George Barris, scion of the custom car world, has died at the age of 89.
Barris set up shop with his brother in Southern California after World War Two. He first shot to fame as the inventor of the ‘lead sled’, a coupe with a chopped roof and elongated rear wings.
As his reputation for producing innovative custom cars grew, Hollywood came knocking. He first produced cars for the 1958 film High School Confidential.
But Barris is best known as the creator of original Batmobile. It started life as the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, which he had already modified for the Glenn Ford film It Started With Kiss. He was approached by ABC Television to build a car for its new Batman show and, without enough time to start from scratch, Barris used the Futura. And so was born possibly the most iconic car in all of TV history. Barris kept hold of the Batmobile, eventually selling it at auction in 2013 for $4.62 million.
Barris also created the Munster Koach from The Munsters, the truck from The Beverly Hillbillies, the Starskey & Hutch Ford Torino and several versions of KITT from Knightrider.
An inveterate hustler, Barris never retired, continuing to design and build new cars at a relentless rate, promoting his previous work and appearing at dozens of events every year.
His influence extended beyond custom cars, production machinery like the 1963 Buick Riviera and 1967 Ford Thunderbird clearly drawing on the Barris magic. Chrysler stylist Virgil Exner was perhaps his biggest disciple.
The car world has lost one of the great originators.
By Only Motors