it turned out. Im 25 or 26, these two guys we knew, came by the shop, it was Monzanas like in apples, and big Ed with there radio real loud. I tell you, this two guys looked like cheech and chong, no kidding! They had this ’54 Chevy like chongs car, same colors also, on the back seat was the biggest giant speaker I had ever seen. They must have taken the front seat out to get it in the back. Me¬†Jhonny and Kolbert could not stop laughin it was so funny, that really made our day. They told us of this park in Riverside, they said you guys got to go there the cruzin is outaside. This was on a Saturday after noon when they came by.

CCC-memo-0rtega-part-ten-11-wMy date and future wife Terri with my olds.
CCC-memo-0rtega-part-ten-09-wTerri and Memo. This photo shows the front section of the scavenger chrome pipes. 
Well on Sunday we cruzed over in my Olds, we found the famous Fairmont park, it was around when we got there. Man Monzanas an big Ed, were right, the cruisin was bumper to bumper, I kid you not. All around the lake coming and going both ways. Chicks an there boy friends hanging around their cars. What ever kind of car you liked, it was there crusin. My olds was the only one there with a wild paint job that I can remember, so our cruzin was Fairmont park and the famous Ganesha park in Pomona where everybody went to shine our cars since back in the ’50’s. The cruzin was just as good there also. And of course there was Whittier Blvd in East Los Angeles, even if that was far. I guess I was born to cruise, cause I haven’t stopped cruising yet!



CCC-memo-0rtega-part-ten-13-wConnie, one of Terri’s friends hung out with us a lot. The photo shows the scavenger chrome pipes we made.
We kept going back to Fairmont park, the next time we went, was in my custom chopped ’46 Ford coupe, people loved it. One day me, Terry Chi..Cho and the other gals, Terry’s friends,….. early in ’60.s we cruzed to Long Beach on Lakewood Blvd, to this place across from this drive through burger place where customs from the area would gather, I forgot the name of it. We were at this place where they let us listen to any 45 records. we would ask for these little booth’s were we would listen to records such as “Little darling, by the diamonds” & records by “Chuck Berry”. We always had a blast there, checking out the chicks and the cruzers. We would always see Larry Watson cruzing across the street.

One day, on our way back we spotted this ’30 model A, chopped coupe oat a gas station on Lakewood Blvd. I made a U-turn to checked it out. This was a drag racing coupe, it had a lions sticker on the winshield, they had cut the floor boards out and it now had aluminum floors, a merc flathead with 3 Strombergs with a 3 speed an a tag on the column, Man I wanted this coupe. I told Chi.Cho an Mesa, I’m going back for this car tomorrow. I had gosse bumps. This car was full fenderd with a dropped axel in front, what made it stand out to me was the full louvered trunk.

CCC-memo-0rtega-part-ten-08-wMemo’s¬†friend Checho Lopez and his friend Carmen by Memo’s¬†3rd 1952 Olds.¬†This is late 1960 or early 1961 at Fairmont Park in Riverside Calif. This was the¬†park to be on sundays. Its about a mile circle all around, and it would be bumper to bumper with cruisers.

The coupe was in yellow primer, and after a while I spotted a phone number on the car. So I called the owner, from a phone booth, to find more info on the coupe. I got all the info, an the price he told me was right as well. I told him not to sell it, since I would come back the next day to buy the car… which I did. I pulled off the 4-sale paper sign from the windshield. The car car ran good, it was a very fast car, just right for racing around. Besides all the rattles and squeaks, I loved it. I sealed the floors, to stop the squeaks, cut a rug for the floor to cut the noise down. My buddys kept telling me, man you got to many cars. I would tell em I’ll take one each day to work. My girl friend Terry used to tell me I¬†looked like a giant rat fink when I came over in the yellow coupe. I really looked like a giant, inside the coupe with my arm hanging out the window with the top so low. I was 6’1 and at 220 pounds then. Being that tall it was easy for me to dust off my Ayala coupe.

CCC-memo-0rtega-part-ten-15-wSadly Memo never took any pictures of his 1930 Ford Coupe. In 2013 he did this drawing of the coupe.
I would go crusin downtown Pomona on friday nites. I kept myself real busy doing side jobs after my regular job, as long as it did not interfere by Kolberts work, my boss was ok with that. A friend, Johnny Cordova, ask me if I would customize his ’58 Chevy impala hardtop. I told him yeah I can do it a little at a time. I shaved and filled in the trunk and hood plus all the emblems. I installed a 45. record player an a little bar on the dash. I ended up painting the top a real bright silver and the bottom a candy burgundy. well he did not liked the top silver so I¬†redone the top like the bottom soon after that. That car realy kicked butt.

One Sat nite we went to the lions drag strip, we sat down and it got real cold. I told Cordova gimme your keys I’m gonna go get our jackets its too cold. I ran to the car it was allready dark, you gotta hear this one, well I¬†forgot there was telephone poles laying there for the cars to park, and I¬†did not see them. I was running so fast, that when I¬†hit one of them I¬†flew forward about six feet and I felt like I¬†was gonna go down but kept going until¬†I¬†finally landed on my hands. Man did that hurt, plus the shin on my leg, it was swollen like a soft ball.¬†Let me tell you I¬†limped to the car and when I got there I did not have to use the keys. Somebody had broken into the car an stole the 45. record player and the little bar. I ran back as good as I could, still hurting, and told Cordova what happened, he just shrugged… nothing we can do now, they are gone. We might as well enjoy the drags he said. Those thiefs must know that customs have all kinds of goodies… lousy thief’s. Cordovas Chevy¬†was really awesome, it should have been a mag car also.

CCC-memo-0rtega-part-ten-12-wJohnny Cordova’s 1958 Chevy that Memo did, this photo shows the record player still in place under the dash on the passenger side.

CCC-memo-0rtega-part-ten-14-wJohnny used his 1958 Chevy when he got married in the early 1960’s.

Go to part Eleven.
Go to part Nine.







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)

3 thoughts on “Memo Ortega Stories Part TEN

  • thanks pallej, i am glad your enjoying them, i try to remember everything i can while i still can, so i can tell you readers young an old what i did in my times back then, an thanks to rik an the ccc staff for doing a great job on my stories memo,

  • Great story memo, those paint jobs in the pictures are bad ass and the hot chica sitting on the olds eeeeeee perfect ! Keep them coming rik and memo .
    El jeffe

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