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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Did George Barris Fabricate The Curse Of James Dean's Spyder?

If you're not familiar with Regular Car Reviews on YouTube, we recommend starting with their Hunter S. Thompson-esque Porsche Cayman video. It's fantastic. They (two guys that call themselves "Mister Regular" and "The Roman" but won't give their real names) began filming car reviews a few years ago, using the normal used cars belonging to fans rather than brand new cars provided by manufacturers. Recently, they began a series called "RCR Stories" in which they tell some historically significant automotive story in a video podcast sort of format. It's a unique take on the storytelling method, and worth watching when you have the time. This one is a bit on the long side, but Porsche fans or fans of James Dean might appreciate the detail.

Everyone knows the story of James Dean's death. He was a 24 year old loner brooding actor type with a rough past and a mother who died young. Dean had a career on a rocket trajectory, having already been booked in three major motion pictures and nominated for awards. He was also an intensely competitive racing driver, having won a handful of races himself. Of course, his steed of choice was Porsche. By the time he got his famed 550 Spyder "Little Bastard", he'd already had thousands of miles in a 356 Speedster. However, that Spyder wouldn't belong to Dean for more than a couple weeks before it led him to his untimely grave.

We won't spoil the whole story for you, but suffice to say a nasty rumor cropped up after Dean's death that the Spyder was 'cursed'. Allegedly there were dozens of people involved with that car who were killed or injured in its path. If you want to hear the whole story, check out the video below.

Be warned, however, that while the Roman can pronounce posthumous, he has some serious problems with 'Porsche


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Saskatchewan’s Esso 67-X

 Saskatchewan’s Esso 67-X
It was 50 years ago this month — on Thursday, April 27, 1967 (the same day as the official opening of Expo 67 in Montreal) — that the winner of the first Esso 67-X automobile was announced.

Although the winner was in Edmonton, it turned out this 67-X would spend most of its life in Regina.
The 67-X began as an Oldmobile Toronado and was customized by George Barris, best known for creating the Batmobile, the Munster Koach, and dozens of other TV and movie cars. He also built many of the concept cars for Detroit’s Big Three automakers.
“It was a project that I personally enjoyed,” Barris told me when I interviewed him about the 67-X in 2002 (he passed away in 2015 at the age of 89) by phone from his office in California.
The Toronado was the first front-wheel drive car built in North America since the 1937 Cord. The luxurious, stylish and innovative Toronado was named Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year — a great starting point when Barris was hired by Esso to create the 67-X.
“It was not a concept car for glamour or movies or TV, but a family-oriented car,” Barris told me. “That’s why we made it longer, and the car was equipped with all kinds of accessories for a family of five.”
A new section was added to stretch the overall length from 5816 millimetres to 6121 mm. The original sheet metal was removed from the front and back, and replaced with fibreglass panels that gave the 67-X its exotic, futuristic style.
The interior was redone with a wrap-around seat in the back, a cooler and a flip-up table. The front passenger’s seat swivelled around to face the passengers in the back.
This creation fit in perfectly with the theme of the marketing campaign by Esso “family, safety and automotive traveling” because car trips that previously were considered too far, suddenly became popular in the summer of ’67. That’s because many Canadians were making road trips to Montreal to take in Expo 67. For many, it was their first chance to explore other parts of Canada.
With each gas purchase at an Esso station, a customer received a ticket with four pull-up flaps. Some of them revealed instant prizes of cameras or colour TV sets. A chance to win a 67-X came by lifting the fourth tab to reveal a safe driving tip. If a person collected all five safe driving tips, they could enter their name to win a 67-X. Winners of the four cars also were given free gas, oil maintenance and insurance for the first year.
“I remember badgering my dad to buy more gas at Esso so he could get more entries for the contest,” recalls Sean Prpick of Regina, who was nine years old that summer.
“The thing that excited us most was the fact the 67-X was designed and built by man who, with no exaggeration, was insanely popular with kids about my age around the world, George Barris,” he says.
The winner’s name was announced before a huge national TV audience, during intermission of game four of the Stanley Cup finals between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. The Leafs were leading the heavily favoured Canadiens two games to one. (The Leafs went on to lose that game, but took the next two and won the Stanley Cup.)
The name drawn for the first 67-X was Cliff Hackett of Edmonton.
“With its wildly sculptured body-lines, the car sat simmering in the floodlights on a giant low-boy truck. It looked like a $50,000 automobile,” reported the Edmonton Journal. “The car certainly has a wild appearance and a luxury interior. It is also eye catching.”
The Hackett family took several trips in the 67-X, including one trip to Disneyland.
After owning the 67-X for more than a year and travelling 38,000 km, the Hacketts decided to sell the car in the fall of 1968. By then the free gas, oil, maintenance and insurance had expired.
The 67-X was bought by Nick Tarnovesky, who operated a Shell service station on Victoria Avenue East in Regina and bought and sold cars.
One evening he drove the 67-X over to a neighbor’s place, Ray Korpus, who happened to be an antique car buff. After thinking about it overnight, Korpus bought the 67-X.
Most of the time the 67-X was kept it in storage, although it was often taken out and displayed at car shows in Regina. At one custom car show in Regina in 1985, George Barris came to town, along with the Batmobile. The Korpus family’s 67-X was also on display.
“The sleek, gold-tone auto was an eyecatcher at the World of Wheels show in the Agribition Building held on the weekend,” the Leader-Post reported.
Their oldest son, Roman, a preschooler when his parents bought the 67-X, fondly remembers going for rides in the car.   
When other kids would ask him about this unusual car, he would tell them it was created by George Barris, the man who had built the Batmobile.
After being in Regina from 1968 to about 2005, this 67-X headed south.
Roman Korpus — who lives in Houston, Texas — acquired the 67-X and transported it from Regina to Houston. It hasn’t been driven much since then. It’s stored in a warehouse and waiting to be brought back to its original beauty.
“Mechanically everything is sound, except the carburetor. It needs to be rebuilt. It’s still got the original tires on it,” he says.
After this first 67-X was awarded in April 1967, a lot of Canadians continued to enter their names in hopes of winning one of the three other 67-X cars that would be handed out during the summer of ’67.  
“Dad did his best, but we never won my dream machine — although several other regular Canadians did,” reflects Sean Prpick.
The other winners were in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. But the first 67-X that went to Alberta 50 years ago ended up spending most of its life in Regina — and remains in the Korpus family 49 years after it was bought by Ray Korpus.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mulholland Speedster Wins Sacramento Autorama

Mulholland Speedster Wins Sacramento Autorama

The Sacramento Autorama celebrated its 67th year and handed out over 400 individual awards during its closing ceremony on Sunday, February 19, 2017 at the Cal Expo Fairgrounds in California.
The most prestigious of these awards were the Custom d’Elegance which was awarded to the ‘Mulholland Speedster’ built by Hollywood Hot Rods, the King of Kustoms award which went to John D’Agostino, and the H.A Bagdasarian World’s Most Beautiful Custom award which was presented to the ‘Mulholland Speedster’ built by Hollywood Hot Rods.
The Sacramento Autorama 2017 did not disappoint fans, with over 650 custom vehicles on display for the 35,000 people in attendance. The cars in attendance were the best in their categories which included everything from radical customs to motorcycles, trucks, hot rods, muscle cars, and street machines. At the end of the weekend, the best of the best were recognized with one of the Sacramento Autorama trophies.
The most coveted award of the Sacramento Autorama was the Custom d’Elegance which was given to the best chopped, channeled and sectioned vehicle from 1935-1948 that embodied the true spirit of a classic custom. This year, Troy Ladd of Hollywood Hotrods beat out the other five contenders earning his spot customizers like Gene Winfield, Joe Bailon, George Barris, and John D’Agostino on the perpetual plaque as well as $2,000 in prize money. Troy Ladd’s car, a 1936 Packard called the ‘Mulholland Speedster’ and owned by Bruce Wanta, is now also the only vehicle in history to win both the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster and Custom d’Elegance titles.

Catching up on Barris’s 67-X

Catching up on Barris’s 67-X


As part of the Canadian centennial celebration, Expo 67 in Montreal, oil and gas producer and retailer Esso commissioned George Barris to create a futuristic vehicle. Barris used an Oldsmobile Toronado as his canvas for the 67-X.
Four such cars were produced, and after Expo 67 they were given away in a contest. The only one known to have survived is on display through March 12 at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, British Columbia, as part of a celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday.
“I think the 67-X is an important part of Canadian history,” car collector and 67-X owner Trevor Welfen told the Canadian website, Welfen, founder of the Great Canadian Oil Change stores, acquired the 67-X in 2011.
Barris started with the Toronado, which was Motor Trend’s car of the year, stretched its chassis, created fiberglass bodywork for the front and rear of the car, added disc brakes, and inside installed swivel seats, a writing table, picnic cooler, a pair of tape decks, two radios and headphone jacks so children or other passengers could listen separately.
While on the subject of museums, the Branson Tri Lakes News reports that new management is in place at Branson’s Auto & Farm Museum in Branson, Missouri, following the death last year of museum owner and collector Maurice Wilder.
“We’re going to take the legacy of Maurice Wilder, and make it bigger,” sales manager Rod Glaze is quoted. “That’s our charge, to make this place work and become a part of this great community.”
Launched as the Branson Auto Museum in 2009, the museum was rebuilt after being destroyed in the “Leap Day Tornado” in 2012, the News reported. Wilder rebuilt an expanded, 90,000-square-foot museum that included not only collector cars but farm equipment. The News notes that Wilder was the country’s largest “single independent corn farmer.”
“We usually have around 3,000 museum-quality pieces. That’s usually around 140 cars and around 160 tractors and other pieces of farm equipment,” said Glaze.

1956 Olds-based original Batmobile

Vicari reports that the car was sanctioned by a DC Comics licensee — All Star Dairies/Green Acres — and was built in the Robinson family barn in New England. It was completed two years before George Barris and his team created the first Batmobile for the television series.
“Although many people associated the Batmobile with the cars seen in the recent Batman movies or the late ‘60s Batman TV show, Robinson’s earlier car is instantly recognizable as ‘more authentic’ by comic-book lovers,” Vicari said in its news release.

Vintage photo shows Batman and Dairy emblems
Vintage photo shows Batman and Dairy emblems

“It has features seen in DC’s Batman Comics from the 1940s and ’50s, including the prominent front-end bat-nose and rear-end single fin.”
The car was built on the chassis of a ’56 Olds 88, retaining the 324 Rocket engine but replacing the sheet metal with a fiberglass body. Robinson, who was in the U.S. Army, was stationed overseas before the car could get more than a white primer coat and before he could complete its glass-dome roof.
Robinson finished the car after returning to the U.S. in 1966, and the vehicle toured on behalf of All Star Dairies and its Green Acres Ice Cream brand, believed to be the first licensee sanctioned by DC Comics. The car toured in the eastern U.S. until late 1966, when the Barris-built TV car became available.
After the car was returned to Robinson, Vicari said, he painted it a space-age silver color and drove the car until selling it in 1967.
Eventually, the custom Batmobile was abandoned in a field in New Hampshire until it was discovered in 2008 by Bobby Smith of Swanzey, New Hampshire. The car then went through several owners before being acquired by the Toy Car Exchange LLC in 2013.
The Toy Car Exchange had the car restored by Mario Borbon of Borbon Fabrications in Sacramento, where it was unveiled at the 2014 Sacramento Autorama, winning the hand-built sports class. It also was displayed in October 2014, alongside three other Batmobiles at the Pasadena Classic Car Show.
The car sold at auction in December 2014 and will be offered again this fall at Vicari’s Biloxi Auction. In the meantime, the car will be displayed at the Vicari auctions held May 4-6 at Nocona, Texas, and July 8 at New Orleans.

Celebrating the Sesquicentennial with a rare 67-X Centennial car

Rare 67-X Centennial car

Esso gave out four Oldsmobile Toronados customized by George Barris in 1967; now, one will be on display in Victoria

One of the rarest cars in Canada — created for the Centennial in 1967 — is being put on a rare public showing at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria this week to help celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.
The car is an Esso 67-X — one of four that were created by legendary Hollywood car customizer George Barris, who also built the Batmobile and dozens of other cars for TV shows and movies.
This is one of only three 67-Xs that are known to still exist. Trevor Weflen of Victoria bought this car on eBay in 2011 from a car dealership in St. Louis, Missouri.
“I think the 67-X is an important part of Canadian history,” Weflen says. “They were built just for Canada and caused quite a sensation when they came out.”
This particular 67-X was won by Walter Scales of Okanagan Landing, B.C. It was later owned by Frank Baker of Vancouver, who put it on display in front of his Attic restaurant for most of the 1970s. It’s believed it then had a few owners in the U.S., until appearing on eBay.
Imperial Oil in Canada hired Barris to create what would be considered the ultimate family travel vehicle. During the Centennial year, Canada hosted the world’s fair, Expo 67 in Montreal, and many Canadians took to the roads to travel there. Esso stations gave away instant prize cards for colour TVs and cameras, and by collecting five different safety tips on contest cards, customers could enter their name in a draw for one of the four 67-X cars.
“This vehicle is a flashback memory of Canada’s 100th birthday, half a century ago,” explains Lorne Hammond, Curator of Human History at the Royal BC Museum.
“We are a provincial museum but we are also proudly part of Canada’s story. This is just one of several tributes connecting our province with events across Canada in 1967 and today in 2017,” Hammond adds.
The 67-X will be on display at the Royal BC Museum from Feb. 14 to March 13.
To create the 67-X, George Barris took a new Oldsmobile Toronado — Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year in 1966 — cut it in half, and added in a new section that stretched the wheelbase from 3,022 millimetres to 3,403 mm. The overall length was increased from 5,816 mm to 6,121 mm.
The original sheet metal was removed from the front and back, and fibreglass panels were added to give the 67-X its distinctive style. Interior features included a front passenger seat that could be swiveled around to face the back seat, a built-in cooler, two radios with headphones and a pop-up table in the rear passenger compartment.
Barris built these four cars for Esso dealers to give away as prizes during the Centennial summer of 1967. The prize also included free gas, oil, repairs and insurance for one year. 
Weflen remembers when the 67-X came out. “I was in the Air Force in Winnipeg. I remember seeing the brochures and the ads, and thought: ‘Man, that would be nice.’ ”
After eight years in the military, he returned to his home in Saskatoon and opened a custom car shop. He later got into the discount gas business, and then launched the Great Canadian Oil Change, which now has more than 70 locations.
But he couldn’t forget about the 67-X.
“I always thought they were a neat car. I had never seen a real one, but always in the back of my mind I thought it would be a nice car to have. I always wondered: ‘where did those cars go?’ and ‘why don’t we ever hear anything about them?’ Then I found this car.”
Weflen was looking for something to add to his car collection, which includes a 1934 Dodge, a 1956 Ford half-ton truck, a 1958 Edsel Bermuda station wagon, a 1967 Jaguar Mark II and a 1960 Dodge Polara D-500.
Weflen says his 67-X gets more attention than any of his other vehicles because it’s so rare.
“People always want to know what it is. There have been more than a few times when I’ve been driving and somebody will roll their window down and shout ‘What kind of car is it?’ ”
Very often car collectors want their treasures hidden away from public view — but Weflen is pleased to show off his 67-X at the Royal BC Museum.
“This way people get to see it. I think people will find the 67-X very interesting — and its role in Canadian history. It was built to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday and now that we’re at the 150th, here’s something to show that was done just for Canada,” he says. 
And the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria is very pleased to display the 67-X in its main foyer during the early part of Canada’s Sesquicentennial year. As Hammond says, “The idea of ‘win this car and explore Canada’ is an idea I love. It’s a wild, innovative machine if you love automobile design, and it is also the intangible idea that four Canadians hoped to win and did win one of these cars. It’s simply a fun way to enjoy our Canadian story looking back to 1967, to today and to the idea of what will the future bring.”

Friday, January 22, 2016

Encino Condo of Batmobile Creator George Barris for Sale

Encino Condo of Batmobile Creator George Barris for Sale:

"The condo belonging to George Barris, the late custom car whiz who designed one-of-a-kind cars for film and television, including the 1966 Batmobile and the Munster Koach, is on the market for $599,000
 The condo, which is in Encino, CA, was the secondary residence of Barris and his wife, Shirley, for over 25 years. The couple bought it in 1988 to be closer to Barris’ business, Barris Kustom Industries, according to listing agent George Ghiz of Sotheby’s International Realty. “George was still involved in creating cars for television and movies, and they wanted the pied-à-terre close to George’s studio” in Universal City, CA, Ghiz says.
Barris died in November at the age of 89. The 1,837-square-foot condo features two fireplaces, a walk-in closet, an eat-in kitchen, and mirrored walls in the living room and dining area.
It features a large desert mural in the breakfast nook and has two bedrooms and two bathrooms.
The condo complex boasts a number of amenities, including a swimming pool, spa, dual tennis courts, and waterfalls on the grounds."

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