RIP George Barris :(

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by renovation, Nov 5, 2015.

  1. renovation

    renovation Member

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    by a lake in Michigan ,usa
    George Barris Dead At 89 – Career Marked With Notable Vehicles – First Batmobile.
    George Barris, the creator of the first Batmobile, the Munster Koach, KITT, and hundreds of other custom cars over the course of a career than spanned the back half of the twentieth century and into the 21st, has died at the age of 89 years. Never bashful, never afraid to self-promote, and on occasion never concerned with clarifying a car’s origins or original builder, Barris has certainly had his fare share of fame and perhaps some infamy over the years. He began operating a shop in California during the 1940s and along with his brother Sam they quickly gained a reputation as metal working masters who could make cars look cool and different in ways that had rarely been experimented with before by hot rodders.

    According to the Barris website, George and Sam Barris had the only “custom” car in the very first car show that Hot Rod Magazine ever put on. This garnered him some exposure and few understood the value of promotion better than Barris. He began having his cars professional photographed, he would later write for the magazines and feature his cars, others, and also write tech and how-to stories explaining some of the techniques he and sam wee using at that time. The Barris Brothers Custom Shop in Compton was a heck of a place to be at this point but true fame was right around the corner.

    Sam Barris bought a late 1940s/early 1950s Mercury and started to customize the car in such a way that it caught the attention of a guy named Bob Hirohata who brought his own 1951 to the shop and essentially threw George and Sam the keys, telling them to give it the full treatment. The result was one of the most singularly iconic cars of all time. The work was done by Sam Barris but coming out of the joint shop we’re sure George had at least a little hand in on the action.

    Outside of actually building cars, Barris was a relentless promoter. He started clubs and organizations like Kustoms of America that were designed to get people out in their cars and also designed to make Barris some cash. Nothing wrong with that! It was during the late 1950s when the profile of George Barris exploded. He was traveling the country preaching the “King of the Kustomizers” gospel and showing off his cars. He gained lots of notoriety by the sheer amount of traveling he did, traversing the country and going car show to car show. The man understood the idea of building a “brand” more than virtually anyone else of his era.

    The construction of the famed “Ala Kart” truck launched him into the stratosphere. Built in 1957 this 1929 Model A truck became insanely famous, was made into model kits, and won the AMBR trophy TWICE in a row in 1958 and 1959. Never one to shy from the cameras of pressures of Hollywood it was also about this time that Barris starting supplying cars for TV and movies. We know about the original Batmobile, we know about KITT, but we were surprised that he did the Jed Clampett car. Some would argue that he peaked there but we’re not here to have that fight. Now is not the time for debate but for remembering.

    The roster of people that worked for this guy during the years is incredible (this list from the Barris website): Bill Hines, Lloyd Bakan, Dick Dean, Dean Jeffries, Von Dutch, Larry Watson, Hershel “Junior” Conway, John and Ralph Manok, Bill De Carr, Richard Korkes, Frank Sonzogni, “Jocko” Johnson, Lyle Lake, Curley Hurlbert, “Gordo”, and even Tom McMullen.

    The debate will rage about his tastes, designs, and canon of work but it cannot be denied that this was a guy who had a major influence on the automotive world and got there from very humble beginnings. It also cannot be denied that he was a dad, a brother, a grandfather, a husband, and there are lots of people very saddened at his passing today.

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