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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Legendary Kustom Car King George Barris, Has Moved to the Bigger Garage in the Sky

His son, Brett Barris wrote 

"Sorry to have to post that my father, legendary kustom car king George Barris, has moved to the bigger garage in the sky. He passed on peacefully in his sleep at 2:45 am. He was surrounded by his family in the comfort of his home. He lived his life they way he wanted til the end. He would want everyone celebrate the passion he had for life and for what he created for all to enjoy. Thank you all for the posts and calls, your love is deeply appreciated. Peace."

My good friend Mike Zarnock sums it all up so well. We lost a great, kind man today.

"A very sad day for the world of anyone who loves cars.... Ladies and Gentleman, George Barris has left the building..... Growing up in the 1960’s there wasn’t anyone who didn’t know of the Batmobile, Munster Koach or Dragula. Yes, there were many other cars that George did, but these three were iconic to my childhood. I would watch them while lying on my living room floor on our big black & white TV set and dreamed of what it would be like to see those cars in person. Well, fifty years later, I got the chance to interview George which was a dream come true. I got to ask him all of the questions that I’ve always wanted to know the answers to. I also got to do something that I never imagined would ever happen, I got to sit in both the Batmobile and the Munster Koach. George himself showed me all the gadgets and how they worked and told me how he built them at the time. He also showed me his toy car collection! We became friends that day and have been ever since! To get a letter in the mail or Christmas card from him, let alone be able to call him and talk is something that I just cannot describe, or how about sitting next to him at an autograph session and just chatting while we sign together. It is such an honor to call him friend and I will miss all those times he would tell me about the days when the studios would call him and want a car built around a TV premise in two weeks! My heart goes out to his son Brett, daughter Joji, her husband Barry, their son Jared and Tony Wood who George thought of as a son. May God Bless you George Barris and may your work continue to influence those of us who love the automobile.... You will be greatly missed!"

I am gonna miss you, buddy

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Retrospective The Customs Of Sam Barris

A great story by Mike Garrett that appeared on the SpeedHunters site back in 2010

If you hear the name "Barris", you'll likely picture the wild Hollywood customs built by George Barris – cars like the original Batmobile, and Drag-u-la from the Munsters TV show. Although not as well-known as his younger brother, Sam Barris made perhaps an even bigger contribution to the history of custom car building, pioneering the art of the chop top, among other things.

Sam shared his brother's love for building cars but was a bit more of the quiet type in comparison to George's bold nature. Before the second world war, the two brothers customized a hand-me-down '25 Buick that turned out to be the first of many Barris customs. After the war, the Barris brothers reunited and came up with the idea of opening a shop in Los Angeles. The Barris Kustom Shop was born.

One of Sam's first personal projects was this 1940 Mercury that he built in the late '40s. The car was shaved, chopped, and featured a removable Carson top.

While by today's standards the car looks like a lot of traditional customs, you have to remember all this was done in the late 1940's. I imagine was quite a sight to see the car on the streets of Los Angeles back then, as Sam used it as a daily driver.

After selling the '40, Sam went and bought a brand new 1949 Mercury with the idea of making into a chopped custom. Chopping was a new thing at this time, so it took a lot of planning before the car was cut up. When completed, the car would be one of, if not the world's first chopped Merc. With four inches removed from the top, the seats had to be bolted to the floor in order to give enough headroom.

Besides the groundbreaking roof chop, the '49 also had fadeaway rear fenders, molded front fenders, a custom front grill, one-off taillights, and side trim from a '48 Buick. The car was coated in dark green, with a green and white interior.

After exchanging owners a few times, the Merc would eventually be fully restored to its original condition. It's seen here at last year's Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona.

After seeing Sam's Mercury, Bob Hirohata was inspired to have a chopped Merc of his own. Sam did the chop on Hirohata's '51 hardtop, and both it and Sam's '49 helped make the '49-'51 Mercury the quintessential custom.

Sam's next project would be a 1950 Buick that took him nearly two years to finish. To give the fastback Buick a proper look, Sam sectioned the body to match the chop and extended the rear fenders by four inches.

With all the work put into the car, it looked more like an exotic production vehicle rather than a garage-built custom. In fact, a lot of these customs would get more attention than the factory concept cars of the day.

One of Sam's later projects was this '52 Ford convertible that he used as a family car. Like his past cars, it featured lots of shaving, frenching, and a handmade front grill. In keeping with the "family" theme, the car also included a baby bottle warmer and diaper storage…

Following the Ford was another convertible, this one a '55 Chevy. The '55 was never known as a big custom platform, but if anyone could make it work, it was Sam Barris.

Sam would eventually grow tired of the fast-paced LA life. In the late '50s, he moved back to Northern California, where he worked out of his own shop. The last collaboration between and George and Sam was the "El Capitola" '57 Chevy, which debuted at the 1960 Sacramento Autorama. Sam Barris would go on to work as fire commissioner in Northern California before he sadly passed away from cancer in 1967. Sam's career as a customizer may have been short, his impact was as big as anyone. It'll be hard not to think about him the next time I see a chopped Merc at a car show…

George Barris Zebra Mustang

Mike Garrett over at continued his 2010 tour of the Peterson Auto Museum in LA.

One of the featured exhibitions at the Peterson Automotive Museum back in 2010 was dedicated to cars designed in Southern California. It included everything from early Coachcraft cars to customs like the '50 Olds Polynesian built by the Valley Custom Shop. George Barris' "Zebra" Mustang was also part of the display. You gotta love the "Super Stock Formula 1" tires. 

Check out part 2 of the tour here

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Save these Cars – Hollywood, California: Part II

Thanks to the great writers and researchers over at Hemmings Auto Blog for Part Two of the "Save these Cars, Hollywood, California." A lot of information on what seemed to be some long lost but keenly remembered TV and movie cars. Great photos, too. Head over to Hemmings Auto Blog for the rest of the series.

by David Traver Adolphus

The 1961 Ferrari California Spyder (250 GT) from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

As we’ve mentioned before, it was a replica, built by our good friend Mark Goyette. Mark says there were three used in the film: 

The Hero car. Built by Mark and leased to Paramount for the filming. It’s the one that jumps over the camera and is used in almost every shot. At the end of filming, Paramount returned it to Mark, with the exhaust crushed and cracks in the body. “There was quite a bit of superficial damage, but it held up amazingly well,” he said. He rebuilt it and sold it to a young couple in California. The husband later ran it off the road, and Mark rebuilt the front end for him. That owner sold it in the mid-90s, and it turned up again around 2000, but hasn’t emerged since. 

Sold to Paramount as a kit for them to assemble as their stunt car, they did such a poor job that it was basically unusable, aside from going backward out the window of Cameron’s house. Rebuilt, it ended up at Planet Hollywood in Minneapolis but dropped off the map along with Planet Hollywood Minneapolis. 

Another kit, supposed to be built as a shell for the out the window scene, it was never completed at all and disappeared after the film was completed. Mark thinks he once heard it was eventually completed and sold off, but it could also still be in a back lot at Paramount.

Before we get to the rest of the list, commenters did come up with a few answers: 

The 1974 Dodge Monaco Bluesmobile from Blues Brothers. There was a whole mess of them, most destroyed during filming, and replicas have been built almost since then. We can’t come up with anything definitive on the ’74 Monaco that Jake and Elwood drove, but some of the Mount Prospect chase cars have survived. Allpar reports that of 13 used, eight were destroyed, and three of the remainder are accounted for, on in private hands, one at Disney’s “House of Blues,” and one at Universal’s Famous Fast Cars. 

The Landmaster from Damnation Alley is still at home at Dean Jeffries Automotive, near Universal Studios, and has been restored. Dean shows it from time to time. 

Rick’s Power Wagon from Simon & Simon has been spotted at a Universal Studios back lot. 

The ‘Cuda from Mannix is around; Dan saw it at Mopar Nats a couple of years ago. We also recently featured the Mannix ’68 Dart in Muscle Machines. 

The National Lampoon Family Truckster has been auctioned several times in the last two years. There are a ton of replicas, as well. 

But for every car we found, about 15 more turned up. I want to find: 

Several Jeeps appeared in Airwolf. Stringfellow Hawke had a blue CJ-7 Renegade that appeared briefly, but there was a Stars-and-Stripes CJ-7 with “Santini Air” script in more episodes. Same Jeep? - See more at Hemmings

I’ve wondered about the Ford F350 Jet Car from Buckaroo Banzai for a while and have turned up some information on it. It was designed and built by production designer Michael Riva, art director Stephen Dane, and Thrust Racing owners Jerry Segal and George Haddebeck; Segal was also the stunt driver. Segal swapped in a Grand National–that’s NASCAR, not Buick–front end, a nitrous-boosted Ford big block and jet thrusters. According to the BB Press Kit, “The jet engine is massive,” says Dane. “It puts out smoke and flame that goes back twenty or thirty feet. That’s what it’s primarily set up for, but it does develop 3,000-4,000 lbs. of thrust which, in real life, gets the thing going up to around 200 mph.” ‘Sure doesn’t sound like something that’d be scrapped. Another back lot denizen? See more at Hemmings

The Porsche 356 and later ’84 Corvette that Bruce Boxleitner drove in Scarecrow & Mrs. King. 

Dan wondered about: 

The yellow Chevette from The Wedding Singer. 

The Cherokee from The Goonies. (1984?–ed.) 

The Rambler (Rebel Cross Country) from Mystery Men (on the Ben Stiller theme, a Bronco roadster was blown up in the Zoolander gas fight scene. It must have been a model, so where’s the one they drove around?–ed). 

The 1974 Nova from Pulp Fiction. (Interestingly, a ’74 Nova is specified in the script, and the Tarantino Archives mentions he uses a Nova in Reservoir Dogs and Death Proof, too. Vincent has a ’60 Malibu. Related: The Oldsmobile as an analog for despair in John Singleton's Four Brothers) 

The Taxi from The Fifth Element. (2178 “Globe Fish” Checker Marathon. ‘Just possible it wasn’t a real flying car, Dan, but there’s a model if you want one.) 

1972 Matadors from Adam-12. (It sounds like they only had one single Hero car for the whole series, and there’s a report it was later used on Columbo. None are known to survive–ed.) 

And from our comments, regular commenter Jeff Reeves wants to see: 

AJ's targa-top Camaro (there were two–a ’68 RS and custom Z28) or Mrs. Simon's Mercedes from Simon & Simon. (There was also a ’57 Bel Air at some point.–ed) 

(Scarecrow and) Mrs. King's LTD station wagon or later Cutlass Ciera wagon (Wasn’t it an Olds?–ed). 

Cody Allen's customized GMC S-15 Jimmy from Riptide. (Also a 1960 Corvette. The Jimmy was built by Unique, who have quite built countless cars and own 450, see appendix–ed.) 

An original A-team Chevy Van. (ibid.) 

MacGyver's Jeep. 

Wylie is looking for some real softballs. Happy to help! 

Colombo‘s Peugeot 403 (Supposedly accounted for–ed). 

Roger Moor's Volvo P1800 from The Saint (We’ve seen it–ed). See more at Hemmings

James Garner's gold Firebird from Rockford Files (see Nelson’s Garage, below–ed). 

The 1977 Special Edition Trans Am from the original Smokey and the Bandit (One remains, owned by Year One–ed, and there are innumerable replicas of varying provenance), and the 18-wheeler that Snowman drove. 

straight6 wonders about 

Melba Toast’s ’70 Chevelle, BannonĂ¢€™s primed Duster, and the rest of the dazed 'n' confused car cast. 

The 1976 Lancia Scorpion (Giselle) that Herbie the Love Bug fell in love with in Monte Carlo. (Restored, now in Texas–ed).

See more at Hemmings

Kathy Bates’ Wagoneer from Misery. “It had those cool slotted rims.” (There was a Blazer, a Bronco and a Cherokee, but no Wagoneer–ed). 

Stjohn asks about: 

"The Car" from the movie of the same name, 1977. A 1971 Lincoln Mk III, customized by George Barris. (A car matching this description was consigned to RM’s Hershey auction, but doesn’t seem to have appeared at the sale–ed). 

See more at Hemmings

The Countach from Automan. (Me too–ed) 

The Ultimate Police Car, from an episode of BJ and the Bear. 

A Plymouth Fury, late 70s. The Black Moon from Black Moon Rising. (Never mind the disturbing sex scene with Linda Hamilton and Tommy Lee Jones.) 

1973 Plymouth Satellite four-door that Frank Drebin would hit trash cans with in Police Squad. 

Going deep into the obscure file, Randy H would like to see: 

The mobile command truck (s) from Universal Soldier. 

Saluting the Adam-12 post, vehicles from Emergency! 

emacs wants to know where everything is: 

See more at Hemmings

The 1964 Malibu from Repo Man. (probably junked, but Jalopnik has everything you ever wanted to know about casting the cars.–ed). 

The car (1975 Mercury Marquis Brougham) from Uncle Buck. 

The Corvette from Corvette Summer (a recurring question). 

The Corvette from Sting Ray (Nick Mancuso). 

The Schlepcar from Wonderbug. 

The convertible classic from Porky's. 

See more at Hemmings

The Firebird Trans AM from Fast Times (“first he's gonna kill us, then he's gonna...). (Camaro Z28–ed). 

The 1965 Lincoln Continental from The Matrix. 

See more at Hemmings

Stallone's Cobra car. (1950 Mercury street rod, auctioned by Mecum this summer. Also, see Stallone’s former CSX3127, in private hands–ed). 

Maxwell Smart's Alfa Romeo. 

Reggie Hammond's Porsche Targa and Nick Nolte's GTO convertible from 48 Hours. 

Mad Max's Interceptor. 

All Batmobiles, and didn't Green Lantern have a cool ride? 

Fred MacMurry's car from Absent Minded Professor. 

Brad says: I saw no mention of Christine (58 Fury), the car from the Stephen (the hack) King's movie of the same name. 

What about Greased Lightning from Grease? 

Where is the hood from the Corvette Summer Corvette? 

And the rest: 

See more at Hemmings

Magnum P.I. cars–Ferrari 308s and 328s–came up a lot. Jason W said, “I did some interior restoration work on one of the Magnum P.I. 328s when I worked at FAF in Atlanta in 1988,” but doesn’t know where it is. We heard that Larry “Rick” Manetti owns one, and Magnum Mania reports that as well. However, there may be confusion, as he did own a black ’84 Mondial. According to Mania, 

All of the original Magnum P.I. Ferraris were auctioned off when the series ended in 1988. Larry Manetti bought one of the early GTSs. He reportedly still owns it. One of the cars, a ’78 308 GTS, is on display at the Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Keswich, Cumbria, England. Also, an ’84 308 QV is on display at Universal Studios Hollywood, as part of the Famous Fast Cars attraction. 

I recall one of the 308s turning up on eBay about five years ago, and Nelson’s Garage in Deadwood claims to have one, along with the Rockford Files Firebird and others. 

The Mercedes 560SL from Heart to Heart. 

Srsly? Kojak’s Buick. (1973 Regal?–ed) 

See more at Hemmings

Wayne's AMC Pacer from the Wayne's World. (Sold by Volo in 2004, not sure where it ended up. There are some prop cars around as well.–ed). 

“Being a Toyota Landcruiser fan, I've always wondered about that red and white Fj55 in The Lost Boys.” 

California speedster and Vette coupe from King of the Mountain. 

Dan Tanna's 1957 T-Bird 1957 in Vega$. (Reportedly painted blue for Richard Gere’s Breathless–ed). 

What about the Torino from Starsky and Hutch? 

1983 Porsche 944s from Sixteen Candles. Film lore says there were two. One auto and one stick. (There was also a Rolls Corniche that figured prominently. The Porsche was on the original list.–ed) 

It’s a big list, people. Let's find some cars. 

See more at Hemmings

Many images found at Internet Movie Cars Database.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Flashback Friday With Halloween Hot Rods from the Petersen Archives: Fuzzy Batmobile and Munster Koach

Flashback Friday With Halloween Hot Rods from the Petersen Archives: Fuzzy Batmobile and Munster Koach

We’re gearing up Halloween over at HOT ROD,
and the holiday season quickly reminded us of two of our favorite
Halloween-ready hot rods: George Barris’ Batmobile and Munster Koach!

We’re lucky to have the Petersen archives around when we’re
feeling nostalgic, because we even had a few photos of the two Hollywood
Halloween hot rods deep inside the vault. These photos are from the
Hollywood Motorama Museum, and we suspect that they’re from the infamous
opening year in 1975.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Driving the $5 million Batmobile

Car used in "Batman" TV show still runs -- most of the time

By Peter Valdes-Dapena 

TV's Batmobile up for sale SCOTTSDALE, Arizona (CNNMoney) 

It's a special kind of terror when you almost crash the Batmobile. 

Well, really, it wasn't that close of a call. But then this wasn't just any Batmobile. This was the original. It wasn't one of those matte black military-looking machines from the movies. 

It wasn't driven by a brooding and emotionally conflicted Batman with visible emotional scars. 

This was the Batmobile from the 1960s TV show, shiny with neon orange stripes. It was driven by my childhood hero, the comically uptight, painfully polite defender of the good citizens of Gotham as played by Adam West.

I sat in the same seat Adam West sat in. I drove the same Batmobile I watched him drive in Batman reruns over 40 years ago. There were others made for the show that he would have also driven but this was the first. 

It's for sale. Asking price: $5 million. 

And I almost ran it off the road. You see, the Batmobile, like the aging TV star it is, is in kind of rough shape. It's tough to get replacement parts for what was, in 1955, an experimental concept car built by Ford. Back then, it was called the Lincoln Futura. 

In 1965, master Hollywood car customizer George Barris, bought the Futura and turned it into the Batmobile.

In 2013, Barris sold the car at a Barrett-Jackson collector car auction for a total of $4.6 million, including fees, to an Arizona collector. That collector, who has asked not be named, has decided he's had it long enough. It's not being auctioned but Barrett-Jackson is, again, handing the sale, this time as a simple retail transaction. (As in, if you're interested, give them a call.) They let me spend about half a day driving the car in a closed desert location. 

The Batmobile V8 engine still runs and makes a heavy rumble you wouldn't have heard on TV. Today, it hesitates to start at times and it had to be jump-started once during my day with it. (I imagined Batman by the side of the road. "Pardon me, good citizen. I'm sorry to interrupt you on your important business, but could you assist me with these Bat-Jumper-Cables?") 

It drove straight and the steering wheel worked with the expected old-American-car sloppiness. 

The brakes are, by modern standards, less than heroic. I quickly learned to press on the brake pedal like I was trying to crush an alligator to death with my foot. The Batmobile would stop after a while.

So there I was, following behind a Toyota Corolla carrying a cameraperson and a fellow from Barrett-Jackson, the company selling the car. He was carrying a fire extinguisher. It was just a precaution, I was assured. 

The shoulder of the Batmobile's left wing blocked my vision on one side, the black bar arching along the top blocked it on the other. In front of me, the scorching Arizona sun fractured and glinted through a scratched plastic bubble windshield that also warped everything ahead. 

After a while, I'd gotten used to the view, so I decided to go ahead and see what the Batmobile could really do. I let the Corolla gain some distance and I gunned it. The engine roared, the car's bat nose lifted up a little and and I closed up fast on the Corolla. 

Then the Corolla made a left turn I hadn't expected. I had to stay with it so I slammed on the brake pedal to slow down. This time, the brakes decided to work. 

The wheels locked up, making a squealing sound just like a TV chase scene. With the car sliding toward the roadside gravel, I eased off the brakes a little to let the tires get back their grip and guided the Batmobile through the widest turn I could make without running off the pavement. 

I had saved the Batmobile from my own impetuousness and I had found out what the Batmobile can do. It can do pretty well for a superhero that's 50 years old and then some.