About Joe Bailon

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Prunes to Candy Apples Joe Bailon's Story (continued)

The help was what he calls the "before and after" crew, whose functions were to dismantle parts and pieces of the cars when required and to clean up the car to make it ready for custom work, which was all done by Bailon himself. Then the crew would finish up with lead or Bondo, filling, filing, sanding, and making the body ready for paint. Then Joe would step back in again to spray the car, and the crew would finish-sand, rub out the paint, polish, and reassemble parts that had been removed for access or plating.

At no time during Joe's long career in customizing has anyone else designed or fabricated the shapes, forms, scoops, grilles, or vents that Joe wanted to create for the cars. He feels that it is essential that he has complete control over the design and the finished product. In 1967 Bailon moved his family to southern California and opened a shop in North Hollywood, where he started to do work for the movie crowd along with his regular customers. Since the move, Joe has customized cars for many stars.

Among the cars he's done are Zsa Zsa Gabor's Rolls-Royce, Danny Thomas Continental, a Cadillac station wagon for Dean Martin, a Vega wagon for Sammy Davis, Jr. Joe painted Sebastian Cabot's Jaguar and occasionally repaired damage to James Garner's wife's Mercedes-Benz. Joe also built the Olds Toronado-powered Pink Panther car, which has appeared in several movies and made many public appearances.
This kind of work sounds exotic and enjoyable, but it also has its difficulties.

While Joe has made lasting friendships with his customers, including some stars, too many of the Hollywood customers didn't, and still don't understand the time required to design and to build a custom car. Sometimes the lack of understanding leads to confusion, anxiety, and often ill will over both time and money. In 1984, Joe and his current wife, Marie, fulfilled a long-standing ambition by moving to Auburn, California, near the sites of their childhood. In some circles, Auburn would be described as a "sleepy little western town."

In fact, the town is small and laid-back, located at the northern end of California's famous "gold country" near the crossing of Interstate 80 and California 49. However, only the old part of Auburn could be considered "sleepy." The Bailons like the town because its size allows everyone to be acquainted with each other. Joe now has shops behind his house, where he has the only commercial bit of property in the area.