Joe Tocchini's 1951 Ford

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The "Mystery" as it appeared in Custom Cars March 1959
On the cover of Custom Cars March 1959.
The car featuring a red and silver paint job. The photo is taken probably in the early sixties.
Photo by Andy Southard. The picture is taken in 1963
The "Mystery" as it sat when Paul McElley purchased it.
The restored version of the "Mystery"
Paul McElley shown here in the mid eighties, was rightfully proud after restoring the "Mystery".
The Mystery at the The Oakland Museum of California in 2010. Photo by Daniel Kokin.

1951 Ford Victoria restyled by Joe Bailon of Bailon's Custom Shop for Joe Tocchini of Hayward, California in 1958. Bailon and Tocchini spent endless of hours figuring out how the design would look like before any metal were cut. Starting at the front, the fenders were flared horizontally and modified with 1958 Chrysler Imperial quad headlights. A new rectangular grille shell was shaped and fitted with a 1957 Buick grille which was frenched into the grille cavity. Due to the modifications to the fenders, the hood had to be reshaped. It was shortened and narrowed. A scoop filled with five chrome teeth was recessed in the hood with a wide recess leading down to the grille. The front bumper was discarded, and swapped with custom made Nerf bars which featured directional lights. All wheel opening were reshaped and radiused. Bailon was well known for his artistic interpretations of lakes pipes, The Mystery Ford was no exception. The lakes pipes went through the front fenders and continued through the built-out rocker panels. Chromed gear cogs were mounted on the pipes. Cadillac side trim was molded to the doors to brake down the slab-sided sheetmetal. The squared-off theme was carried through the rear beginning at the radiused wheel openings leading into the horizontal flares above the quad 1956 Oldsmobile taillights, and ending into the rolled center pan. A 1955 Pontiac grille with its split bumper was frenched to the rear end. The deck lid opening was narrowed at the bottom due to the radical modifications. Once the bodywork was done, it was painted in Bailon's trademark color, Candy Apple tangerine red and white pearl. The chromed reversed were fit with 1950 Ford hubcaps featuring accessory bullets and blades to highlight the modifications. The interior was done in white Naugahyde with nylon frieze. The only large piece of factory sheetmetal on the car that was left over the makeover, was the stock Victoria hardtop roof, the only giveaway of the car's identity. Bailon wrapped up the style with dual spotlights and Bailon crests on the rood pillars.[1]

February 15-23, 1958, The Mystery was shown at the ninth annual National Roadster Show in Oakland where it won the Custom Car D'Elegance award. Due to excellent craftsmanship, both the Mystery and Bill Carr's 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air, The Aztec, won the Custom Car D'Elegance that year.[2]

The Mystery went through several changes and paint jobs. When it was shown at the National Roadster Show in February 1958 it was copper, orange and gold. A picture taken by Andy Southard in 1963 shows the car in white and red. Another picture from the 1960s shows the car with a red and silver paint job.[1]

The car was neglected for nearly two decades, until Paul McElley of Hayward, California bought it in the late seventies. Paul saw Joe Bailon's 1941 Chevrolet, Miss Elegance at the Oakland Roadster Show as a little kid and remained a Bailon fan ever since. He worked as a body and fender man and built himself a 1941 Chevrolet influenced by Miss Elegance and a 1954 Chevrolet pickup highly inspired from the Rod & Custom Magazine’s Dream Truck. While working on the Chevrolet, Paul heard that an old Bailon custom was laying in a backyard near Fremont, California. Paul went to take a look and ended up buying it. The car was relatively complete and intact despite that it had been neglected for such a long time. This was in the late seventies, but the restoration did not begin until 1981. When Paul purchased the car, it was powered by a Oldsmobile Rocket from the 1950's, which ran amazingly well after sitting 20 years plus. The interior was intact, but came apart when it was cleaned. The headliner was salvaged and Larry Arnold of San Leandro Upholstery stitched a new tuck 'n' roll interior.Paul even had special engraved stainless steel doorsill plates made. Paul was not sure if he would paint it in its original Candy Tangerine and white pearl, but he was not sure it he could do it as nice as Joe did. He decided to paint it red and silver, it was not painted in a paint shop or paint booth, but in Paul's own garage. The car debuted at the 1983 Oakland Roadster Show where it won first place in the Radical Custom class. This was the last car Paul did before he passed away.[1]

The car is now displayed at the National Rod & Custom Car Museum in Oakland, California.[3]

Magazine Features

Motor Trend July 1958
Custom Cars August 1958
Custom Cars March 1959
Rod & Custom September 1960



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