Joe Castro's 1955 Ford Thunderbird - The Candy Bird
Restyled by Bailon
At Bailon's shop the single headlamps were replaced with dual units from a 1957 Imperial. The famous Bailon tubing graced the front as a custom grille and as wrap-around rear bumpers. Custom front bumperettes were formed from various tubing sizes and a pointed endcap. The entire nose was formed into a reversed 'bird beak’ V design with a rolled front pan. The hood scoop design was duplicated above the new dual headlamps, and all three scoops were fitted with accent spears inside, donated from the rear fender trim bars of a 1953 Mercury. The doors, hood, and trunk operate electrically with the door handles and trunk all being shaved.
Tubing was also used to form the wheel flares, headlight buckets, and rear quarter panel extensions which housed modified taillights from a 1952-1953 Lincoln oriented upside down. The rear also featured dual exhaust ports exiting the rear body panel above a custom rolled pan. The exhaust ports were fashioned out of bumper guards from a Kaiser Manhattan. The rolled rear pan peaked to a point below the license plate terminating with a custom gold scallop. Non-functional side pipes were made from vintage ford "stepped” driveshafts and dressed up with the signature Bailon polished brass gear teeth ornamentation. The front exhaust flange also being in brass. Dual dummy Appleton spotlights were mounted to the lower windshield stainless trim.
Once the bodywork was completed, Castro's Thunderbird was covered with one of Bailon's famous Candy Apple Red paint jobs. The car is believed to be the second car to have been painted Candy Apple Red, the first being Jerry Sahagon's 1951 Chevrolet. The candy color was painted over a gold base, and that base color was carried into the scallops, rear body, and roof details. The accents were pinstriped in white and gold by Tommy the Greek.
Tuck and Roll
Inside, the interior was mostly stock except for some additional tuck and roll white on the door panels and flooring for show purposes. A custom steering wheel cover graced the stock wheel with an embroidered lollypop in the center and CandyBird lettering. The rear trunk area was also tuck and roll in white and red, and for shows, it featured a portable TV painted in matching Candy Apple Red and white. The TV was a General Electric model 14S208.
The wheels were 15" chrome reverse with two different hubcap treatments. The earliest version featured a standard ford dog-dish hubcap. These were later changed to 1949-1950 Chevrolet dog-dish caps adorned with 2-1/2" chrome bullet centers. The stance was lowered, and some magazine articles suggested the body being channeled, which is not correct. Standard lowering blocks and cut springs most likely provided the correct ride height.
In 1957 the CandyBird, along with two other Bailon customs were transported via railcar to Portland for the Portland Roadster Show. At the show, it was part of a special exhibit where Joe Bailon had three of his choice "Candy Apple" customs on display. The cars were not listed as being part of the competition cars in the show program.
The CandyBird was featured in multiple magazines while Castro owned it, and it appeared in two of the four rare Northwest Rods Magazines.
Sold to Jim Augustine
Sometime early in 1959 the car was sold to San Jose Rod And Wheelers member Jim Augustine. Jim showed the car at the Napa Rod And Custom Show in March of 1959. The program pictures it with the Rod And Wheelers banner and group trophies. Jim was an award-winning hairstylist in Oakland/Union City/Fremont. In 2021 it was unknown when the car was sold by Jim or who it ended up with.
The next known sighting of the CandyBird was at the 1978 Los Angeles Roadster Show, where it can be seen in the back lot with white paint or rubber nerf bars and mag wheels. This was communicated by Pat Ganahl, and the CandyBird is mentioned in Pat's book Lost Hotrods II. The next known owner was Avery King of Greenleaf, Mississippi. Avery bought it in a "deal" with other things and didn't really know what the car was. Avery sent in an inquiry to Rod & Custom Magazine and was able to find out details about the car. Pat Ganahl stated that he received photos of the bird in white from Avery King and that he planned to restore it. Ultimately, he decided that it would be too costly and he didn't really have a keen interest in customs at the time. Avery placed an ad in Hemmings Motor News sometime in 1991 listing the car for sale. The title in Avery's name was signed over to Arthur Howard of Villanova, Pennsylvania in September of 1991. Howard owned it legally until February of 2019.
Back to Bailon
According to Kevin Bennett, Avery stated that the car was shipped to Joe Bailon in Auburn, California after being purchased by Arthur to be restored. "Not sure of the timing around when the car was actually delivered to Bailon." The CandyBird was at Bailon's in Auburn in 1995, as pictured and mentioned in Custom Rodder's September issue. The CandyBird sat outside Bailons' shop under the trees awaiting restoration for several years, until sometime in 2001. It is believed that the owner had a falling out with Bailon, and had the CandyBird transported back to Pennsylvania. Kustom Cars by Bob Falco in Monroe, New York had plans to restore the car for the owner, but economic conditions never seemed favorable, and the owner kept it in storage until February 2019.
Sold to Wes Bennett
Yaril's Customs, the restorers of Gil Ayala's Wild Bird were contacted by the owners after seeing his restoration and enlisted him to assist in selling the CandyBird. The car was posted for sale via social media in late December 2018. Wes Bennett of Yakima, Washington came across the ad, purchased the car in February 2019, and shipped it back to the West Coast to begin the restoration.
In February of 2021, Andrew Noel of Noel Customs had begun the process of restoring the old custom for Bennett. Due to the unexpected and sudden passing of Noel, the project was put on hold until Kevin reached out to Curtis McGann for some help. After all, it would turn out to be such a fitting collaboration to finish the car due to the fact that the car was once in the original car club started by his grandfather back in the early 1950s.
Back in July 2022, Curtis flew out to Texas to pull off an epic 10-day-long marathon in order to get the car from bare metal into the first primer. On the 10th day, Curtis flew back home to California while Kevin continued to work feverishly on the car's other areas that needed attention. Nine months later, fast forward to April of 2023, Curtis once again prepared himself to fly out to Texas to pick up where they left off and pull off another 10-day marathon and a huge push to get the car from primer all the way to the infamous Candy Red paint job. The days leading up to the 2nd trip to Texas, Curtis consulted his coworker and personal friend Jesse Cruz, (Salinas-based custom painter), for a game plan, and that final boost of confidence to push the project and paint job to the end. Within the first three days of Curtis and Kevin working to get the car to the final stage of paint, they had the car blocked out and in final primer, ready for the first of several colorful stages of color. Curtis told Kustomrama that on the 7th day of the marathon, he applied four coats of a Honey Gold Basecoat, followed up with three coats of a 24-karat gold pearl, and then followed up with five coats of the signature Candy Apple Red before finally applying four coats of (POR15) American Icon C831 Clearcoat.
The paint job took over 9 1/2 hours from sealer all the way to the last coat of clear, all on the same day. On the 9th and final day of the trip to Texas, the Candy Bird once again, had its beautiful Joe Bailon signature Candy Red paint job. The car is in its last stretch of completion, leaving Kevin with the task of tying all the loose ends up on the car before one final trip is made to put the icing on the cake and add the beautiful gold scallops and pinstriping originally done by Tommy the Greek that the car wore. The last trip is planned for sometime in the next few months ..Stay tuned for the final update of the famous Joe Bailon Candy Bird restoration.
Magazine Features and Appearances
- Northwest Rods November-December 1957
- Northwest Rods and Sports Cars January-February 1958
- Motor Trend April 1958
- Car Craft August 1958
- Motor Like October 1958
- Motor Life June 1958
- Motor Life July 1958
- Custom Cars January 1959
- Trend Book 189 Custom Cars 1960 Annual
- Popular Customs Summer 1964
- Popular Customs Winter 1964
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