George Barris, creator of TV’s original Batmobile, has died

8 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Batmobile designer ‘just a crazy car guy’.

The “Kustom City” of 1960s North Hollywood housed a veritable gallery of cars, from Studebakers with restyled hoods to a car without a single straight line. LOS ANGELES (AFP) – George Barris, the man who designed and built the black, fire-spitting vehicle made famous in the 1960s “Batman” television series, has died in Los Angeles, his son Brett announced on Facebook. “Sorry to have to post that my father, legendary kustom car king George Barris, has moved to the bigger garage in the sky,” the Facebook posting said.NEW YORK • George Barris – a pioneer car customiser immortalised in Tom Wolfe’s famous essay The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, and the designer of the Batmobile Munster Koach and other speciality cars for TV and film – died on Thursday at his home in Encino, California.

WARSAW, Poland – A leading media advocate has welcomed Hungary’s decision to abandon a plan to plant spies in newsrooms but said she remains disturbed that Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government would even contemplate the “Orwellian” idea.Following a social media campaign that gained the name #ForceForDaniel, Daniel Fleetwood — a 32-year-old man given two months to live in July after being diagnosed with spindle cell sarcoma — was able to watch an unfinished cut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. They were all created and conceived by the era’s undisputed king of automobile customization: a spry Greek American man who liked to replace his C’s with K’s.

The veteran of the body shops of Sacramento and Los Angeles was a towering figure in the Southern California subculture of customisers and hot-rodders, known both for the sophistication of his design work and his flair for self-promotion. Hungary’s Interior Ministry was preparing an amendment to a security law that could have forced media to add secret agents from national security services to their staffs. The campaign, launched on Twitter by his wife, Ashley, last month, recently had gained the attention of stars from the movie, with both Mark Hamill and John Boyega retweeting pleas to Disney, Lucasfilm and director J.J. He created his own line of outre paints, called Kandy Colors, to impart lustre and depth to vehicles that became, in effect, rolling works of street art. But George Barris knew, ruled and in many ways defined that culture better than almost anyone else, starting with the first uses of the idiosyncratic letter K.

In his baroque phase, he designed a slew of special-order cars for television, most famously transforming a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, in three weeks, into the finned Batmobile for the 1960s series Batman. Dunja Mijatovic, media freedom representative for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said leaving journalists out of the law is a “good decision.” “Just the idea of having secret agents present in a newsroom is something that I find outrageously dangerous,” she told The Associated Press by phone from Vienna. “It’s an Orwellian practice.” “It leaves a bitter taste.

The Barris brothers’ creations reached a national audience through car shows and magazines, and model kits sold by companies like Revell, Aurora and AMT. The ministry proposal originally included the media in a long list of institutions and companies — including energy, postal and weapons firms — that would employ secret agents who are qualified for “cover” jobs if required by the government. The brothers extended the front and rear fenders, removed the chrome trim, lowered the roof, dropped the chassis to within a few inches of the ground and painted the car an arresting sea-foam green with dark green panels. The Hungarian Publishers’ Association, which represents more than 40 of Hungary’s largest media companies, protested Wednesday and said that it would “harshly interfere with and damage” media freedom and would facilitate censorship. Ala Kart, a customised 1929 Ford pickup, won the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster trophy at the Oakland Roadster Show (now the Grand National Roadster Show) in 1958 and 1959.

Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs later said that while it was “unavoidable for reasons of national security” that secret agents work, for example, at mobile phone service providers, it was a misunderstanding that the law would also apply to the media. Before long, the innovations of customisers such as Barris began finding their way into the new breed of muscle cars, a development that spelt the end of the golden age of customising. In 1958, a year after Sam moved back to Sacramento for a quieter life with his young family, Barris married Shirley Ann Nahas, who helped manage his business until she died in 2001. His celebrity projects also included Elvis Presley’s 1960 Cadillac Fleetwood (with a gold-plated record player, drinks cabinet and shoe buffer inside), a gold Rolls-Royce for Zsa Zsa Gabor and a caricature golf cart, with ski-jump nose, for Bob Hope.

After the Hirohata Merc made an appearance in the 1955 film Running Wild, with Mamie Van Doren, Barris built two duplicate chopped and channelled 1948 Chevy stunt cars for the drag-racing scene in High School Confidential, and the chopped Mercury that James Dean drove in Rebel Without A Cause. Two 1953 Lincoln taillights were “Frenched,” or smoothed into the contours of the fender, and a new grille was fashioned from three 1951 Ford grilles. Kustom lore tells of a 7-year-old who made model cars and airplanes out of balsa wood; a 9-year-old who won prizes for construction and design; a 13-year-old who used knobs from his aunt’s dresser to customize the grille of his first car.

In the early 1960s, Ford hired Barris to customize production cars for two traveling exhibitions, Ford’s Custom Car Caravan and Lincoln/Mercury’s Caravan of Stars. Barris became ensconced with the hot-rod crowd, groups of young men who met in drive-ins and showed off their custom cars by revving their loud engines and driving at illegally high speeds. According to Wolfe, he developed fixtures such as “tailfins, bubbletops,” concealed headlights and the long-slung body that major manufacturers in Detroit replicated years later. “The Barris Brothers didn’t merely improve the looks of the original or ‘individualize’ it with bolt-on accessories as is done today,” Jack Dewitt wrote in a 2009 issue of American Poetry Review. “They reimagined it, redesigned it and rebuilt it so that it embodied a culture, a California car culture’s idea of what it meant to be completely cool.” In the mid-1960s, Mr. Barris received a call that led to his most momentous gig: The producers of the “Batman” television show needed a heroic ride for the superhero’s battles with the Joker. “I saw the script and it said, ‘Bang,’ ‘Pow,’ ‘Boom,’ ” Mr. Black with red pinstripes, the sleek Batmobile was outfitted with “bulletproof” plexiglass bubble windshields and 450-watt “Bat Ray” laser beams.

In 2013, the Batmobile, which he had owned through the years, sold for $4.62 million at the annual Barrett-Jackson auto auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Look, I’m just a crazy car guy, and I’m proud of it,” Barris told USA Today in 2005. “My love for this nutty stuff keeps me coming in the office every day, 8 o’clock sharp.” He admitted to The Washington Post’s Marc Fisher in September that car culture isn’t what it used to be. “The car isn’t how the stars express their personality,” he said. “Can you even think of a TV show now that has cars doing things or being fun characters?

Speaking with the New York Times in 2010, he shared his plans to orchestrate a car chase for a new movie and to experiment with designs for an electric car. “That’s what I always liked to do,” he said. “Work on cars.

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