According to George Barris in volume four of his Barris Kustom Techniques of the 50's series (Thaxton Press, 1997), one other Northern Californian who was also experimenting with candy paints was Mel Pinoli of Pinoli's Body and Paint Shop in San Leandro. In his book George says that Mel "was experimenting with translucent toners, trying to find the secret to what would eventually be called candy apple." George goes on to say that, "Mel remembers combining different amounts of toner and clear, but that the results weren't very good." What we do know is that by late 1956, Joe had completed customizing Frank Livingston's '49 Chevy Fleetline, which Frank then took to Mel for painting. Mel used printing dyes in clear lacquer, two-toning Frank's car in Brazilian Gold and Tropical Tangerine Orange. Entered in the 1957 Oakland show in January, Frank's car took the Colonite Wax Best Paint Award, as well as Custom Car d'Elegance. However, the colors faded quickly when exposed to the sun, as the Chevy was Frank's only transportation at the time. So, ink for toner wasn't the answer, no matter how brilliant when first applied. George finished his story about Mel by saying, "Eventually he hit upon a combination of toner and clear that worked."
George also credits a customer of his, Jesse Lopez, with coming up with a formula to paint his new '58 T-bird in candy red. Jesse shared his formula with his friend George, who marketed the translucent lacquer under the name, "Kandy Lak." In his biography It Ain't Gonna Work, "St." John Morton, a noted Northern California custom painter, pinstriper, tattoo artist (Ed Roth once bought one of Morton's custom-made tattooing machines), chemist, paint innovator, and bestower of the Von Dutch Award at the Grand National Roadster Show, gives Mel Pinoli credit for finishing the first candy green paint job. (It Ain't Gonna Work was published in 1999 by St. John Design Studio, P.O. Box 1839, Aptos, CA 95001, (831) 684-2026). "St." John also once had his own line of custom paints as well. Though he was a true innovator on the custom paint scene, he has often been overlooked in histories written on the subject. This situation was somewhat rectified this year, however, when "St." John Morton was inducted into the Grand National Roadster Show's prestigious Hall of Fame--a fitting, if not long overdue tribute. It's interesting to note that George Barris shows photos of the candy green paint job mentioned above in book number four of the Kustom Techniques series. George says of Ted Leventhal's '50 Chevy convertible, "As far as I know, this was the first car painted in what became known as candy apple. At the time the car was built (1955), the paint applied by Mel Pinoli's Body and Paint Shop in San Leandro, California, was called green iridescent lacquer. Many people credit Joe Bailon with being the first to apply candy, but I'm sure he will agree that while he might have been the first to apply candy red, Pinoli's was the first candy job."
Custom painter Larry Watson, who was inducted into the Starbird Hall of Fame this June, is another innovator of candies, or "kandies" if you prefer. Larry told me that when he painted his new '58 T-bird he didn't have many wild custom paint options other than the new candy apple red, or pearl white. What he wanted was something entirely different, so he purchased two pre-mixed gallons (to his specifications) of platinum pearl nitrocellulose lacquer at $65 dollars per gallon. Larry says that you had to buy pearls pre-mixed because nobody was willing to give away their secrets and sell the magic ingredients separately at the time. First, Larry applied a fine metallic silver base, then laid down the platinum pearl, such as imported pearl paste. After living with it for a couple of days he decided it was not only bright, but made the car look too big as well. He also thought this 'Bird had the greatest lines for a new concept that he'd come up with -- panel painting. So, out came the 1 3/4-inch masking tape to layout his ideas, followed by the first ever candy burgundy paint job, using Nasson L-13 toner in clear nitro lacquer. Unfortunately, fading still affected candies and pearls at this time and Larry's paint was not immune. He later brightened it up by adding yet more paneling, but the first version, the way the car was recently restored to, was definitely the best. Larry soon became THE MAN, painting more candy, pearl, scallop, flame, and panel paint jobs than anyone else in the business -- literally taking over the local car shows with his work. It's said that at the Trident's show at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in 1966, Larry had 54 cars and more than two dozen motorcycles on display with his paint jobs.
Other significant painters of the day, proficient (and prolific) in the application of candies, pearls, and 'flakes were Hershel "Junior" Conway, Dean Jeffries, Bill Hines, Dick Bertiolucci, George Cerney, Dick Jackson, the aforementioned Mel Pinoli, Joe Bailon, Darryl Starbird, Gene Winfield, and many, many more across the nation. Some painters preferred to do just that -- paint! Others saw a lucrative market in supplying pre-mixed custom paints to areas of the country less accessible to an expert in mixing and matching special lacquers. These men went into the mail-order paint business long before 1-800 parts shopping was ever conceived -- these were true pioneers.
There was the Barris Kandy Lak as mentioned, as well as Jeffries Indy Pearl. Both lines also became available in handy aerosol cans -- remember Barris' Kolor Krome? I can remember going to Dave's Home of Chrome not only to drop off garnish moldings to be plated, but also to purchase Jeffries Indy Pearl in rattle-cans for my '48 ragtop's dashboard. So, how did the word on candy paint get spread around the country? Well, it might have been old news by "insiders," but by the time the Feb. '59 issue of Car Craft hit the stands, the secrets of candy painting were out for good! Even the cover was virtually awash with circular images of candy-coated bits and pieces of cars, including the "Ala Kart" and R&C "Dream Truck." Bob Behme divulged all in a nine-page story entitled, "The Secrets of Candy Colors." This story was told to Behme in late 1958 by George Barris and was a major article. Not only did it contain tips regarding application, but concerning paint formulas as well, which I'm sure had a major influence on custom painters across the country. Here then, verbatim, is the introduction to that story, written almost four-and-a-half decades ago.
"From the customizer's pallets now comes a spectrum of new colors; hues as wild as anything ever devised. These are the new, revolutionary, translucent paints; the healthy, vibrant family which created the headline making candy apple red."
"Translucent, according to Webster, is anything 'allowing the passage of some light but not a clear view of any object.' The description fits the latest custom paint sensation. The highly popular translucent paints are characterized by a superior depth and exciting colors achieved in just this way; achieved by the transmission of light through the surface layers of paint (to create the highly-prized illusion of depth) plus the reflection of the transmitted light from a base layer of differently colored paint."
"The idea calls for a new technique in painting, a mixture of a small amount of colored pigmentation (called 'toner' in the trade) is mixed with a larger amount of clear blending, or painting, solution to form the outer color surfaces. The reflecting basecoat is created through the addition of metallic particles to a similar blending solution applied before the color coats."
"The field is so new that few things have been standardized. Few painters mix colors identical with the colors prepared by competitors. Currently there are two sources for a few of the more popular colors in ready-mixed form. One is California Custom Accessory Company of Los Angeles who has just introduced candy paints in Golden Honey, Pagan Gold, Mint Green, Burgundy Mist, Oriental Blue, and Lime Gold shades. Outside of these basic colors, other exotic shades have to be home-brewed from special mixing formulas."
The Bill Cushenbery-built "El Matador" was not only a radical custom, but a blended candy-
Larry Watson was not only a innovator in the use of candies and pearls, but a trendsetter
Carl Rice's radically customized '55 Chevy actually was featured in STREET RODDER in the J
Car Craft magazine, once THE custom enthusiast's publication (my, how the times have chang
This ad for the new AMT Kandy Kolor by Barris appeared in the August '59 issue of Car Craf
"The basic painting techniques used for candy paints are identical to the techniques used for other types of automotive painting --l acquer and enamel. The paints themselves are lacquer throughout. The equipment is the same -- spray gun, paint booth. These are professional paints in every way." It must also be noted that the model car paint suppliers weren't far behind in offering aerosols in all manner of custom colors that were compatible with styrene plastic. How many, including myself, found out the hard way, in our rush to be the "first on our block," that lacquer-based automotive paints ate plastic cars for breakfast?
Before Roth Studios, when "Big Daddy" still called himself "The Crazy Painter," he too sol
If "Kandy King" (Joe Bailon) and "King of Kustomizers" (Goerge Barris) were already spoken