Joe Bailon, Inventor of Candy Apple Red, Dies At Age 96

RK Motors Sep 27 2017


Lay down a coat of gold first, then red atop that, then follow that with a clear coat with some red mixed into it and you get deep, delicious glowing paint known the world over as “candy apple red.” Sounds simple, but it took Joe Bailon — the customizer credited with inventing the process, who died this week at the age of 94 — 10 years to perfect.

Bailon’s eye for color and shape well predates candy apple red, of course. He applied scallops to the first car he had a hand in customizing, a 1929 Ford Model A, in 1937, and he experimented with adding silver and metalflake to paint at his first job as a car painter. Nor did the Bay Area sunsets or the orchards across from his childhood home play no small part in influencing his palette, but the inspiration for the technique came shortly after he returned from a stint in the Army during World War II.

According to an American Hot Rod Foundation profile of Bailon, he grew entranced at the color of taillamps at night reflected in the rain-soaked streets. “It was so pretty,” he said. “I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to see the whole car the color of that taillight?”

While he worked to perfect the color, he began to customize his own cars and eventually take on commissions for customers. His 1936 Ford not only got him the aforementioned job, according to Kustomrama, but also earned him a tidy profit that he then put toward a wrecked 1941 Chevrolet that he proceeded to radically alter, starting with a chromed dashboard filled with every gauge Stewart-Warner made at the time. That Chevrolet, which came to be known as Miss Elegance, earned Bailon a number of awards and recognition enough to move his customizing business from his garage to a dedicated shop in Hayward, California (where he customized, among other cars, bandleader Freddy Martin’s Muntz Jet).

Around 1956, he finally perfected the candy paint process and proceeded to apply it to other colors beyond red. One of Bailon’s most famous custom cars beyond Miss Elegance, the 1958 Candy Birdprominently featured the technique paired with Tommy the Greek pinstriping and gold highlights. As Kustomrama pointed out, Bailon capitalized on his invention by selling the paints and instructions to other customizing shops, but the shops would then continue using the technique without buying paints directly from Bailon.

Regardless, Bailon’s status as the father of candy paints has never been disputed. In 1960, the National Roadster Show inducted Bailon — alongside Robert E. Petersen, Wally Parks, and George Barris — into the National Roadster Hall of Fame. Later in the Sixties, he followed Barris’ lead and moved his shop to Southern California specifically to customize cars for Hollywood stars and for films; his work collaborating on the Pink Panther Mobile and the Barber Shop roadster took place during this period.

Bailon closed his Hollywood shop in 1984 to return to his roots. Rather than work on high-profile commissions for celebrities and studios, he returned to the radical customs of his youth. He also began a long-term re-creation of Miss Elegance, which he sold in the early Fifties (it was crushed in the Seventies).

According to Kustomrama, Bailon suffered a stroke on Saturday, leading to his death on Monday.

SOURCE: Hemmings Daily

AUTHOR: Daniel Strohl


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