Custom Car Chronicle
Joe Bailon Custom Shop

Joe Bailon Elton Kantor Ford




Joe Bailons second major Custom Car was restyled for Elton Kantor based on a 1950 Ford Convertible. It would end up with the prestigious Oakland Roadster Show Elegance Award.

Joe Bailon always had his own ideas about styling, about what he thought the ideal Custom Car should look like. With his personal car, the 1941 Chevy Miss Elegance he had already shown the world a little bit about his unique sense of car styling. A combination of the smooth flowing Detroit car styling lines combined with unique, unexpected lines and intricate trim details. Miss Elegance already had all the typical Joe Bailon styling cues in it.

Joe Bailon’s second major Custom was based on an 1950 Ford convertible. Owner Elton Kantor from Oakland California took his near new convertible to Joe Bailon after being very impressed with Miss Elegance. Together with Joe the discussed the design possibilities, and decided that the car needed a. Hard Top look, with smooth flowing lines, longer and much lower appearance and a completely smoothed body highlighted in a super glossy dark colored paint job.

Probably the best viewing angle on the Kantor Ford is this slightly higher rear quarter view.All the lines of the car seam to work at its very best then. The original version is so smooth and vintage looking with all the trim removed.

Joe set out to incorporate a ’51 Ford Victoria roof, welded that to the 4.5 inch chopped windshield frame, and at the back to the body sides. In the process the lower edge of the roof was moved forward a few inches. The c-pillars needed a lot of work to get the desired look. The back of a stock Victoria top is rather upright, which became even more evident after the chop. The stock three piece rear glass made it impossible to get the top to flow in the more swooping lines Joe and Elton wanted for the rear of the top. So it was decided to create a top with the perfect flow, an then hand made a new rear window to get everything right, instead being dictated by factory products.

Joe hand formed the rear of the roof from sheet metal until both were happy with the look. Then the new rear window shape was created into the new roof, and later fitted with plexiglass that was cut to size, heated and shaped to fit the new opening. The whole unit was dressed up with some aftermarket stainless steel strip, shaped to fit and screwed in place, a technique taken from upholstery shops who used the same technique for some of their padded top designs.

Color slide from the 1953 Hop Up magazine photo-shoot by Ralph Poole is a bit on the dark side, but I think it shows the color better than on the actual cover of the magazine.

A detail photo showing all the restyling Joe added to the rear of the car, shortened trunk, added molded in continental kit, set in license plate in the reshaped lower panel, molded in splash-pan, and stepped extended rear fender with hand made taillights and the heavily restyled 1950 Ford rear bumper.

Next up where the fenders on the car, both front and rear fenders were molded to the body, and to create the long and low effect the guys were after the rear fenders were lengthened with no less than 12 inches. Joe and Elton really liked the stepped panel below the trunk on Joe’s ’41 Chevy, so this design element was incorporated into Elton’s Ford as well. To make that happen the bottom of the trunk was raised around a foot and a new bulbous shaped panel was added below the new trunk line. The new lower body panel was molded to the splash-pan with a nice radius. Joe added a metal continental cover to the rear of the trunk, that starts at the bottom of the trunk and molded it into the trunk at a pleasing angle. The bulbous shape, below the trunk, was duplicated on the rear fenders with the lower section of the rear fended being extended more than the top. This lower section was next reshaped with round rod to form an taillight opening in which Joe later would add hand shaped clear red Lucite taillight lenses. While extending the rear fenders Joe had removed the stock wind-splits that lead to the stock Ford taillights the result was a completely smooth side of the car.

At the front Joe welded the stock headlight rings to the fenders and slightly peaked the top of the fenders. Joe had already nosed the hood, which enhanced the factory peak of the hood, and the new peak at the top of the fenders worked really well with the hood peak. Joe used two 1949 Mercury grille shells to form the new much smaller grille opening for Alton’s Fords. One was used in its regular place, the second one turned upside down and welded to the splash pan that was molded to the front fenders. This together formed a really nicely shaped smooth grille opening in the car, the hood center peak was repeated below the grille and into the splash pan for a nice uniform look. At the back Joe removed the factory stock outside hinges of the trunk and installed some inboard units. In the bulge below the trunk he created another inset license plate behind glass that he liked so much.

Detail shot from the front shows the molded in grille surround created from two ’49 Mercury grille shell’s, the grille created from round tubing, sheet metal and two bumper guard bullets. Notice how Joe molded in the splash-pan with a similar radius as the Mercury grille opening. The shaved bumper is unique for the time the car was build.

Elton’s Ford had the perfect ride height, slightly lower in the rear for that attractive and desired speed boat look.

All the outside trim was removed, including door handles which were replaced with solenoids. All the holed were filled and everything was completely smoothed. A set of ’49 Mercury fender skirts was modified at the bottom to sit level with the Ford body and reshaped to fit the Ford body contours.

With all the body work completed Joe painted the car in many coats of dark metallic blue paint. The car was lowered front and rear, to sit near level, and four wide white wall tires were mounted on the dark painted wheels that were dressed up with aftermarket smooth wheel discs.

The grille that Joe created for Alton’s Ford is another typical Joe Bailon trademark. With all the body so super smooth, Joe likes to add some super fine and wild details with the grille. He used two bumper guard bullets, sheet stock and tubing of different diameter to hand shape the unique grille. The whole assembly was welded together, smoothed and chrome plated before being installed as a floating grille bar in the new grille opening.

Another Joe Bailon trademark in the early 1950’s was the welded bumper bolts for the ultimate smooth bumpers. The Front unit is stock but smoothed 1950 Ford with the guards removed, and the rear is made from the stock ’50 Ford rear bumper combined with wrap around end sections, which enhance the already very long rear fenders even more. Joe also incorporated square exhaust tips in the lower edge of the rear bumper.

Custom interior was done in bone and black with black piping on the bone sections, and bone piping on some of the black sections. The dashboard was painted to match the interior.

The color image used on the cover of the June 1953 issue of Motor Trend magazine was flipped horizontal so that the composition of the photo looked more attractive on the shelves in the book stores.


The interior was upholstered in bone and black with the dash board treated with the same colors to match the upholstery. A set of Appleton Spotlights was added as the finishing touch.

Alton’s Ford was a huge success at the 1953 Oakland Roadster show were it won the top award at the full Custom Glass, the equivalent of the National Roadster Award, but then for Customs. The car was in color on the cover of the July 1953 issue of Motor Trend magazine, which helped boost business for Joe’s body shop.

Alton Kanter receiving the award at the 1953 Oakland Roadster Show.

New Owner Manuel Azevedo

After having enjoyed his new Custom Ford for a while, Alton was ready to move on, and offered his price winning Ford up for sale. Manny Azevedo, who also lived in Oakland and who ad seen the car at local shows bought the car. He enjoyed the car for some time and entered it in some more CA shows, then decided it was time for a round of updates. Around that time Manny visited Joe Bailon’s shop with the Ford and when leaving he backed up the car, and there was this metal pole he did not see. He hit it and damaged the complete passenger side of the car. Not good, but an perfect opportunity for a remake, and update.

The front of the car showing the damage.

Manny backed up the car at Joe Bailon’s Shop and did not see a metal pole causing major damage to the passenger side of the car.

Manny wanted to have a two tone solution for the car, and Joe came up with a new side trim created from 1954 Chevy side trim pieces and an unknown front section. The new side trim is slightly wider at the front then tapers very slightly towards the rear, creating instant speed. The new side trim also makes the bulge at the rear of the fender look right at place. Joe also modified the rear fenders, where he reshaped the original taillight opening and modified a set of 1954 Chevy taillights to fit inside these new openings. For this version Joe hand made a new set of fender skirts, nice long skirts that matched the lines of the fenders, and enhanced their length. At the leading edge, which was curved forward to flow with the C-pillar of the top, Joe installed three elegantly styled trim pieces.

After Joe repaired the damage on Manny’s Ford and with the new updates, the car is ready for the new Car Show Season. Photo taken at the Joe Bailon Shop.

Color image by Spencer Murray used on the cover of the June 1955 issue of Rod & Custom magazine. By now Joe had repainted the car in metallic purple, with white inside the new side trim. Notice the contrast of the red painted wheels, and how the side trim made the car look even longer than it already was.

The front of the car was also updated with the latest trend, hooded headlights. Joe created his own style of hooded headlight using sheet metal and round rod, for a unique look, and a styled that would become another of Joe’s trademark restyling touches. The hood corners had remained square on the early version, but were rounded with a nice large radius this time around.

Joe painted the car in a metallic purple and added white inside the side trim. The new side trim, and added white color added even more optical length to the car, than the previous version of the car. For this version Joe also added a bit of extra flash by painting the wheels bright red before installing a set of 1954 Oldsmobile hubcaps. The all redone Ford was featured and appeared in color on the cover of the June 1955 issue of Rod & Custom magazine.

Joe also modified the taillight openings to accepts 1954 Chevy taillights.

Rear window was hand formed from heated plexiglass in a custom made opening. The trim material was the same as some of the upholstery shops used for rear windows in padded tops. The fit and finish looks a bit sloppy by today’s standards, but it sure did not stand in the way of winning some of the big Custom awards in the early-mid 1950’s.

A better look at the modified taillight openings and 1954 Chevy taillights fitted into it.

For the new version Joe handmade a set of fender skirts, with a functional scoop at the front and dressed it up with three little chrome plated teeth.

A good look at the hood center peak that was extended thru the grille and also below the grille. Joe also rounded the hood corners for the new version, which made the front look more attractive than before. This front view also shows the all new above the headlights scoops.

Joe Bailon’s Miss Elegance image used on the Bay Area Customs club plaque.

These photos were taken by George Barris at Joe Bailon’s shop. Most likely the car was painted purple and lime by then.

Scanned from a 35 mm negative proof sheet most likely photographed by Frank Faraone, who was the staff photographer of the Oakland Roadster Show up into the early 1960’s.

After that the car was repainted at least two more times. At one point the car was painted metallic purple with a lemon lime top and inside the side trim, which gave the car a nice classic look. So far we have not been able to find any color photos of this version of the car. The 1955 Oakland Roadster Show program lists the car with this color combination. Later in 1955 Joe repainted the car in bright red with white on the top and in between the side trim. The interior was redone for the newly painted version as well using white and red material. Manny had pet goldfish, and wanted to have a small aquarium below the dash which was created by Joe Bailon.

In 1955 Joe repainted the Ford in red with a white top and in side the side trim.

Nice side view of the red and white version of the car.

Manny showed his car in red at the first Monterey Carcapades Show. The show was organized  by the Slow Pokes Inc. C.C. of Seaside, Ca. and was held at the Monterey County Fairgrounds in March 1956. The photo shows that the car now had a light colored headliner

These two photos come from some movie footage taken at the 1956 Oakland Roadster Show, it shows the small aquarium Manny had installed for his pet goldfish. It also shows that the complete interior was now redone, and the dash was painted to match the rest of the interior.

A better look at the interior and fish-tank Manny had installed. Notice the small fuzzy dice. hanging from the windshield divider.


Ron Brooks provided a list of colors used on the Ford as how the car was listed in various Car Show programs. It shows that the car was repainted a few more times. (From most of the colors listed we have some proof, but from others like the Gold and Maroon and Purple and white we only have these listings.)

  • 1953 Oakland, Elton Kantor Blue paint.
  • 1954 Oakland Manual Azavedo Blue.
  • 1955 Oakland Feb. purple and lemon lime.
  • 1955 Sacramento Feb. purple and white.
  • 1955 Monterey March Red and white with red and white interior.
  • 1956 Oakland Gold and maroon with red and white interior.


The ’55 Rod & Custom magazine article mentioned that Manny and Joe are contemplating a more modern grille update for the car. But so far we have not found a photo proof it this ever happened. Manny eventually sold the car to someone in the Bary Area and never saw it again. If anybody knows anything more about this Joe Bailon Ford after around 1957, please let us know, we would love to find out what happened to it after Manny sold it.

Special thanks to Bruce Heather.

(This article is made possible by)




Rik Hoving

Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)

6 thoughts on “Joe Bailon Elton Kantor Ford

  • What an amazing kustom FORD…………!!! I sure hope this wonderful kustom is still sitting some were in a garage……….

    I would say this would be Right up there with the ” JACK STEWART ” Kustom…..
    There so many wonderful KUSTOMS but if you had a choice of owning one this would be 1 of the top 10 on my list………

    Its nice to know what ones are gone and keep the hope that we may find the ones that might still be hidden and forgotten about some were…..


  • Thanks, Rik, for this look at the Kantor Ford. A real tribute to Joe Bailon. You really point up the elements that made Bailon’s body of work unique in the customizing world. His vision was all his own. And it shows us how the development of customizing in one area can significantly differ from appearances and details of cars in another. The Bay Area was not L.A., and Bailon put his mark on that distinction in traditional customizing, for sure.

  • One of my favorite early Bailon customs. The Hop Up magazine photos are really classic custom photos. Thanks to Bruce Heather for contributing information for the very complete story on the Elton Kantor custom Ford.

  • Stunning shoebox ford. Bailon created such a sleek full flowing ford. I really like the addition of the 54 chevy side trim. It breaks up the car nicely and add that” going fast look standing still”.. and that stance is on point!

  • This is one kustom that I have always had mixed feelings about. I love Bailon’s work and his original restyling ideas, but this car just has some funky angles to it- mainly the rear trunk/continental and the rear window. I really like the second version with the added side trim because it breaks up that giant slab-sided body. The rounded hood corners on the second version are nice too, but I don’t think the hooded head lights (under the neat scoops) were an improvement. Just being critical…but what do I like about it? I think it nails that heavy, full-kustom look that a shoebox Ford really lends itself to.

  • That front end treatment is killer- the grill and mouth are really neat. That fish bowl is interesting…I wonder if the fish went nuts when he went around a corner too quickly! Haha. The accident damage seams odd- was he doing about 90 mph in Bailon’s driveway when he hit the pole? That is some heavy duty damage!!!

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