Gil Ayala's 1951 GMC

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The first version of the car as it sat when it was featured in Hop Up May 1953
A photo of Al Ayala with an in-progress 1951 Mercury custom. The quarter panels on the car have been modified to house 1954 Packard taillight lenses. According to Ralphy, the car was owned by a guy from Indio. The photo was taken circa 1954 - 1955, and Ralphy came in right after it left the shop. Gil Ayala's 1951 GMC truck is parked behind the Merc in the photo. Photo courtesy of Ralphy Morales.
A color photo showing the truck at a car show after Bruce Geisler had bough it and altered the design.[1]
The car as it looked when it was featured in Trend Book 156 Custom Cars 1958 Annual
The truck as it appeared after Bruce Geisler restored it in the 1990s.
The truck as it appeared in December of 2012, without the hole in the hood and the aluminum tank on the front splash pan. Photo courtesy of Richard Toonkel.

1951 GMC 3/4 ton pick up owned and restyled by Gil Ayala of Gil's Auto Body Works. Gil built the truck in order to promote his business while driving around town picking up and delivering parts. In the front the axle was stretched and dropped and the frame got a 5 inch kick up. Three and 1/2 inch lowering blocks were installed on the rear axle. These modifications lowered the pickup 5 inches. The top was chopped 3 inches in the front and four inches in the rear. The quarter windows were made of plexiglas, while the windshield and side windows were cut down.[2]

Gil eliminated the center strip on the hood by welding the two hood halves together. Then he cut out a section of the hood and welded in a new one so he could punch three short rows of louvers into the center. The headlights were frenched into the fenders, the doors were shaved of their handles and the holes were filled. The doors were opened by push buttons and solenoids. The running boards and the filler panels under the bed were chrome plated. The stock taillights were replaced by 1949 Mercury units that were set low on the rear fenders. A custom made "Gil's Auto Body Works" letter grille insert was made and placed inside a stock (or pretty close) grille surround. A matching sign was installed on the tailgate. Once the bodywork was done the truck was painted dark metallic Emerald green with long, thick, light Sarasota green flames. Chrome beading was inserted between the fenders and body. Cadillac hubcaps and dual spotlights were added. The interior was upholstered by Chavez in green and ivory.[2]

Gil kept the 6-banger motor stock. The total cost of the customizing ran about $500 for the top chop, $200 for the paint, and $65 for the frenching.[2] According to Rodders Journal Number 39, the build was completed in 1953.

Shortly after the truck was featured in Rod & Custom Magazine in 1953 Gil sold it to Bruce Geisler of Huntington Beach, California. Bruce painted the truck light pink, and had the logo of his company "Geisler Construction Co." painted on the doors. Bruce reinstalled the stock grille, and mounted exhaust stacks alongside the bed from behind the cab. Under the hood he stuffed a big 5-carb Jimmy six into the engine compartment. This version was featured in Rod & Custom March 1958 and Trend Book 156 Custom Cars 1958 Annual. When the car was featured in 1958 the car had also received 1953 Cadillac hubcaps.[3] Shortly after these coverages Bruce sold the truck to Dwayne Grotewold of Grotewold Motors in Le Mars, Iowa.[4] According to an article in Le Mars Globe-Post Monday, October 13, 1958, Dwayne tried to buy the car for two years before Bruce decided to sell it in 1958. Jerry Zinn of Le Mars remembers seeing the truck when Grotewold first brought it to town. He was riding his bike, and followed the truck as fast as he could in order to find out were it was going. By then the "Geisler Construction Co." logos were gone, and the car was painted a flashy pink 1957 Lincoln Amathist color.[5] Jerry remembers how he thought the green interior seemed really out of place in the car. The multi-carbed, six cylinder motor was still there, and other than the color, not much had changed since it left California.[6] When Dwayne got the truck it featured a chromed dashboard, chrome window frames and tinted glass.[5]

In the late 1960s, and the early 1970s Russ Neely of Corydon, Iowa owned the truck. Russ bought the truck to use it as his driver.[7] In the 1980s, while Jerry Zinn was visiting his parents, he ran into Larry Dobson. Larry was an old friend who sold used cars in Le Mars. Jerry mentioned the "Grotewald Chevy", and Larry said he had owned it several times. Larry was also aware of its whereabouts, and could tell Jerry that the truck was currently owned by Darrell Lancaster of Le Mars, Iowa who had the truck stored away in Seney, Iowa. Jerry stopped by Darrel's place, and he and his son were able to see the truck one more time. The car was dusty, but still complete, except for the 6 banger that had been replaced by a Chevrolet V8.[6]

Some years later, Bruce Geisler found his old truck in a wrecking yard in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He bought the truck and brought it home. Then he restified it, adding a Nova front clip, a six-way power seat, a 6-71 blown small block Chevy, a TH350 transmission and a Ford 9-inch rear end. The light pink paint job was redone in gray primer since the truck was meant to be a driver rather than a showpiece.[4]

Magazine Features

Hop Up May 1953
Rod & Custom March 1958
Custom Cars August 1958
Trend Book 156 Custom Cars 1958 Annual



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