About Joe Bailon

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

When the author visited to interview Bailon for this story, Joe was in the midst of finishing the shop insulating against summer heat, winter cold, and noises that would be offensive to neighbors; installing a paint booth; paining the building; paving the driveway and area in front of the shop; and even doing some landscaping. Eleven cars were in the shop and yard, either in the works or awaiting their turn. Ten of them were customers cars, and the eleventh was Marie's Merc. Six more customers are eagerly awaiting an opening for their cars to be taken to the yard. Also, Joe has bought a '41 Chevy coupe and many of the necessary components so that he can duplicate his original custom '41 Chevy Miss Elegance. Joe plans to build it exactly like the original. But it has to wait its turn, following the customers cars. Joe estimates that he has three or four years of work backed up without taking on any new jobs, a marvelous predicament to have to face. Over the years, Joe Bailon custom cars have graced the covers of at least 23 magazines, some of them several times, and the likelihood is that they will continue to be cover cars.

The trophies won by Joe's cars can't even be counted. Many of the trophies are in the hands of the cars owners, with only a few in the Bailon home. When asked about any noticeable changes in philosophy or attitude between his early customers and those of today, Joe said, "For one thing, most of them [today] are between 25 and 50 years old, where most of the early customers were teenagers, or maybe junior college age. Today's customers have more money and are willing to spend it. The early customers not only didnŐt have much money, but also were mainly interested in the outside appearance for shows. The customer today goes into the project more thoroughly, detailing the chassis and engine and running gear. Most of them want their new customs to look like old customs, only better." A special section of custom cars most of the Joe Bailon's at the Oakland Roadster Show this year brings him full circle. He virtually got his start, in the public eye, at the annual show, and now he returns in triumph. In great health, Joe, is 77 years old and still welding, grinding, sanding, and painting. He can't find help who can keep up with him. So Joe almost always works alone, which he prefers. As a method of turning out beautiful custom automobiles, working alone has proven successful for Joe. He seems determined to continue, too, building those head-turning customs.