Ayala T-Bird To be restored


After being for sale for many years Gil Ayala’s Personal 1955 T-Bird found the right home in Scandinavia, and will be restored to how it used to look in the late 1950’s

Despite Gil and Al Ayala created many great Custom Cars at their Gil’s Auto Body Works, there are only very few of these original Ayala Customs around today. We at the Custom Car Chronicle always get very excited when we get the news that one of them is going to be restored to how it used to look when it was first created by the master builders a the Ayala shop.
Gil created this 1955 T-Bird as his own personal driver Custom Car. The shop extended the front and rear fenders to give the car more length and elegance. At the front they hooded the frenched headlights, and created a new grille opening using a 1955 split bumper as a base for the new design. With a small over shaped grille opening in the center and a wide opening on the bottom. The hood scoop was reshaped and fitted with mesh and three teeth created from round tubing with fine mesh inserts, the whole unit was coper plated. For extra engine cooling and touch looks, four rows of louvres were punched around the hood scoop. At the rear they used a set of 1956 Lincoln taillights and modified 1954 Cadillac bumper ends. The rear of the body was hand shaped below the trunk with a recessed section for the license plate. All four wheel openings were reshaped using 1956 Oldsmobile wheel openings, again for a much more elegant look. Gil used expanded metal set in a fin shaped round tube frame to extend the rear fenders up and to the rear. This fin extension was later copper plated. With all the body work done Gil painted the Bird  in a wonderful deep candy red. When the T-Bird was featured in color on the cover of the Motor Life, May 1957 issue we can see the candy red body was wildly striped in bold white striping by Walter Leeman.
CCC-gil-ayala-t-bird-to-be-restored-03The only photo of the second version of Gil Ayala’s 1955 T-Bird appeared in Pat Ganahl’s Ayala Story in the Rodder’s Journal issue 40, 2008.
Pat Ganahl showed a very interesting photo of Gil’s T-Bird in one of the two excellent Ayala Story articles in the Rodder’s Journal. This photo must have been taken in either the late 1950’s or early 1960’s and shows Gil working on a second version of his T-Bird. The car now has reshaped front enders with new headlights, removed, or reduced hood scoop and a fresh candy red paint job. This so far is the only photo of this second version we have seen. Pat also showed the car as how it was found and looked like in the early 2000’s. Somehow the doors of the car were missing and so was the engine and most of the interior. But the main body work Gil and Al Ayala had performed in the mid 1950’s was still all there.



CCC-gil-ayala-t-bird-to-be-restored-04Zeke Carrillo took the four photos above of the Gil Ayala 1955 T-Bird a few years ago. The then owner had added to replacement doors and painted the whole car in red oxide primer to better preserve the body.
CCC-gil-ayala-t-bird-to-be-restored-10This is how the Gil Ayala 1955 T-Bird was offered for Sale on the Custom Car Chronicle Marketplace.

CCC-gil-ayala-t-bird-to-be-restored-08How the car looked in 2014, when it was for sale for the last time before the current owner from Scandinavia bought the car.
The car has been for sale several times, it changed hands several times. In early september 2014 the car was offered for sale once again. Asking price as $13,000.-. The car could be bought as it was, or with a 1955 T-Bird parts car for the missing engine, interior and other parts. The new owner from Scandinavia decided it was time that the car would find a proper home and be restored to how it used to look. Later in September he made the deal with the then current car owner in California, and he bought the Gil Ayala 1955 T-bird. Current plans as we understand, are to have the car restored at Yaril’s Customs in Florida, and then later ship the car to the new owners home in Scandinavia.

The new owner is looking for more more information on the car, more and better photos to help him in getting the car restored as good as possible. Most of the photo’s we know of the T-Bird are from the first Motor Trend version. But after seeing the second version of the T-Bird in the Rodder’s Journal and knowing the restyled headlights are still part of the car as it sits right now it would also make sense to restore the car to this more subtile second version. So if you know about more photos of the Gil Ayala 1955 T-Bird, and especially this second version with the Lincoln headlights. Then please share them so that the new owner can use them for his upcoming restoration in either the first, or second version.

We are looking forward to see another rare original Ayala Custom getting restored to how it used to look.




Kustom Kar Books Golden Sahara


 5,220 total views,  1 views today

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)

4 thoughts on “Ayala T-Bird To be restored

  • October 28, 2014 at 16:32

    ooh. those memories if only we could go back in time, glad gills t bird will fineally be restored awesome cant wait to see the car done , rik, thanks you for bringin us this story an zeke carrillo an pat for contribuitin , memo chop,

  • October 28, 2014 at 22:10

    I have always really liked this car, it’s one of my favorite custom T-Birds. I have to disagree with everyone else though. I think it should be restored to how it was in the magazines. That’s the historical significance of it right there. Restoring it to a “second version” that no one knows about or has ever seen outside of one photo (that doesn’t even show the whole car) doesn’t make any sense to me. Maybe the car had the expanded mesh fins in this other photo, and maybe not. But we will never know, because the photo being referenced only shows the front!

    I’ve always thought the photo of this “second version” looks like a car in transition. How do we know if this is how it looked once it was finished, in the photo in question? To me, it looks like it just got painted in the photo. There is no license plate on the front, it looks like the wheel is probably missing a spider cap or something, and there is a rag sticking out of the bumper. There are any other number of things that may or may not have been added to this car after this photo was taken.

    Maybe it would look “smoother” without the striping. I personally like the striping. That’s how things were in the late 1950s! Plus, as we all know, Walt Leeman is still around. I know the car is in Scandinavia, but wouldn’t that be cool to have the original pinstriper recreate his work? How often can that happen these days?

    My advice would be not to half-ass it. Restore it to how it was in the magazines. That’s how it was famous, and that’s how it should be restored. Just some food for thought. Regardless, I will be happy to see it restored whatever route is taken.

  • October 29, 2014 at 00:48

    I agree with you to a point Justin but do you undo work that Gil did on the front lights to change them back to the first version? Seems kind of counter productive to me to remove work that was done by Gil and add work of some custom shop in 2014 so it looks like the original version even though the work is not Gil’s. At that point you are not restoring but reproducing.The providence of the car is that Gil’s work is on it so to remove that actually makes the car less desirable in my eyes. Anyone can build a clone and do their own work on the car but there is only one car with Gil ‘s original work. Had a major component of the body work not been changed by Gil I would agree but since it has I think it would be sad to destroy one of the very few original pieces of Gil’s work that still exists.

  • October 29, 2014 at 02:27

    You know, that’s a good point. I didn’t even think of the fact that they’d have to change the headlights and the other things back. You’re right! You would then have someone else’s work and not the Ayala work. That would be a step down. Thank you for bringing that up, Ian.

Leave a Reply