► A tribute to ‘Kustom king’ George Barris
► Creator of iconic custom car screen stars
► Batmobile, KITT and hot rods galore
Hollywood’s ‘King of the Kustomizers’ George Barris has passed away, aged 89 leaving a legacy of outlandish creations for TV, film and a host of private customers, including Elvis, Frank Sinatra and John Wayne. Here’s 10 of his most iconic creations for the screen, and the street.
1) The Batmobile
Barris’s Batmobile, Adam West’s wheels in the 1966-68 TV series, began life as the Lincoln Futura concept car. Designed by Ford and built by Ghia in the mid-1950s at a reputed cost of $250,000, bargain-hunting Barris later acquired the car for the nominal sum of a single dollar. When Batman’s producers came calling for a car at short notice, a whirlwind 15 days later the Futura had become the Batmobile. It remained in Barris’s own collection until 2013, when it sold at auction for a tidy $4.6m. Kapow!
2) KITT from Knight Rider
Barris also had a hand in the creation of the Hoff-hassling Knight Industries Two Thousand. With autonomous driving ability and voice recognition tech that actually worked, this Pontiac Trans Am was a car truly ahead of its time…
3) The Munster Koach from The Munsters
Two Halloween-themed hot rods were built for the 1960s sitcom – the Munsters Koach, built on a lengthened Ford Model T chassis (background, above) and the ‘DRAG-U-LA’ (in the foreground), a low-line dragster reputedly built around a real coffin.
4) The Beverly Hillbillies’ truck
The unfeasibly popular 1960s fish-out-of-water sitcom needed an authentically down-at-heel redneckmobile for the Clampetts to tool around in. Step forward Barris and his crew, and a rusticana contraption that began life as a 1921 Oldsmobile truck.
5) L’il Red Wrecker
Created for actor and comedian Redd Foxx, this tilt-cabbed custom combined insane proportions with a supercharged 392 cubic-inch Chrysler engine. Equal parts spectacular, confusing and terrifying.
The popsters’ mutated Pontiac GTO was created by designer Dean Jeffries, although Barris went on to buy and tour one of the two original show cars extensively, and created a further replica.
7) Ala Kart
Twice winner of the ‘America’s Most Beautiful Roadster Trophy’, the Ala Kart was an oddly alluring mashup of Model T Ford, flathead pickup truck and Chevy Impala.
A promo vehicle for the Vox amplifier and guitar company, the Voxmobile doubles as a giant amplifier, and carries an on-board electric organ. Naturally.
9) Black Beauty from The Green Hornet
Another Dean Jeffries creation, the Chrysler Imperial from the original TV show starring Bruce Lee boasted a feast of Q-branch-style gadgetry by Barris and his team, including concealed guns, headlamp flaps, an electric trap door – and rocket launchers.
10) Hirohata Merc
A spectacular privately commissioned project, the Merc bit stands for Mercury Club Coupe (it’s definitely not a Mercedes). Chopped top, hand-formed body panels and unique light treatment, it’s one of Barris’s most celebrated customs.