The Ayala covers




Gil Ayala’s Auto Body Works never had as much magazine exposure as the Barris shop had. Gil was always hard at work, not spending the time George Barris spend on promoting the business using the car magazines.

[box_light]This was one of the first articles I created for the Custom Car Chronicle. I still needed to learn a lot about the website software we are using, so this article was far from how I thought it needed to look… time for a reshape… and some additional material. (Original publish on June 27, 2013)[/box_light]


The Ayala’s however did have a couple of very nice magazine covers in the early 1950’s. Actually some of the very best Custom Car magazine covers done in the Custom Car golden era. And perhaps the best one was the October 1951 issue of Motor Trend. On this cover an fantastic color photo was taken by Felix Zelenka at the Ayala shop with a gathering of Ayala Custom Cars.

Lets take a look at the Ayala Custom Cars that made it on the cover of the magazines.

Motor Trend November 1950

The first magazine cover exposure the Ayala’s had was on the Motor Trend of November 1950. Even thought the Mercury was on the cover, the inside only showed two photos and a few lines of text on about a quarter of a page. The text mentioned builders Gil and Al Ayala, but not Gil’s Auto Body Works as the body shop. The cover photo was taken by Thomas J. Medley, the model is Anita Houck and it was Al Ayala inside the car. According to Motor Trend magazine the photo had this “back-to-school” motive. It’s still kind of odd that the finished version of this Mercury in black paint is on the cover of the November 1950 issue, while the in -progress photo was used on the Oktober 1951 cover.

Motor Trend November 1950, edition C

This November 1950 Motor Trend cover with the Gil Ayala 1940 Mercury on the cover is a rather rare magazine. As can be seen on the cover, on the top right it reads “Edition C”. As far as I have found out, the Mercury was used on the cover of the magazine distributed to California only. The Rest of the US/World had a cover with a Henry J on it, as can be seen in the inset. The cover and the description about the cover photo on page 5 is the only thing different on the inside of these magazines. So if you ever come across one with Gil’s Mercury on it you better get it.

As for the Mercury… Gil and All chopped the top on the car, they had special metal shaped panels made to fit the back of the top, as well as the full fade away fenders by the California Metal Shaping company. The rear fenders and rear bumper where replaced with 1949 Cadillac units. At first the car used a stock front end. Regular headlights and a 1946 Ford bumper. This is how Gil drove and raced it for a while. The body was in primer, but later they modified the front section of the front fenders, molded in a set of newer headlights and used a 1950 Studebaker bumper on the front. Gil painted the car in a very deep glossy black.

Motor Trend October 1951

One of the best and perhaps most beautiful Ayala covers was taken by Felix Zelenka for the October 1951 issue of Motor Trend. The original photo must have been taken quite some time before it ended up being used for the cover. Odd is that Al Ayala can be seen working on the unfinished 1940 Mercury on this cover photo from October 1951, while the finished car was already on the cover of the November 1950 issue of Motor Trend!

Motor Trend 1951.

In Pat Ganahl’s Ayala articles in TRJ he showed that Felix originally shot a color transparency of this Ayala shop scene. But it was decided that the cars needed a bit more color and light for the magazine cover, so a colorized version was made by Don Fell. In this colorized version some of the cars received different colors than original so that they would look better, more attractive on the cover of the magazine. In this photo we can identify most of the cars as Ayala Customs.

On the top right we can see Wally Welch with his girlfriend – Jeannie Christman,- in front of Wally’s 1941 Ford Convertible. Below that the 1940 Ford of John Geraghty. On the bottom right the 1942 Ford with Cadillac rear fenders of Hank Griffith. On the bottom left side we can see Gil’s personal 1942 Ford Coupe. The car on the top left side is probably D. Hollands 1941 Ford convertible, but thats the only one I’m not 100% sure of. Gil Ayala is leaning on the cars front fender. And in the center of the photo is Gil’s 1940 Mercury with Al Ayala sitting on the fender/hood. The fade away fenders where all done, but the chop was unfinished. The c-pillar filler pieces still needed to be done. What a great photo… I hope that one day more photos from this Felix Zelenka photo session will show up.

Custom Cars 1951

(the first of the Custom Car Annuals)

In 1951 the Ayala had one of the car they worked on, on the cover of the Trend Book No. 101 Custom Cars. The first book that would later become an Annual until 1962. There where two cars on the cover of this book. One was the 1940 Ford based Coachcraft built roadster (shown in green on the cover while the car was actually dark blue) and the other car was the 1942 Ford Coupe Ayala did work on for Hank Griffith, colorized in red. The scans of the Cover where made from the first edition of this book. The first edition was printed in July 1951, and the cover was printed on uncoated coarse paper giving it a dull look. While the second edition, printed in October 1951 was printed on a coated glossy paper. Other than the cover, as far as I know, nothing changed between the first and second print. I guess the first edition in July was printed in a relatively low amount. This was a new type of book and Trend Publishing had no idea what to expect from it. Apparently it did better than they thought, hence the second print.

CCC-ayala-cover-custom-cars-1951First Custom Car Annual Custom Cars 1951.

About the Ayala car on the cover. Hank’s 1942 Ford coupe had a full page insided the book, on page 77 (see inset). Three photos where shown of the primered Custom. And as far as I can tell the cover photo must have been taken at the same photo shoot as that was used on the Cover of the October 1951 issue which I showed earlier. High point of view (most likely from the Ayala shop building roof. This photo was also taken by Felix Zelenka and colorized (Flexichrome) by Don Fell. The Ayala’s grafted a set of 1951 Cadillac rear fenders to the extended front fenders for a completely unique look. The grille was replaced with a 1949 Cadillac unit. More about the Hank Griffith 1942 Ford can be read in the CCC-Article on the car.

Although the car was colorized red on the cover, I have never seen a photo of this car with finished paint. In the gathering real color photo shot by Felix that TRJ used in their Ayala article we can see the car in dark gray or black primer. And in the October 1951 issue of Hop Up magazine there is a photo showing Hank’s Ford in white primer with black wall tires.

Hop Up March 1952

Although not a Custom Car, this is still an Ayala Customized car that made it on the cover. The Eddie Dye 1929 Model A Roadster on the cover of the March 1952 issue of Hop Up magazine. Inside the magazine the car had two whole spreads on one was used for three quart with a really great cut away drawing created by Jim Richards. Although the articles stated that all the body work on this Roadster was done by the Ayala’s we do know that the grill was formed by Whitey Clayton. But as far as we know the rest was done at Gil’s Auto Body works, including the channeling of the 1929 Model A body over the 1932 Ford frame.

Hop Up March 1952.

They also hammer welded the door shut, and created a really smooth body by doing that. A new roll pan was created at the back which had nice little cut outs at the bottom for the exhaust pipes. They also constructed a full belly pan. Not sure if the Ayala’s or Clayton did the hood and hood sides. But those where custom made as well, and had some very nice tear drop shaped bubbles to clear the engine. The cowl was modified to accept a DuVall windshield and the dash was modified to accept a 8 gauge panel and a Ford accessory steering wheel. The interior built and upholstered by Berry’s Custom Upholstery in white leatherette and a contrasting dark with white piping carpet. Gill mixed his own dark red color for this car, and applied it with great care. The end result is flawless. The white wall tires with hubcaps and beauty rings and the perfect very low stance are the best option for this car to make it look absolutely stunning. The Hop Up Cover also featured the Barris/Quesnel built Jerry Quesnel’s 1949 Mercury.

Hop Up April 1952

In 1952 the Ayala’s had another custom car on the cover of one of the major magazines. It was on the cover of the April 1952 issue that Hop Up used the very first full color photo of the Wally Welch 1950 Mercury Custom taken by Jerry Chesebrough. It turned out to be one of the best Hop Up magazine covers ever. The photo agains a brick wall with a single palm tree is really fantastic and with the bold HOP UP Letters a really strong graphical image. The color reproduction in those days was far from perfect, and even the full color printing left a lot to be desired. I have included a photo made from the original color transparency that was used for the cover. It has faded over the years, but it still looks amazing. I hope one day it will be used in a magazine really big on a page.

CCC-ayala-cover-hop-up-1952Hop Up April 1952 (inset original color slide).


The article inside – two full spreads – showed a nice selection of photos of this early chopped Mercury. And it did mention Gil And Al at Gil’s Auto Body shop as the builders. I really like the look of this Mercury in this first lime gold color. But it did not stay long in this color. Wally Welch brought the car to the Barris shop for a redo which they did in deep purple, and they added two more DeSoto grille teeth in the process as well. This Hop Up cover shows the beauty of the Ayala restyled Custom. Everything is just right on this car. The chop, not to much, just right, the stance, and above all the color in combination with the rest of the restyling. Gil Ayala had a very good eye for picking the right color for the right car. You can read more on the Wally Welch 1950 Mercury in the full CCC-Article on this car.


Hop Up May 1953

The Ayala’s had another Custom Car on the cover in 1953. Al Glickman’s 1949 Mercury customized at Gil’s Auto Body shop was used in color on the cover of the Hop Up of May 1953. For the Ayala’s this was a really great magazine because not only Al’s Mercury they had built was featured in it. There was also a two page feature on the Gil’s Auto Body Works 1951 GMC shop truck in it.


Ayala-Al-Glickman-1951-MercuryHop Up May 1953.


If you are not familiar with this particular Motor Trend issue… you might want to check it out next time you see it. It has a ton of really great Custom Car features, including a very nice 4 1/2 page article on the Barris Customs history. If there was ever any competition between Barris and Ayala in building the best Custom Cars, then this battle continued in this issue as well.
Back to the car on the cover…. Al’s 1949 Mercury. The car is rarely seen elsewhere. Only a very few photos of this typically Ayala different designed Custom Car have been published in magazines other than the feature in this Hop Up article. The one things that pops out on this Custom are the 1952 Oldsmobile 98 rear fenders grafted onto the body, and the upward body crease flowing from the front fender where it usually had the dip. The other thing that stands out from the rest is the use of the 1952 Ford Meteor grille (Canadian Ford) which flows nicely in the molded grill surround.

The Ayalas also rounded the hood corners with a large radius, just like they did on the Bettancourt Mercury. Also the rear corners are rounded, and now flow nicely into the A-pillars, a very nice touch you rarely see. Of course the windshield was chopped and Chavez was hired to do the padded top as well as the interior. Gil Ayala painted the car in Devil Red Maroon, which is most likely a bit darker than it shows in the colorized cover photos. According the Motor Trend article Al was called overseas soon after the car was finished, and he sold it to Tommy Kamifuji… and I have no info what happened with the car after that… anybody knows?

Rod & Custom June 1956, Car Craft March 1958

The July issue of Rod & Custom Magazine featured another Ayla Custom on the cover. A very nice full page color photo of the Johnny Rosier 1953 Mercury. The car was a collaboration between Johnny and the Ayala brothers. But most of the work was done at Gil’s Auto Body Works shop. Johnny’s 1953 Mercury with its unusually dark blue (with a greenish hue) and gold paint scheme made it look very good on the cover of the magazine. Another color photo of the Johnny’s Mercury was again used for the cover of the March 1958 issue of Car Craft magazine (right inset photo) as part of a expanded metal grille feature, showing the copper plated material. The Ayala’s did not chop Johnny’s car, but that does not mean everything else was mild on this custom as well.

Rod & Custom June 1956, Car Craft March 1958.


At the back they narrowed a 1954 Cadillac bumper to fit below the 1955 Lincoln taillights which were mounted in extended rear fenders. The scoops in the rear quarters where opened up and chrome 1955 T-Bird front fender louvers trim was mounted inside the opening. The front end was modified heavily as well with a new grille opening filled with gold/coper plated expanded metal and the use of three 1955 Buick bumper bullets. The front fenders where extended and a set of 1956 Packard headlights trimmed to fit the Buick bullet and stock Mercury bumper ends. The unusual upwards shaped side trim was created from 1955 DeSoto items, flipped and turned upside down. The upward movement of the side trim makes the car looks kind of strange. But I think back then, was it first built, it was something really new and exciting.. Details like this might have helped getting the car into the magazines. Johnny was a Auto Butchers member, so the brass Auto Butchers cleaver plaque was mounted on the front bumper. Pinstriping on the car was done by Von Dutch. Acording Memo Ortega who hung out a lot at the Ayala shop, Johnny and his Mercury where always over at Gil’s shop, and his car looks so good going down the road when he would leave the shop.

[box_light]The “About the Cover” text from R&C is: The California sun looks down on many sights, and pretty girls, custom cars and swimming pools are more often the rule than the exception. Models Paula Westrope (foreground) and Maura Martin wonder why Johnny Rosier doesn’t leave his Black Gold Custom Mercury long enough to take a dip in the extremely inviting La Canada pool of Fred Tayberry. Cover Ektachrome by Al Paloczy.[/box_light]

Motor Life May 1957

Another Ayala Custom car was used on the cover of the May 1957 issue of MOTOR LIFE magazine. This time it was Gil’s personal customized 1955 T-Bird.

The Ayala’s reshaped the front using a set of 1955 Pontiac bumpers, Studebaker pans and a small oval grille opening in the center. The front fenders where extended, and 1955 Packard headlights installed. In the photo is clearly visible that the passenger side chrome headlight insert is missing. A new much larger working hood scoop was fabricated. Both wheel openings front and rear where reshaped. The rear fenders where also completely reshaped and the crease running from the front fenders all the way to the back now stops shortly after the door. It looks like the whole back portion of the fender comes from a 1956 Lincoln, including the taillights.

Below it sits a modified 1954 Cadillac bumper end piece, which now also houses the exhaust pipes. Gil fabricated a new roll pan for the back starting just below the trunk and he recessed the license plate into it. In 1957 it was the latest trend to use expanded metal, so Gill used it to create brass plated fender fins at the back, and screens for the hood scoop. Then Gill added one of his signature Candy red paint jobs.

Motor Life May 1957.

The wild pinstriping on Gil’s 1955 T-Bird was done by Walt Leeman who later used to pinstripe out of the House of Chrome which was housed on the corner of the lot where the Ayala Brothers where at. Walt striped Gil’s T-Bird at a hollywood car show. Walt was striping the car just when Von Dutch was brought over by Earl Bruce and the two where introduced. It must have been a touch job striping while the pinstripe master Von Dutch is watching you over your shoulder. Later Gil redid the car and removed the over the top expanded metal, reshaped the front fenders and added different headlights. Fortunately this car survived, and is currently (summer 2015) being restored for a Norwegian caretaker by a shop in Florida


This is the text that was on the inside of the cover of the Motor Life magazine.

COVER STORY: (Left inset photo) Setting up for one of several color shots made for the cover of this issue of MOTOR LIFE, is Bob D’Olivo, seen here focusing on Gil Ayala’s flashy Thunderbird (details on pages 52-53). The young lady, both here and on the cover, is Ada Hume, student at UCLA who spends her summers in the chorus line at the Sahara in Las Vegas.


Speed and Custom Spetember 1961

Another Ayala Custom Cover Car is this 1953 Chevy Gil’s Auto Body Works created for Bob Lomax from Harbor City, California. Inside this September 1961 issue of SPEED and CUSTOM the car is listed as a Bob Lomax owned candies ’53 Chevy. The two page feature does not mention anything about the cars Ayala origins at all. However the May 1960 issue of Rod & Custom magazine also has a two page feature on this car. It looked a bit different then, with an mid 1950’s look and in this article the car is mentioned to be a Gil Ayala built Custom Car. In this article it is mention that the car has been collecting custom trends over that past few years.

Speed and Custom September 1961

The Ayala’s build this car from Bob in the mid 1950’s, and it was updated every few years. The two inset photos on the bottom show how the car looked in the 1960 R&C feature. The front wheel openings where flared and radiused, a new grille opening was created in which a Barris tube grille was mounted. Although I can imagine this car had a different floating type of grille earlier. The headlights frenchend, and taillights are now 1954 Packard units in extended fenders. The side trim comes from a 1956 Plymouth. CCC-ayala-bob-lomax-spread

In 1961 The stance of the car had changed completely, now with a forward rake and with the fender skirts and Spotlights removed looked much more sporty than before Bob also added a set of chrome reverse rims to replace the wheels with hubcaps on the aelier version. In the Speed and Custom article it is mentioned that the car had 20 coats of Candy Apple lacquer, but no mentioning of who applied it. We all know Gil Loved to paint cars, and Candies where his favorite type of paint, so perhaps the paint job was his. Louie Chavez is credited for the interior and padded top.


(this article is ponsored by)







1936 Ford sedan for sale in 1949.




Mark Murray has been sharing some amazing early custom car photos with the Custom Car Photo Archive for some years. This collection of photos used to belong to his grandfather, who took photos of the cars he saw on the street and at some car shows and car lots while he lived in Long Beach Ca in the 1940’s and 1950’s

This article was updated Feb – 12 – 2015

He took some photos of some amazing cars at the lot of the famous D & B Auto Sales used car lot. This car lot was specializing in Custom Built Cars and Hot Rods, located at 8221 Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood, California. Don Britton owned the company. They usually had a very nice selection of second hand Hot Rods and Custom Cars, and Mark’s grandfather took some photos there on several occasions when he visited the place.


For this feature we would like to highlight one car at the lot. He took two photos of this very special 1936 Ford sedan. We don’t know anything about this car. There’s no owner name, not a name of the builder, even the color of the car is unknown. The photos are mere snapshots with a telephone pole stuck in front of the car and a 1940 Ford blocking the side, so they are not even great photos. But every custom car enthousiasts feels this car is a wonderful example of the style of custom cars from the late 1940’s. We’ll show you why.

02-Mark_Murray-36FordSedanThe rear end of the car was completely molded into a single piece. Fenders were welded to the body and a custom splash pan was blended from the body and fenders to the 1947-48 Ford bumpers. Notice the addition of the 41-48 Ford gas door in the drivers side rear fender.

The license plates on the car are from 1949, so more than likely the car was built built shortly after WWII. Starting with a sedan model as a full custom car is rare nowadays, and must have been rare back in the 1940’s as well. Coupes and convertibles were favorable because of their much more appreciated lines. However that sure did not stop the owner of this sedan to built his (or have it built) dream custom. The work on the car looks like it’s been been done by a very good craftsman or shop. Everything is very well balanced and each modification is enhancing the lines and other modifications.

01-Mark_Murray-36FordSedanThe photo from the front shows the molded in Chevy headlights, custom made and molded in splashpan and smooth hood sides. The chop is very well balanced with the rest of the body.

The top has been chopped several inches, and the spare tire cover lowered to fit behind the rear bumper. The fenders both front and rear have been molded to the body using a rather sharp blend. The fenders were welded to the body and the seam filled in, but not rounded like we are so used to on the customs from the era.This gives the car a very smooth but still sharp look. A set of most likely 1940 Chevy headlights are molded low into the front fenders. Both on the front and rear, new splash pans were created and molded into the body. These were molded in with a much larger radius than the fenders and make the pans flow out from the body very nicely. A set of 1947-48 Ford bumpers were installed front and rear. The original taillight pods were removed, the rear fenders smoothed and we cannot find any evidence for new taillights. But perhaps they are installed under the rear bumper and out of site for the photographer. Most likely a gas filler-door from a 1941 Ford was used on the side of the rear fender.
At the front the stock grille remained in place. It looks like the hood was smoothed and the trim on it removed. The hood sides are smooth aftermarket units.

The car was lowered with what looks like a bit of a speedboat stance set on wide white wall dressed up with Lyon hubcaps. A set of round Spotlights was installed and in the photo showing the rear we can see the spotlight has been turned up, most likely after somebody wanted to have a look at the engine.
The asking price was $950 or perhaps $955, its hard to read in the photo. It was at least more expensive than the 1940 Ford convertible sitting next to it.


Ever since we first saw these amazing photos taken at the D&B lot we have had a soft spot for this 1936 Ford sedan Custom Car. It just looks so right, it makes you wonder what color it had, dark for sure, but was it black or an perhaps an maroon, or organic green? There’s always the hope that one day somebody will recognize the car and can tell us a little more about it, or perhaps knows what happened to it.

Update February 2015.

The article above was published here on the CCC in June 2013. We have had some messages from people who really liked the car and how it was customized. But sadly nobody recognized it, or could tell something more about it. A few weeks ago a CCC-Reader send us some old snapshots he had found online. And two of those photos showed this same 1936 Ford sedan. Sadly he could not remember where he had found the photos. So hopefully somebody will rcognize these, and let us know who shared these originally. Perhaps then we will be able to find out something more about this really great looking chopped 1936 Ford Sedan.

It looks like the photos were taken during the same year, 1949 as the photos taken at the D&B Auto Sales lot. The license plate and year tag appear to be the same. I’m not sure if these two new photos were taken before the car was put up for sale by the original owner, or after by a new owner. Hopefully we one day will find out. The only thing different on the car are the motor cycle taillights mounted on the back of the rear bumpers. Possible those were removed when the car was in at the D&B lot. We later found out that these photos now belong to the Zeke Carrillo Collection.

If you know anything about the 1936 Ford in these photos, please let us know. Email Rik

CCC-36-ford-chopped-sedan-zeke-04The new photo of the ’36 Ford shows the small motorcycle taillights mounted behind the rear bumper.


Update 2 February 2015.

Two more images of this 1936 Ford Sedan were send to us. Apperently they were offered on ebay some time ago, and are now part of the Zeke Carrillo Collection. One of these photos shows that the car only had one motor cycle taillight mounted on the rear bumpers. I think it is really amazing that so many photos survived of this really well done but unidentified Custom.  Thanks for sending those photos Jamie.

CCC-36-ford-chopped-sedan-zeke-02Only one motorcylce taillights is mounted on the drivers side of the car. The molded in fenders and splashpan look very clean in this photo.

CCC-36-ford-chopped-sedan-zeke-05This photo shows the very nice body work on the moldedd in Chevy headlights and the splash pan.

CCC-36-ford-chopped-sedan-zeke-06The four photos of the 1936 Ford from the Zeke Carrillo Collection.

(this article is sponsored by)






A-Bombers weekend in Sweden


A-Bombers old skool weekend in Sweden The 18th old style weekend 2-3 Agust 2013.

Photos of the 2013 A-Bombers event can be views on the CCC-Forum


This is an all outdoor event for hot rods, kustoms, motorcycles in 30s – 50s American style plus original American cars up to 1956 model. The kustoms, hot rods and bikes can be built in styles ranging from the earliest primitive attempts to the typical American Highschool style late 50s-very early 60s.

We are trying to put on a harder attitude against old cars with a too modern appearance. Like Pro-Street stuff or. I guess you know. The style of the car or bike is the whole thing here. If you have any doubts in what style your vehicle is built in, please ask somebody who knows. No matter if you come 1000 km or just around the block, no exceptions. Sometimes people really try to sneak in some other way, but we are trying our best to have it in this distinctive style.

We have everything in one area and also have the visitor parking inside the site, but separated from the “Old Style” cars and bikes. Same goes with the camping, but notice this: NO VEHICLES allowed on the campingsite. If you cant be more than 5 meters from your car while sleeping, sleep in it ! The camping and cars will be as close as a few hundred meters or less.

Fri-Sat 500 SEK
Sat 400 SEK

There will be live music both nights, food and drinks, crazy people, fabulous stalls with clothes, records and much, much more… Kustom Kutting will be cutting hair and Wizzzard will be pinstriping along with many others. And dont miss out on Carols Jiving lessons in the evenings.

Theres a WILD HILLCLIMB race on the Saturday at DEVILS PEAK !!! Those who wants to race can only register at the site. No pre-registrations possible. Only 32 vehicles can run, so be there in time ! The visitor parking next to the hill is restricted to the same cars as the meeting. Racing fee is 100 SEK

Theres a camping field, toilets and a few showers. Note that its very simple conditions, but THE TOTAL Rockin Rollin Car and Bike meeting in the WORLD !



Not a ‘Bettie Page’ kind of woman: Marcia Campbell 1932 – 2009


The name Marcia Campbell might not be very familiar to you, but perhaps her photos are. Behind the lens of many of the most memorable photos of some
of the most well-known customs during the golden age – the late ’40s to early ’50s – was Marcia Campbell.

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Marcia was born March 15, 1932, in Huntington Park, Calif.; a So Cal gal. She began studying photography in her teens and was entirely self-taught. In 1949 she started taking photos for George Barris. She was 17 and a regular visitor to the Barris Kustom Shop. Marcia always brought her camera with her and she would take photos of the guys working on the cars and, of course, of the cars themselves.

CCC_Marcia_Campbell-04The next time Marcia visited the shop she would bring prints of the best photos and hand them over to the guys, or to George. The guys appreciated them, but I don’t think at the time they realized how valuable her contribution was to the custom car hobby. Marcia never sold her pictures; she always gave them away.

CCC_Marcia_Campbell-02An only child, Marcia’s father passed away when she was four years old. Marcia’s mother went on to manage the family business, “Industrial Stationery & Printing Co.” And when Marcia grew up, she became personnel director of the family enterprise. The money she earned, and later inherited, helped her realize her dream – to photograph, own, modify and race a wide variety of cars.

Not your average kind of girl

Marcia was an amazing standup and standout woman. She bowed out of the hot rod mainstream in the mid 1950s. But she continued with her ardent passion for cars as a collector, restorer, and winning racer.

CCC_Marcia_Campbell-03She trained for her private pilot’s license in Long Beach in the mid-1960s just for kicks. She was an avid sail boater – skippering and racing them for most of her adult life, and setting yachting records. She evolved in her career as a professional photographer of cars to include architecture and wildlife. She belonged to several trade associations and clubs. In her later years she was a professional social worker for Orange County Social Services.
Marcia continued these avocations throughout her entire life. Her interests and talents were many, and she didn’t bother being sick – she was too busy having the best of times until she simply dropped from an aortic embolism at the age of 77 in September 2009.


The photos and her work in the magazines

Dan Post discovered Marcia’s talent as a photographer in the late 1940s, and the two became very good friends. Dan used many of Marcia’s photos of custom cars for the last two editions, of his Blue Book of Custom Restyling. From 1948-1952 – for us car guys the best known period – Marcia used a Rolleiflex twin lens reflex 2 ¼”2 camera and a Speed Graphic 4” x 5”. She had her own home darkroom – she processed all her own negatives and prints – allowing her to take as many photos as she liked. Marcia really enjoyed taking photos. Lucky for us she was able to combine it with her other passion – cars, specifically customs and hot rods. Of those cars she took photos of, many are ones we still admire today.

Marcia liked to hang out at the Barris shop where she would chat, take pictures, and observe the bodywork. Marcia was about the only gal around who was into cars. She was mechanically minded and could talk shop. Later, she organized photo sessions at nearby attractive locations, always giving away her prints to the cars’ owners or to George Barris. George gratefully accepted the photos and began using them for promotional material.


The finer tricks of photography

Compared to other photos from the late 1940s and early 1950s, most of Marcia’s images featured nice backgrounds. She always included a full side view so the whole car could be seen, and her point of view was always a bit lower than average. This lower point of view flattered the subject, making the car look longer and lower. Perhaps this was nothing more than the fact that Marcia had to look through the camera from the top, thus the camera sat lower, but I think she lowered it a bit more than needed for the more dramatic effect.
George Barris was very impressed with the photos Marcia took, and Marcia showed George the finer tricks of car photography. George had already started to take photos of the cars Barris Kustom’s had finished or were in the process of customizing, but he knew he could learn from Marcia how to take better photos. She showed him which angles worked best, how to use the flash, and other things – all to make the cars look the most attractive. In several interviews George gave full credit to Marcia for teaching him all he knows about taking photos.
Marcia’s photos were seen in many magazine and books. The first issue of Hop Up magazine in June 1951 included two of her photos on the cover, and more inside. After that, many an issue of Hop Up, Motor Trend and Rod & Custom would use her photos. According to Marcia, she never asked to be paid for the photos that where published. But she did insist that they where credited to her. On one occasion Hop Up – in the January 1952 issue – they failed to do so; an oversight the editors corrected in the next issue to set the record straight.


The cars in Marcia’s life

Marcia’s love for everything automotive showed early in her life. As soon as she got her driver’s license at age 15 she bought her first car – a new 1947 Buick Sedanette. Her second car was a powder blue and white 1949 Chevy convertible, which she immediately drove to Barris Kustom to have customized. Marcia had just started Compton College in 1949 and this Chevy was her daily transportation – you can imagine the impact it had on her fellow students. Her next custom was a 1942 Ford; heavily, but tastefully, chopped with a hopped-up Mercury flathead.
Originally this car was owned by Carl Abajian, but Marcia liked it so much that she traded her one-year-old 1949 Chevy convertible custom for it. After the 1942 Ford there were a couple of Mercurys, a 1950 and a 1951.

She went from Mercurys to Lincolns in the mid-50s, and owned many more domestic and exotic cars after that. Marcia owned and drove 52 cars in her life. And none of those were “mainstream” cars. Marcia also had a soft spot for horseless carriages and owned and restored several early automobiles, a passion she shared with her friend Dan Post.

Hot rods and racing at the dry lakes

In addition to custom cars Marcia also liked hot rods and racing at the dry lakes. Together with the Barris shop, she built her 1929 Model A roadster pick-up truck. Built on a 1932 Ford frame with sectioned ’32 Ford grille and channeled body. The roadster appeared in the January 1951 issue of Hot Rod Magazine with a photo of Marcia wrenching on the flathead engine inside the Barris Shop.

[box_light]with contributions from Michelle M. Yiatras and David E. Zivot[/box_light]

This article shows only a few samples of Marcia’s Custom Car Photography. The Rodder’s Journal issue #51 has a full article on Marcia Campbell by Rik Hoving.



Valley Custom Shop 1941 Ford


Gary Emory ( the son of he late Neil Emory, one of the partners of Valley Custom Shop) surprised us recently with a photo of a Custom 1941 Ford created by the Valley Custom Shop


We’d never heard about this car before. Gary told us this car was owned by Kurt (he couldn’t remember his last name) who was a merchant Marine and had the shop work on his car while he was out to sea. According to Gary this was the most radical 1941 Ford to leave the Valley Custom Shop ever… and yeah! we think he’s completely right there.

The car is really radical and unlike any other custom car created by the Valley Custom Shop. The car has a wonderful mix of the typical late 1940’s early 1950’s molded looks we are used to see from the Barris and Ayala shop.  The subtile changes such as the opened wheel opening, the raising of the fenders, the removal of the running boards and the leaned back windshield. All more subtile changes we are used of from the Valley Custom Shop. The business coupe (short doors) has been chopped with a lid back windshield and a very nice sloop on the rear portion of the roof, a perfect balance between the side and rear quarter windows and nicely rounded corners.

We really appreciate the way the running boards and whole bottom of the main body has been removed and how the fenders are raised to sit at the same level as the now shorter body. The hood was sectioned accordingly. The fenders were welded solid and also had the crease hammered smooth and molded to the body. This all results in a very pleasing profile.

Gary saw the car for the last time when he was 13-14 years old. Back then the car was painted white with a leopard skin motive seat covers. Unfortunately this is the only photo Gary has ever been able to find of this car.


John Bozio 1953 Buick shown to the public again


John Bozio from East Hartford, Connecticut started customizing his Buick in the early sixties. He used some brand new car parts back then including the oval 1960 Plymouth steering wheel and Plymouth and T-bird interior components. John never finished the car after he had started to redo the car. He sold it and eventually Red McCormick bought it and put it back together in black primer. The car was offered for sale at the 1979 Hersey Swap Meet.

Bengt Sjöberg of Tibro, Sweden had been looking for a custom from the US for some time and his ‘special US eyes’ told him the Bozio Buick would be prefect. Bengt bought the car in 1979 at and had it shipped to his home in Sweden.


Bengt Sjöberg with his Bozio Buick at the 2013 Jokers show

Here he pulled the Buick apart and started a complete restoration. Bengt showed the car at several Swedish shows in the early/mid 1980’s. Where ever Bengt brought his Buick the car was a big hit. A lot of car guys in Scandinavia that laid eyes on this car were lost to custom cars forever, including our own CCC contributor Per Webb, who photographed the car in 1983. A lot of people still remember the impact this car had on them. This Buick  inspired people to built their own custom cars as well.


Per Webb took this photo of the Bozio Buick in 1983

After showing the car for some years, Bengt put it in his garage and did not show it to the public anymore. The car was still in perfect condition, but there was no interest or time to share it. Until the car was invited at the 2013 Jokers Car show in Tidaholm, Sweden. Here the car was one of the highlights of the show held June 7-8 – 2013. Wolf Christiansson had been looking forward to see the Buick again after so many year. According to Wolf it was the highlight of the year for him.



Red for Passion


You’ve got to love the Swedes. The’ve invented beds that fit into a Mini (courtesy of Ikea) and they’re the master of nail-biting crime-series (a lot of that credit goes to Denmark too). It’s the land of Pippi Longstocking, mind blowing design, nature is ‘quite’ beautiful, they’re really in to hot rods and custom cars….and  its Volvo country.

Here’s some great video footage. See if you can find the living crash test dummy, the recurring female form that fits just wonderfully in the safety belts and the happily smokings men in their otherwise very safe Volvo’s.






The Parking Lot Scene


One of the most incredible out door photos of the Golden Age of Custom cars is this birds eye point of view photo taken at the Custom Car and Hot Rods show held at the Thrifty’s drug store parking lot in Los Angeles May 15, 1954. This store was located at Rodeo Rd and LA Brea.
The photo shown here is a colorized version of the original black and white photo I did for the Rodder’s Journal #33 and their Annual Poster. The original Kolorized Photo is photoshopped to make it look a bit old.

There are some really amazing cars in this photo.

In the right row from top to bottom:

  • Earl Bruce’s 1940 Ford coupe
  • Fuzzy Luscari’s 1940 Ford pickup
  • Bob McNeil’s black Chuck Porter-built 1932 Ford three window coupe
  • unidentified 1929 Ford highboy
  • Jack Pere and Lou Banta’s red track nose model T Ford

In the middle row from top to bottom: 

  • Bob Hirohata Barris built 1951 Mercury
  • Ray More’s 1952 Ford which would later get a wonderful Larry Watson paint job in maroon and gold outlines
  • Jay Johnston’s cream and orange version of his 1949 Ford

And in the Right row from top to bottom:

  • Tommy Thornburgh’s 1947 Studebaker convertible built by Barris
  • Don Carroll’s 1949 Ford convertible built by Gaylord
  • Jack Nethercutt’s Barris built 1952 Oldsmobile
  • Buster Litton Barris/Cerny built 1949 Ford
  • Chuck DeWitt’s Barris built 1950 Ford convertible
  • Jesse Lopez Barris built 1941 Ford coupe by now owned by Danny Lares which can be seen by the longer piece of side trim on the hood, something Danny had Barris added to the car after he bought it from Jesse.
  • The last car in this row is an unidentified mild customized 1953 Ford coupe.

On the far left in the bottom we can also see the front end of the Bettancourt Mercury pecking into the photo. And hard to spot is another unidentified Custom Roadster all the way on the top to the right parked on the street in front of the red Chevy. So far I have not been able to figure out who’s car is it, but it looks to be based on a 1940’s Cadillac or Buick Convertible.







A wonderful 1947 line up!

My favorite era of custom cars is the early times, the 1940’s. The Custom Cars where so original, clean, functional, and well designed back then. I have been sharing some really nice photos from the Tom Nielsen Collection on the Custom Car Photo Archive for some time now.

This article is about a series of really nice old snapshots of some Denver originated Custom cars from the 1947 – 48 period. Tom’s friend Ken Wall was from Denver and drove a nice 1940 Ford Coupe. He has shared his photo collection with Tom. The first photo is this really fantastic line up of custom cars. With a chopped padded topped 1940 Ford leading, followed by an 1937 Ford convertible, 1939 Mercury convertible and a 1940 Mercury coupe. What a fantastic line up for 1947.CCC_Tom Nielsen-Denver_Customs-02

This photo shows a nice side view of the 1940 Ford convertible with chopped padded top, and a 1937 Ford convertible mild custom. It looks like both cars appeared in the line up photo I poster earlier. But now the 1940 Ford has white wall tires. It also has chrome single bar flipper hubcaps and a set of beauty rings. Also the ford uses a front and rear 1937 DeSoto bumper. A lot of customs used only front units since the rear come from the factory to bend around a trunk mounted spare tire cover, and has a large radius. The 37 Ford appears to have small moon disk hubcaps and white Calnevar Dress-Up Wheel Covers.

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This photo from the Ken Wall Collection shows the back of three very nice 1940’s customs from the Denver area. From right to left we can see the chopped 1940 Ford that we have seen before in this collection The 1937 DeSoto bumper has an Ford accessory overrider which also holds the rear license plate. Next to it is the padded topped 1937 Ford with a nice set in license plate, again with the DeSoto bumpers, but this one used the stock bumper guards which mount from behind the bumper. A set of 1939 Ford or perhaps Lincoln taillights – its hard to see in this photo – are set low on the rear fender just peaking over the bumper.

On the left of the three rear viewed Customs is the 1939 Mercury with the padded top. This car also has a set in license plate and also uses a DeSoto bumper with the stock guards. Next to that is an near stock 1940 Ford convertible. The photo was taken in 1946 by a friend of Ken Wall, and Ken’s 1940 Ford Coupe can be seen all the way to the left of the photo showing just the very front of his car. A few years ago Ken cloned this very mild custom he drove in the 1940’s. The color photo further on in the article shows the clone he built.

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A 1948 photo shows two mild customized 1940 Mercury coupes from the Denver area. Both cars have basically stock bodies, with some Custom additions to it. The front car has singe bar flipper hubcaps and a set of fog lights. Both items are considered mandatory for a 1940’s Custom car. The one behind it has a set of 1937 DeSoto rubbed bumpers, and Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps as well as a set of fog lights. Both cars ran black wall tires, most likely the white walls where still hard to find after WWII.

The teardrop shape fender shields – as the skirts where called back then – look great and give the car that instant custom look. Despite the cars are both rather mild customs I bet the owners where day dreaming about their rides with a wonderful chopped top, huge white wall tires, speed boat stance, and wonderful tuck & roll interior. And who knows those dreams where realized after this photo was taken…

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Here is a photo that shows Ken’s original mild custom 1940 Ford coupe back in 1948. This is the car that Ken cloned (see color photo) According to Tom the only difference is that the clone has a flip open gas cap while this photo shows the original gas cap on Ken’s 1940 back in the day. The 1937 DeSoto bumpers look so perfect on any 1940 Ford.

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Ken’s recreation of the 1940 Ford Coupe he had when he was a young guy, a very mild Custom like most of them where back then.
Black wall tires with ripple disk flipper hubcaps. factory bubble teardrop fender guards, 1937 DeSoto bumpers with a Ford Factory Accessory bumper over rider which also holds the license plate. Dual pipes, and a really great light blue paint job. This photo has the feel of a real 1940’s color photo, but in fact was taken a couple of years ago by Tom Nielsen.


Hop Up Magazine in the fifties


In the July 1952 issue Hop Up magazine featured the Barris built Ralph Testa 1950 Mercury convertible in a three pages article.

In that same issue custom car and hot rod enthousiasts could buy a new subscription on the magazine for only $2.00 for the next 12 issues. Or even at cheaper rates if they subscribed for two or three years.

And on top of that you could also pick one of four 5×7 inch glossy photos. Two hot rods and Two custom cars. Those where the days when both custom cars and hot rods still had equal space devoted in the magazines.


You could pick the Longman 1932 Ford Roadster, the Eddie Dye Model A Roadster, the Larry Ernst Chevy Custom, and this Ralph Testa Convertible photo. This scan from the Original Hop Up photo was made from the photo part of the John Williamson Collection.
The original photo of Ralph’s Mercury was taken by Jack Campbell, who was not related to other famous custom car photographer Marcia Campbell.

Makes you wonder how many of these original give away photos survived and are still around today.