George Barris, father of the Hollywood Kustom Car Hot Rod Culture, was the designer of countless iconic and memorable Hollywood show cars, including everything from the Munstermobile and the Monkee-mobile to the instantly recognizable 1968 Batmobile from the television series. He is no longer with us, having passed away on November 5. He was 89.
His biggest impact occurred when ABC asked him to create a signature vehicle for Batman. Barris rolled out a Lincoln concept car called the Lincoln Futura that he had kept in storage for about decade and used that as his base, constructing the car in just 15 days.
It was built for $15,000, though Barris purchased the Futura for $1. Barris kept the car in his personal collection and in 2013 sold the car at auction for $4.6 million.
“Growing up I wanted to fight crime just so I could drive George’s Batmobile,” said DC Entertainment co-publisher Jim Lee. “It was my great honor to get to meet him in person recently and to thank him for his contributions to the world of Batman, and there was no greater thrill than getting to sit in that Batmobile from my childhood.”
DC issued a statement calling Barris “a true creative genius,” adding “George’s design contributions to the legendary 1966 Batmobile thrilled fans of the classic Batman TV show, left an indelible mark on Batman legacy and lore and is still recognized as one of the most iconic vehicles of all time.”
If we couldn’t afford one of these amazing cars, we could at least afford the model kits. In the late 1950s, he teamed with toy model company Revell to produce kits of some of his custom cars, which were a huge hit (and a lucrative revenue stream for Barris).
His funeral took place last Saturday at the Forest Lawn Hall of Liberty in Los Angeles. There was a memorial service celebrating his life, and a burial service.
In the funeral procession were some 35 to 50 hot rods and kustom cars (Barris insisted on the use of the “k” in “kustom”).
Barris’ legacy, of course, lives on, and he has earned his place in history.
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