Kustom car king George Barris died this morning at the age of 89. For more than 70 years, Barris created outrageous vehicles ranging from homemade hot rods to the 1966 Batmobile. His North Hollywood showroom is filled with mementos of his fabulous career spent dreaming up fantasy cars for celebrities, TV, movies, and collectors. He designed a golf cart for Bob Hope in the shape of Hope’s head, and a zebra-patterned Mustang for Frank Sinatra. He welded together the bodies of three Model-Ts to form the base of the Munster Koach.
The last time I saw Barris, he was beaming behind his huge tinted glasses. Hundreds of friends and fans had come to congratulate him on a lavish new art book dedicated to his work. His son Brett teamed up with Douglas Nason to write King of the Kustomizers: The Art of George Barris. The book places his work in the context of the midcentury pop culture of Los Angeles and is the perfect companion to Nason’s other books on car artists Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and Von Dutch. Barris was a fine artist whose works you could drive out of the gallery. His triple-pearl-lustre-gold-metalflake genius will never be forgotten.