George Barris, the man who designed and customized the original Batmobile as well as many other iconic cars used in a myriad of television shows and Hollywood films for over four decades, has died. George was 89.
CNN reports that George Barris’ death was caused by cancer. His son, Brett Barris, announced on Facebook that his father died Thursday morning.
“Sorry to have to post that my father, legendary kustom car king George Barris, has moved to the bigger garage in the sky.
“He lived his life the way he wanted til the end. He would want everyone [to] celebrate the passion he had for life and for what he created for all to enjoy.”
George Barris earned the moniker “King of Kustomizers” on account of his immense talent for customizing cars as well as his flamboyant designs.
His most popular handiwork, the iconic Batmobile, was a modified version of the 1955 Ford Lincoln Futura that he customized in 15 days for a meager sum of $15,000. Barris kept the Batmobile in his private collection until he put it up for auction in 2012. The Batmobile was sold for $4.2 million.
Other than his unique eye for design, what made George Barris the most sought-out car customizer among Hollywood execs and television outfits for many decades is his ability to translate specific concepts into his designs.
“If you’ll remember that pow, bang, wow is going out, throughout his whole script, that gives you an idea of what I had to contend with,” Barris said on NPR in 2010. “I said, well, if you’re going to make these exciting sounds and all this thing that comes up, I’m going to do the same thing to the car.”
Other popular car-custom jobs George Barris did throughout his legendary career include the Munsters Koach for The Munsters TV show, Barris Boogaloo for The Bugaloos, a convertible version of KITT for Knight Rider, Black Beauty for Green Hornet, among many more. Some of his high-profile clients include Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Sylvester Stallone, and Michael Jackson.
George Barris was born in Chicago on November 20, 1925, to Greek immigrants. His mother died when he was just a toddler. He was then sent with his brother, Sam, to California to live with their uncle and his family. Many young boys have a fondness for cars and vehicles, but George took that love to another level. When he was 7, he was already making cars out of wood. At 13, he and his brother restored a 1925 Buick using items such as knobs scavenged from their uncle’s wife’s dresser.
During his teens, Barris worked at a local auto body shop where he would go after school. At 18, Barris moved to Los Angeles, which was considered the capital of the budding 1940’s teen car culture at the time. He later became part of a subculture that liked to showcase flashy customized cars at drive-ins and local stands across Southern California.
In 1948, Hot Rod magazine featured one of George’s creations — a modified Buick. After a few years, George Barris founded the “Kustoms of America” club, which now boasts over 4,300 members worldwide. Hollywood took notice and hired him to customize a car for the 1958 movie High School Confidential.
In September of this year, George Barris made an appearance at an event in Van Nuys, California, to promote his book King of the Kustomizers: The Art of George Barris.
[Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images]