About Joe Bailon

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

The '51 Mercury has been in the Figueroa family for 25 years five years with Joe Senior and the last 20 with Joe junior. When Joe junior bought it from his father in 1965, the Merc was stock except for Cragar mag wheels, but that soon changed. In 1968, Joe junior took his Mercury to Jesse Lopez, formerly of Barris Kustoms, and Jesse worked it over into a mild custom. The most outstanding features were the '54 Merc taillights and a glistening black paint job. About that time, Vince Bracado installed hydraulic lifts, which raise or lower the Merc by almost five inches—lowered when displayed at a show and raised for ground clearance when driving around town.

By 1971, young Figueroa was ready to go all the way with the Merc, but was puzzled about where to take it. He wanted a beautiful design and top-notch workmanship. Through friends, he was introduced to Joe Bailon. Joe Bailon and Joe Figueroa found that they had similar ideas about the job to be done, and Bailon, of course, had the credentials that Figueroa had been seeking. Because of the financial priorities having to do with Joe junior beginning a family, the Merc was in Bailon's shop for about three years. During these three years, Bailon chopped the top four inches in the front and 5 inches at the rear and adapted a '50 Ford rear window. He built the long rear fenders and custom taillights, set the license plate into the deck lid, rolled the front and rear of the body under to make the Merc look better without bumpers, and built the grille and new door jambs, which were chrome-plated. Bailon also made splash aprons inside the fenders for all four wheels and had them plated.

He then designed and made wheel covers from disc-harrow discs, giving them simulated knockoff centers, which he also plated. Bailon installed solenoids and latches for the electrically operated doors and finished off the engine compartment with plated and polished panels everywhere. Other nice Bailon touches are the very slight peaks into the fender tops, just behind the headlights; these match the peak at the front of the hood and the one, at the front of the top, that starts with the divided windshield. The peaks are all so moderate that they appear to have been part of the original stock bodywork.