George Barris built his automotive design career on a tastefully restrained, almost Bauhaus-style applied to ...aww, forget it. Barris was an automotive P.T. Barnum known for creating the most outlandishly cartoonish contraptions conceivable, most famously The Batmobile.
The 89-year-old customizer passed away, leaving a body of work unlike that of any other custom car builder, both in style and in popular exposure. Barris's location in Los Angeles meant that his cars were seen by influencers, such as Hot Rod magazine and Hollywood movie producers.
Barris broke into show business providing a custom car for the movie High School Confidential, which quickly snowballed into famous creations like the Batmobile, the Munster Koach, a modified AMC AMX for a George Peppard TV show called Banacek, and the eponymous car of the film, The Car.
The Batman TV show producers handed Barris the Batmobile assignment on very short notice, and because he had already acquired the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, his expedient response was to modify the still-futuristic Futura for crime-fighting duty. Indeed, according to 1965Batmobile.com, to whose expertise we will defer, the Batmobile was delivered to the studio less than six weeks after the contract commissioning it was signed.
Though the Batmobile breathed fire from a rear jet exhaust, it was actually propelled by a Ford 390 V8, driving the rear wheels through an automatic transmission. The engine was rated at 335 horsepower in factory specifications, so the Batmobile was strong for its day, but not as quick as the emerging muscle cars of its day.
While Barris steered the evolution of the automotive form language with his abundant scoops, vents and pipes, he also changed our printed language, as his foundation of the Kustoms Car Club in high school inaugurated the use of the letter "k" for kustom and other krazy Kalifornia kar kulture terms.
Photos by Fiberglass Freaks