George Barris, the creator of the Batmobile and many other memorable vehicles for TV and movies — but before that a legend in the Los Angeles car culture — died today, his son Brett announced on Facebook. "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."
The first Barris Custom Shop was located on Imperial Highway in Bell, and later was located on Compton Avenue and in Lynwood. But Barris has long been associated with North Hollywood, where Barris Kustom Industries remains.
From the Barris website:
George began to race at Saugus Speedway around 1947. But this hobby was short lived as the business expanded and took up all his spare time. Other forces began to take place, the first Hot Rod Show produced by Robert 'Pete' Petersen founder of Hot Rod magazine. The Barris brothers were asked to exhibit the only custom car in the show. The reaction was very positive.
Modern automotive magazines were being published which provided coverage of the custom car business. George began photographing autos professionally and writing for the magazines. He was able to promote his business by demonstrating their techniques through how-to articles….
The movie studios had taken note of Barris kustoms on the streets and at races and came to George for cars for their films. One of the first films Barris made cars for was called "High School Confidential". The success of the initial movie car venture motivated George to seek business in Hollywood. This included customizing the personal cars of the stars as well. As the past forty plus years have shown, this association with the studios and stars has been long and fascinating.
Shirley Ann Nahas, George's future wife came into the scene and was an integral part of George's success. She became a strong nurturing partner in George's life as Sam had already left the business. George concentrated on promotion as well as kustomizing. The two went hand in hand. He would travel all over the country in his creations, with the name "Barris" plastered everywhere he could, covering car shows and appearing on TV talk shows. In the late 50's Revell began making model kits of George's cars. AMT soon joined with the "Ala Kart." Plastic model kits became the biggest selling toys at the time.
Original kustoms and hot rods continued to roll off George's drawing board. They were built and decorated by the best fabricators and craftsmen in the business. This pool of talent included Bill Hines, Lloyd Bakan, Dick Dean, Dean Jeffries, Von Dutch, Larry Watson, Hershel "Junior" Conway, John and Ralph Manok, Bill De Carr, Richard Korkes, Frank Sonzogni, "Jocko" Johnson, Lyle Lake, Curley Hurlbert, "Gordo", and for a brief time Tom McMullen. Many of them went on to do their own notable work. As the sixties began, George shifted gears and bought a new shop in North Hollywood where he designed and built award winning cars.