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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
My passion is also my business, as I am with the Toronto based Hav-A-Kar Auto Group. I sell or lease any make of car, van or truck available in Canada. My interest in all things "car" has helped me with my many clients in Ontario over the past 20+ years. Please give me the opportunity to assist you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Nov 10: King of the Kustomizers

There he is, George Barris, the King of the Kustomizers and one heck of a great self promoter. I've meant to do a blog on his work for sometime, but his passing last week, suggests that the time is now. Even as a kid, I was never really a Barris Kustom fan, as his work was usually of questionable taste, when compared to say, the Alexander Brothers out of Detroit. But, George did the famous stuff that, got him well known to the general public and he sure knew how to promote himself and his work.
But, let's not forget that Barris had tons of talent.

I often wondered just how old he was, since he was still making the rounds of the custom car shows and the occasional auction, resplendent in his flashy gold jacket. Eighty nine. You gotta hand it to him, he appeared to work at enjoying himself to the very end.

His most famous piece started out as a futuristic Lincoln dream car, the Futura, which he bought from Ford after its auto show days were over.......


......and then a few years later, when he was called upon to create the Batmobile in a very short time, the Futura morphed into the most famous TV/movie car ever.........


See the resemblance? All it took was a good imagination and skill with body filler. Not the car we see these days in the caped crusader's movies, but the TV original. It sold at auction a couple of years back for over $4 mil, so old George, who still owned it, was not hurting.

Another very well known piece was the Monkeemobile.......


Never liked it, but I guess it was a product of the times. Other Barris works showed up in the movies.......


This '66 Charger was in some fluff piece starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon. 'Nuff said.

But, there were other cars that Barris did that, became famous for what they were, not what they represented. Sure, much of his work was over the top, but others were gorgeous works of art. How about the Hirohatta Merc, named after its owner........


Not a bad line on this chopped Mercury and it set the tone for the classic 1949 to 1951 Mercury chop  jobs. The expensive diecast car maker, the now defunct Danbury Mint, produced a 1/24th scale version, which I have. It's beautiful. This car is still around today and sees its share of car shows. Or, what about the Ala Kart........


Again, another great design, also made into a scale model. But, as I said, Barris was often over the top, like with the Golden Sahara........


......and these other two, which also have names, the pink El Capitola and the copper coloured, Aztec......

 

I guess one would call these typical customs from the late '50's and early '60's. You could be sure that, when Barris created something like one of these, it was headed directly to the cover of a custom car or hot rod magazine. No, George did not lack for publicity.

Esso, the oil company celebrated Canada's centennial, by having Barris customize a couple of 1967 Oldsmobile Toronado's, which it gave away at Expo 67. Now, the Toro was a beautiful design, so what did George do?

 

Yes, I think I would have preferred to win the untouched version.

The designs? Usually not my taste then or now. But, do something like this Astroid Corvette and he got my vote.....


Barris' fame made him the subject of several books, the one below features a good overview of his early stuff, so I have a copy of it in my personal library......


So was George Barris irrelevant today? Well, Toyota didn't think so and asked him to customize a Prius of all things. How it turned out is up to your personal taste........


Or this current Camaro......


Better than the original? Not in my eyes, but isn't that what makes personal opinion, personal?

So after all those years, George Barris stayed in the limelight and stayed true to his original vision, which was to be original. I guess, if the rest of us can say that at our end, we should be quite content. But now George is gone, so what better way to bid adieu, than to show him as he rides off in his best know creation..........


Until next time.........



1 comment:

  1. Not only is that the sexiest car on the planet, I had the fortune to be at a car show where that Batmobile was being shown. Adam West actually was a guest at the show and I got a picture of him and me in front of that car and his autograph. That care is something special to say the least.

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