Appreciation: George Barris, the king of ‘kustomizers’

6 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Appreciation: George Barris, the king of ‘kustomizers’.

Barris’ eyes flicker over each fragment as he rearranges the parts of a normal-looking pickup truck and transforms it into the lunatic hot rod vision he has bouncing around in his head. A legend is lost. , the man who designed TV’s iconic 1966 Batmobile for the Batman TV series, died on Thursday, Nov. 5, according to a Facebook post penned by his son, Brett Barris.

LOS ANGELES (CBS13/AP) – George Barris, who created television’s original Batmobile, along with scores of other beautifully customized, instantly recognizable vehicles that helped define California car culture, has died at age 89.“Sorry to have to post that my father, legendary kustom car king George Barris, has moved to the bigger garage in the sky,” his son wrote. “He passed on peacefully in his sleep at 2:45 am. Two of the most famous were the Batmobile, created for the iconic 1960s TV show, and The Munster’s Koach, built for the television show “The Munsters.” How else to explain how a poor Greek-American from the small Northern California town of Roseville morphed into Hollywood’s self-professed King of Kustomizers.

He would want everyone celebrate the passion he had for life and for what he created for all to enjoy.” As a custom car designer, Barris was among the best, designing scores of iconic cars for scores of movies and TV shows, such as K.I.T.T deom Knight Rider, the jalopy from The Beverly Hillbillies, the coach from The Munsters, the transformed DeLorean from Back to the Future, the stretch dune buggy in The Monkees, and even the General Lee on The Dukes of Hazzard. He lived his life they way he wanted til the end.” Along with designing the Batmobile driven in the ’60s “Batman” TV show, Barris also designed the Green Hornet’s car, the “Beverly Hillbillies” jalopy, the Munster Koach and K.I.T.T. from “Knight Rider.” The car customizer’s first shop was Barris Kustom Shop located on Imperial Highway in Bell, Calif. Buckle up: The Beverly Hillbillies’ jalopy, The Munsters’ hearse-like ride, David Hasselfhoff’s pre-Tesla self-driving car, K.I.T.T, and, of course the one and only Batmobile.

Barris has worked this way — using scissors and glue — for the last 70 years, taking ordinary vehicles and mutating them into hell-for-leather roadsters. Lozzi said Barris was contacted in 2002 by NASA, which wanted to examine one of his cars designed for a sci-fi film he worked on, The Moonwalker. “NASA studied it to improve the (future) manned Martian vehicles,” Lozzi said.

When he recalled how he’d come up with the Batmobile – a machine at the root of my car-crazed nature, a four-wheeled, gas-fueled ode to speed and power – he made it almost seem like an afterthought. Barris will hold court this week in Las Vegas, where about 125,000 hot rodders and auto enthusiasts are expected to gather for an annual after-market car trade show.

This was not a car guy who cared about winning shiny trophies at august collector gatherings such as the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where the wrong engine sticker will find you penalized. No, Barris was all about the show, a man who, along with his brother Sam, added a bit of sparkle to a post-World War II Southern California racing car scene that was mainly about the go.

Writer Tom Wolfe captured Barris’ outrageous vibe brilliantly in The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, describing what in essence was one man’s successful effort to further turbo-charge the far-out ‘60s. By the time he was 7 years old, he was piecing together balsa wood car models, changing the way they’d look, maybe with a dash of paint or a modification to the body. When I asked Jay Leno about Barris for that profile, which marked one of a few occasions Barris put some of his quirky cars up for sale, the comedian painted a picture familiar to many other shivering East Coast teens a half-century back. “I’d be freezing my butt off back (in Boston) and open up a hot rod magazine and see these wild, flake-painted cars with girls in bikinis in them and, man, George was my hero,” he said with a laugh. “George brought hot-rodding into the mainstream …and he made you smile.” Barris did as much for me on that sunny day in L.A., regaling me with stories about how he once over-tinted Frank Sinatra’s windows and helped tweak actor James Dean’s Porsche.

Just last spring, Barris appeared at his 10th annual hot rod fest in Culver City, replete with “hot rod girls” and countless car fanatics who continue to share in the powerful ritual of personalizing transportation. You should have seen the look on his face when he saw mine — I had the same thing, only with electric buttons.” His work caught the attention of Robert E.

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