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Show Rods


George Barris



George Barris styles himself as King of the Kustomizers
Barris' company often builds replicas of vehicles from other TV series and movies.

Kustoms and Hot Rods

  • Ala Kart
  • Asteroid
  • Blue Danube
  • Bugazzi 74
  • Cosma Ray
  • El Capitola
  • El Parisian
  • Frank Monteleones 56 Ford
  • Fred Rowe's 51 Merc
  • Golden Sahara
  • Hirahota Merc
  • Jesse Lopez Ford
  • Kopper Kart
  • Les Po Po 40 Coupe
  • Lokeys T
  • Modern Grecian
  • Sam's Merc
  • The Emperor
  • The Invader
  • Tom Pollard's 29 Roadster
  • Twister T
  • XR6
  • Zupan Merc

TV and Movie Cars

  • Alvins Corn
  • AMX 400
  • Batmobile
  • Beverly Hill Billies Hot Rod
  • Dream Truck
  • Fireball 500
  • Green Hornet
  • Kargoyle
  • Munster Koach
  • RAT U LA
  • Super Van
  • Surf Woody
  • The Car
  • ZZR
  • Flint Mobile
  • Grease Lightnin
  • K.I.T.T.
  • The Beach Boys' "Little Deuce Coupe"

Novelty Cars


George and his brother Sam were born in Chicago in the 1920s. Due to the deaths of their parents, they moved, as children, to Roseville, California, to live with relatives. Both were good students, interested in drama, music, and design. George was fascinated with model aircraft, and pursued the hobby seriously in his teenage years, winning competitions.

The Barris brothers worked at a restaurant owned by their family, and one day 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, and their career was born. Before George had even graduated from high school, demand for the boys' 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.

Sam entered the Navy during World War II, while George moved to Los Angeles. Sam joined him there after being discharged. The two built their "kustom" designs for private buyers, and George also built and raced his own cars briefly. These activities brought them to the attention of the movie industry, and they were soon asked to create cars both for personal use by the studio executives and stars and as props for films, their first being used in 1958's High School Confidential. They also made the acquaintance of Robert E. Petersen, founder of Hot Rod and Motor Trend magazines and, much later, of the Petersen Automotive Museum. His publications and car shows further publicized the Barris style, George himself writing how-to articles for would be customizers.

In 1951, Sam had customized a new Mercury coupe for himself, and a customer who saw it ordered a similar car. This vehicle, known as the Hirohata Merc for its owner, was shown at the 1952 Motorama auto show and was so popular it overshadowed the best work of Detroit's top designers, on display at the major manufacturer's exhibits. It also established the early 1950s Mercury as possibly the classic base for custom car design, a status it retains today.

Sam decided to leave the business in the '50s, but George had married and he credited his wife Shirley with major assistance in promoting the company, which eventually became Barris Kustom Industries. It began to license its designs to model car manufacturers such as Aurora, AMT and MPC which spread the Barris name into every hobby, department, and discount store in the country and also into the minds of millions of eager model builders.

Auto customizing for television

The 1960s would see the firm become heavily involved in vehicle design for television production. At the beginning of the decade, Barris, who loved extravagant design whether his or someone else's, had purchased the Lincoln Futura, a concept car of 1955 which had been built by Ghia of Italy.The car was sold to George Barris for $1.00 and it remained in his collection for several years, until he was asked by ABC Television to create a signature vehicle for their new Batman television series. ABC and Executive Producer William Dozier had earlier approached car customizer Dean Jeffries to build the Batmobile (which he had planned to do using a 1959 Cadillac), but the time needed to make the necessary alterations proved too great an obstacle. Desperate, they turned to Barris (despite the fact that Barris was known to be expensive and would not sell the car but, instead, only "lease" it on a weekly basis to the production). Remembering the Futura, which had been designed by the original Lincoln stylists to resemble a shark—with a menacing, aggressive front and high tailfins—Barris decided it was a perfect base on which to create the Batmobile. In three weeks the car was ready and the show was immediately a hit, the car becoming one of the most recognizable icons of the 1960s and possibly Barris' most famous work.

According to the 1996 book Barris TV & Movie Cars, other notable Barris creations include The Munster Koach and DRAG-U-LA from The Munsters, the truck seen on The Beverly Hillbillies (a modifed 1921 Oldsmobile), a modified Lincoln Mark III featured in the 1977 film The Car; a modified 1966 Plymouth Barracuda featured in the 1966 film Fireball 500; a Oldsmobile Toronado turned into a roadster for the TV series Mannix; replicas of a 1914 Stutz Bearcat for Bearcats!; the futuristic SuperVan for a film of the same name, and the title character for the much-reviled 1965 NBC comedy My Mother the Car among others. Barris designs have also been featured in commercials and as corporate promotional vehicles including a car with a complete sound system for Vox guitar amplifiers and a drivable roadster in the shape of a V-8 juice can. He also has built many famous novelty vehicles for such famous celebrities ranging from a golf carts for Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Ann-Margret, Glen Campbell and Elton Jon; and twenty-five modified Austin Mini Mokes for a record company contest involving the Beach Boys. He would also modify stock vehicles for Hollywood stars and others, some examples include a Cadillac limousine for Elvis Presley; custom Pontiac station wagons for John Wayne, a set of modified "his & hers" 1966 Ford Mustang convertibles for Sonny and Cher, working with American Motors in 1969, he modified an AMX coupe into the AMX-400 show car which was later used in a 1972 episode of the TV mystery series Banacek, and a Cadillac El Dorado turned into a station wagon for Dean Martin.

Barris' company often builds replicas of vehicles from other TV series, including more cars used in TV and film remakes of Starsky and Hutch (Ford Torino), Power Rangers (Rad-Bug, Turbo Vehicles, and SPD Cars), and designed updated modifications for Knight Rider (The super pursuit and convertible versions of KITT).

George Barris also designed 2 custom Cadillac hearses in Monster Garage.

Later life

Barris still works out of his shop, assisted by his son and daughter. The firm remains busy with 'kustom' creation, charitable functions, and even a Barris clothing line. The founder himself is still in the public eye, receiving awards, appearing at auto-related events, and recently being featured on ABC TV's popular show Extreme Makeover and episodes of The Girls Next Door. Despite a body of work that should stand alone, Barris continues to claim responsibility for several cars he had nothing at all to do with, including the Monkeemobile, and Herbie the Love Bug, and for a price, will sign a declaration of authenticity for almost any noteworthy vehicle.

Rumor, credits, law suit

Contrary to rumor, Barris had nothing to do with the De Lorean time machine from the Back to the Future movie series. There had been such speculation over the years, especially since a couple of De Loreans actually were customized by Barris' workshop. In 2004, Bob Gale, co-writer of the films, went on record at the De Lorean Car Show stating that Barris had no part in the design or construction of the De Lorean in Back to the Future. In May 2007, Universal Studios issued a cease and desist order against Barris for taking credit for the Back to the Future car. "George Barris had absolutely nothing to do with the design or construction of the DeLorean time travel vehicle," said Bob Gale, who was a writer and producer on the film. "The DeLorean was designed on paper by Ron Cobb and Andrew Probert,who also worked on the USS ENTERPRISE for Star Trek the next generation and it was built under the supervision of special effects supervisor Kevin Pike and construction coordinator Michael Scheffe.

Barris has claimed (on his DVD series) to have built, or had a large hand in designing and customising Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters, the Monkeemobile (in truth, designed and built by Dean Jeffries), the Black Beauty (also designed and built by Dean Jeffries) from The Green Hornet, and the 1989 and later movie Batmobiles. Barris Kustoms has, in fact, built replica versions of these cars or purchased the original cars for car shows or display as part of his Star Cars Collection.

Although certain of his cars were not, in fact, designed by Barris (The Munster Koach and Drag-U-La from The Munsters were designed by Tom Daniel and Skeet Kerr working as artists for Barris Kustom Industries) they were supervised by him and commissioned as "works for hire".

External links


Show Cars
Show Cars
Ala Kart



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