Iconic car designer George Barris passed away this morning at his home, he was 89.
George Barris (born November 20, 1925 – died November 5, 2015).
His son, Brett Barris had this to say:
He was surrounded by his family in the comfort of his home, He lived his life the way he wanted til the end. He would want everyone celebrate the passion he had for life and for what he created for all to enjoy.
Barris’ early life
Barris was three years old when his father, a Greek immigrant from Chios, sent him and his brother Sam to live with an uncle and his wife in Roseville,California following the death of their mother. By age 7, Barris was making models of cars using balsa wood and modifying their design and appearance with careful attention to details so his entries won contests sponsored by hobby shops.
The brothers worked at the Greek restaurant owned by their family, and were given a 1925 Buick for their help. Although it was not in good shape, they swiftly restored it to running condition, and began to experiment with changing its appearance. This became the first Barris Brothers custom car. They sold it at a profit to buy another project vehicle. Before George had graduated from high school, demand for their work was growing, and they had created a club for owners of custom vehicles, called the Kustoms Car Club. This was the first use of the spelling “kustom”, which would become associated with Barris. He moved to Los Angeles after turning 18 years old to “become part of the emerging teen car culture” and opened the “Barris Custom Shop” on Imperial Highway in Bell, California.
The creation of the 1966 Batmobile
Barris was approached by ABC Television to create a signature vehicle for their Batman television series. ABC Television needed the car in less then a month. So, With only three weeks to finish the Batmobile before filming would begin, Barris decided that rather than building a car from scratch, it would be relatively easy to transform the distinctive Futura into the now world famous crime-fighting vehicle. The Futura, a one-off 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, created by Ford Motor Company that he purchased from Ford for $1.00 (the prototype cost $250,000 to build in 1954). The Futura was featured in the film It Started with a Kiss, starring Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford. After which, it just sat idle in Barris’ Hollywood shop for several years before being transformed into the iconic Batmobile.
In January of 2013 the #1 Batmobile was auctioned off, The final bid for that auction was 4.25 million dollars. The #1 Batmobile is back up for sale. You read more about that here.
George Barris had extensive work in film and television. listed below is some of that work, including some celebrity customs.
- Zsa Zsa Gabor — gold Rolls Royce
- Bob Hope — custom golf cart
- Bing Crosby— custom golf cart
- Ann-Margret— custom golf cart
- Glen Campbell— custom golf cart
- Elton John— custom golf cart
- Elvis Presley— Cadillac limousine
- John Wayne— custom Pontiac station wagon
- Sonny Bono— “his” 1966 Ford Mustang
- Cher— “her” 1966 Ford Mustang
- Dean Martin— custom Cadillac Eldorado station wagon
- Batman — car designer, The Batmobile (uncredited) (1966)
- Supervan — car customizer (1977)
- Smokey and the Hotwire Gang — Billy The Kid (1979)
- Jurassic Park — car modifications (uncredited) (1993)
- Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie — car customizer (1997)
- The Munsters — technical advisor — 1 episode, Hot Rod Herman (1965)
- Batman — car designer, The Batmobile, 120 episodes (1966–1968)
- Mannix — car customizer, Mannix Roadster (1967)
- The Banana Splits Adventure Hour — car designer, 5 episodes (1968)
- The Beverly Hillbillies — car designer, 3 episodes (1962–1963); production assistant, 1 episode (1968)
- The Bugaloos — car designer, 14 episodes (1970–1971)
- Bearcats! — car, Bearcat, 13 episodes (1971)
- Banacek — modified AMX-400 (1972)
- Starsky and Hutch — car designer, “Red Stripped Tomato” (1975–1979)
- The Dukes of Hazzard — car modifications (1979)
- Knight Rider — car designer (1982–1986)
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