George Barris: Farewell to the King

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Nov 28 2015 - It isn’t often you get to meet the fabricators of your childhood memories. As a child I didn’t know anything about cars beyond my level: 1/64 scale. I did know that Hot Wheels were the better cars – beautifully designed customs with magical colors. One car stood out - the Batmobile from recent TV fame.

Galpin Auto Sports hosts evening celebration of the George Barris Legacy

In pre-allowance era, my modest car collection featured the little version of the Batmobile, not the fist-sized 1/43 version with firing rockets and flicking flames out the rear jet exhaust. These beauts were 8-10x the cost – beyond our household extravagance.

1956 Chevrolet custom pick up at the Celebration of the George Barris Legacy

1956 Chevrolet custom pick up

One fine day mom prepared to drop me at a schoolkid’s birthday party. She bought a gift for the occasion – it was (gasp!) the big Batmobile! I hardly knew said kid and here he was getting a Batmobile – my Batmobile. I believe I cried and wailed in the car outside the door of the party, but mom is too much mom to give in to that. The premium gift and I parted ways and made for the worst day in my short history. Whoever designed that car was responsible for such unintended consequences.

Cars at Celebration of the George Barris Legacy

Later in life I discovered that George Barris was behind many of the crazy TV cars I had come to admire.

Geoge Barris Batmobile Rodeo Drive Concours d'Elegance

If you ever attended a big car event in Los Angeles, chances are improved that you might have seen George or some of his cars (you can’t miss either). Our own eyes first spotted the Batmobile on Rodeo Drive at the Beverly Hills’ Concours d’Elegance event.

George Barris at AFAS at the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

George was always willing to make others happy, as if it were his job; his role in life. He built the cars we loved, and he hung out to let us love him first person. His cars and designs and influence will endure; his personal history and legacy well documented. George giddily rolled out a new book on his life at Pebble Beach in August. We figured we had future occasions to get that new book autographed in person.

Cars at Celebration of the George Barris Legacy

It was a bit of a shock to hear the news – November 5, George passed away after illness. His memorial was held November 28 at Forest Lawn in Burbank, a fitting place among Hollywood’s resting royalty. Many hundreds of old friends came to say goodbye – filling the Hall of Liberty parking lot with custom cars and trucks of all sorts and colors.

Galpin Auto Sports hosts evening celebration of the George Barris Legacy

The service was followed by a procession to Forest Lawn in Glendale for the burial. George went out in style in a gold metalflake casket – no bubble top unfortunately. A reception hosted at the Galpin Auto Sports Museum featured a number of Barris cars collected over the years. The Galpin’s kustom connection is shared by other old names such as Meguiars and Hot Rod Magazine, and new ones such as Foose.

The real Batmobile and original toys can be bought on occasion, but for great fortunes. We’ll settle for the good book for now…

KING OF THE KUSTOMIZERS: The Art of George Barris at www.barris.com/shop/books.php

Related: LA Times - Fans, friends, family bid farewell to 'Rembrandt' of cars George Barris

Pictured below: 1965 Cadillac Crown Royale Limousine Hearse; 1970 Vokswagen by George Barris; Roth's Mysterion the Wildest of the 60's Show Rods at Galpin Auto Sports and 1960 Ford Starliner

by Randy Berg 

1965 Cadillac Crown Royale Limousine Hearse at Celebration of the George Barris Legacy
1970 Vokswagen by George Barris at Galpin Auto Sports Celebration of the George Barris Legacy
Roth's Mysterion: the Wildest of the 60's Show Rods at Galpin Auto Sports
1960 Ford Starliner at Celebration of the George Barris Legacy

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