Saturday, November 24, 2007

George Barris

Over the years of going to car shows with my father, I've seen a few of the "great" car designers. Most notable were Gene Winfield and George Barris. Thought I would post a tribute to George Barris so...I did a little surfin' on the 'net and found a nice bio. I also found a nice photo of Barris, and a few photos of some of his creations. Enjoy...
Batman, Herman Munster, The Green Hornet - now that's a list any car builder would love to design for. After all, the outrageous rides would have to be every bit as famous as the character behind the wheel. Fittingly, the creator of these vehicles is a legendary character in his own right: George Barris, the “King of Kustomizers”, a man who's probably put more flashy bodies on the screen than most Hollywood producers.

George was born in Chicago in the mid-twenties. In 1928, after his parents died, he and his older brother Sam moved to Roseville, California to live with relatives. Both were excellent students and were, like many young men of the time, CAR CRAZY. The chance to indulge their car passion came in the form of a 1925 Buick in need of repair, given to them by the family in exchange for work the brothers had done at their restaurant. It needed a lot of attention, and before long the brothers' creative urges took hold. Determined to transform the old Buick into something distinctive, they straightened the body, added bolt-on accessories and, as a finishing touch, George hand-painted the car orange and added blue stripes. Thus, this Buick became the first “Barris Brothers” custom car.

In their teenage years, the brothers' interest in cars intensified as they learned the “black art” of body work by frequenting local body shops after school. George's knack for car design and customization soon brought him to Hollywood, where he created the renowned Hirohata Merc (named for owner Bob Hirohata)-a car that became one of the most renowned customizations of the classic era. Besides stealing the show at the 1952 Motorama, the Hirohata was featured in Rod and Custom magazine, and in the 1955 motion picture “Running Wild”.

Over the past five decades, George Barris has created some of popular culture's most memorable automotive icons, including the Batmobile, Munster Koach and Black Beauty. What's more, the list of Barris' apprentices reads like a Who's Who of customizers. Dean Jeffries, Von Dutch, Bill Hines and Larry Watson all worked alongside George Barris before achieving their own well-deserved fame.

Now in his 80s, George Barris continues to draw original Kustoms and hot rods at his North Hollywood shop. In 2005, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the San Fernando Valley International Film Festival; in June 2006, he received what is perhaps the ultimate Hollywood honor as the exclusive Friars of Beverly Hills held a George Barris Tribute to celebrate his remarkable life and achievements.
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