The Works of George Barris: Remembering a Man Every Auto Body Technician Aspires to Become
November 18, 2015
Legendary custom car builder George Barris recently passed away at the age of 89. Barris produced some of the most iconic vehicles seen on television and the silver screen throughout his long career, and his work won’t soon be forgotten.
Born in Chicago in 1925, George Barris moved to California as a young child. He built his first full custom from a 1936 Ford convertible with his brother Sam, who later became his business partner. After WWII, Barris moved to Los Angeles, where he and his brother opened Barris Kustom Industries.
It didn’t take long for Hollywood to take notice of Barris’ growing popularity, and he began to get offers for movie assignments. Some of the first movies featuring his custom cars included; Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, 1958’s High School Confidential and The Time Machine in 1960.
Whether or not you’re familiar with the name George Barris, you can probably recognize his work. If you’re planning to start an auto body career, read on to discover some of the most inspiring cars that Barris produced throughout his career.
The Original Batmobile: The Story Every Aspiring Auto Body Technician Should Know
In 1960, Barris was contacted by the ABC television to create a vehicle for the network’s new Batman TV series. Filming for the show was set to begin just a few weeks later, which left Barris without enough time to come up with a new design from scratch.
Instead, Baris decided to work with a mid-1950’s Lincoln Futura concept car that he had bought several years before. He was able to turn this car into the original Batmobile within three weeks. If you’re pursuing a career in auto body repair, then you know that stripping a car down to its frame and refitting it with a fully-customized body kit in just three weeks time is very impressive.
The Batmobile took Barris’ popularity up a few notches. The Batman TV series quickly became a hit, and Barris maintained ownership of the original Batmobile until 2013, when it was sold in auction for $4.6 million.
Auto Body Technician Students Might Recognize Barris’ “Munster Koach”
The Batmobile wasn’t the only car Barris put together on such short notice. In 1964, NBC turned to Barris Kustom Industries for a signature car to use in its series, The Munsters. Once again, Barris only had three weeks before filming began for the television show. Barris customized a Ford Model T, transforming into Herman and Lily Munster’s 18-foot-long ride: The Munster Koach.
Any professional auto body technician would be impressed to learn that Barris did all of the work on the Munster’s car—from the red velvet interior to the exterior scrollwork—by hand. Barris’ company also built Grandpa Munster’s famous racer: The Drag-U-La.
Check out the Munster Koach and Drag-U-La in a clip from the original TV series here:
Other Iconic Cars Customized By George Barris
Other popular television cars built by Barris Kustom Industries include a 1921 Oldsmobile touring car turned into a truck for The Beverly Hillbillies, and later models of KITT—the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from the 1980’s smash-hit series Knightrider.
Barris also built many vehicles for celebrities during his career. He built custom golf carts for the likes of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Ann-Margret, Glen Campbell, and Elton John. In addition, he also customized a Cadillac limousine for Elvis Presley, Pontiac station wagons for John Wayne, a Cadillac Eldorado for Dean Martin, as well as a pair of “his & hers” 1966 Ford Mustang convertibles for Sonny and Cher.
There’s no doubt that George Barris will be missed by many, and his work will be recognized for years to come.
Watch an interview where George Barris talks about his life, his career, and some of his favorite custom cars here:
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