If not for Joe Bailon, hip-hop’s ’Lacs and lyrical lexicon wouldn’t be so sweet. Born in 1923, the inventor of candy paint quit school at the age of 8 to join his family harvesting prunes in the California countryside. Like most boys his age, Joe’s mind was elsewhere: on cars. But for him, it wasn’t about owning an automobile—it was about making one look how he wanted. By 15, he had copped his first ride, a Ford Model A coupe that he tricked out with various junkyard donors…but his drive didn’t stop there.
After landing a shipyard job as a “cutter,” Bailon mastered the torch and officially began his lifelong career as a custom fabricator. Following two years of service in WWII, Bailon returned to California and landed his dream job, the “custom body man” at Pitts Paint Store in Eureka, California. It was there that Joe dropped $50 on a ’41 Chevrolet club coupe, the platform that would later become his most recognized creation, Miss Elegance.
Through the years, Bailon’s talents blossomed. His uncanny ability to produce just about any curve, color or graft imaginable earned him top-shelf celebrity clientele, including Zsa Zsa Gabor, Danny Thomas and Rat Packers Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. But it was his invention of candy paint that took him to another level. One night, Bailon literally became wide-eyed by the taillights of a car in front of him. “It was so pretty…I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to see the whole car the color of that taillight?” he asked himself. Throughout the next decade, he set out to create that perfect red, mixing and layering until one day in 1956, when he threw some gold powder on the bench, mixed it with Sherwin-Williams extra brilliant maroon and clear lacquer, and presto: Candy-apple red was born.
Bailon went on to develop a rainbow of seemingly six-inch-deep paints that revolutionized the automotive finish industry. Now comfortably settled in Auburn, California, the pioneer still hosts the annual Joe Bailon’s Blast From the Past car show, where top dog takes home the coveted Candy Apple Clock award. How sweet it is! Willie G