George Barris - King of the Kustomizers


San Juan High School graduate George Barris, known to millions of car enthusiasts and collectors around the globe, has been involved in making custom cars and specialty vehicles for Hollywood film, TV and music industry since the early 1950’s.

The age of the Hot Rod had arrived by then and George Barris and his brother Sam (now deceased) were called upon again, and again, to thrill and dazzle with their outrageous and cutting-edge car creations. Films such as Hot Rod Girl, Hot Rod Rumble, Cool Hot Rod, and of course the ultimate 50’s low rider film from Warner Bros., James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause, which launched Barris into the big time.

In the 1960’s, Barris was already the ultimate Movie Star car kustomizer. The biggest stars and musicians in Hollywood lined up at the studio in North Hollywood to have George create and kustomize their cars including John Wayne, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, The Beach Boys, Sonny & Cher, Sean Connery, Peter Fonda, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby golf cars and many more.

The 1960’s were also the Barris years for dominating TV shows with his cars. The Munsters, Beverly Hillbillies, My Mother the Car, Mannix, The Good Guys and hundreds of TV specials were just a few of the Barris projects that have generated millions of images and toy models of America’s best loved cars.

However, the most famous TV Hollywood car in all the world (even to this day) is the 1960’s TV Batmobile, created for one of the most beloved TV series of our time – Batman, with Adam West and Burt Ward. For the last 50 years, Barris has been involved in the movie and TV auto creation business.

He has created vehicles for movies such as the James Dean movie, Race with Destiny, The New Beverly Hillbillies, The Little Rascals, The Flintstones, Willie Wonka, Dick Tracy, etc. He also made cars for the TV shows Knight Rider, Sid and Marty Kroft shows; The Bugaloos, H.R. PuffnStuff, and Dyna Girl. Also, Barris wrote, starred, directed or Executive Produced feature films such as: Disco Fever, SuperVan, Mag Wheels, The VAN, Smokey and the Hotwire Gang, The Junkman and the original Gone in 60 Seconds. Barris’s creativity exploded in the 70’s and 80’s with the Limited Production cars such as: the Barrister, Titan, and Bugazzi. The cars were designed and manufactured for various celebrities from basic USA manufactured vehicles.

Motor Trend magazine cover proclaimed, “George Barris changed the face of Detroit.” His kustomizing creations such as; Aero-dynamic body with low silhouette designs, chopped fastback roof lines, full fade-away fenders with a body molded into one piece, French headlights, rolled front and rear body pans. Lee Iaccoca with Ford retained Barris to tour the Ford Custom Car Caravan and to build many of their international show concept vehicles. Another marketing value was to fabricate kustomizing do-it-yourself bolt on parts for dealers to make available for their customers alá Barris Kustom. The monetary instrument was that the customer could have his unique Barris parts installed by the dealer in any USA town and Canada.

George and his cars have appeared on such TV shows as the Drew Carey Show, The Man Show, Donny & Marie Show, CNN, Today Show, Biography, Nick & Jessica Variety Hour, ABC Extreme Home Edition, The Hot Rod TV Show, Nickelodeon-“The Prince of Rides”, Disney Channel-“Wish Upon a Star”, Monster Garage, Spike TV-“Ride with Funk Master Flex”, Speed Channel-“Car Crazy”, The Auto Channel, “Overhaulin”, TV Land’s Top 10 Cars, Discovery Channel-“The Kustomizer”, “America’s Got Talent”, “Biker Built-Off”, “Girls Next Door”, “Batman” movie on DVD, NBC’s “Today Show”, CBS shows and many more.

Barris cars have also inspired today’s musicians. His famous Dragula dragster he built for Grandpa of The Munsters was the influence for Rob Zombie’s hit CD titled Dragula. Artists from Eddy Vedder to Kid Rock have used his cars in videos and on stage as props at their concerts. His influence in the music industry is so strong that Hallmark Guitars has launched a line of guitars based on George’s creations, the Batmobile, Dragula, Fireball 500 and the famous Barris Crest. Finally, George Barris has written many coffee table art and kustomizing technique books; Barris TV and Movie Cars (Motorbooks Int’l) sharing all of his career through the photos, designs, thoughts, secrets, and stories of the most famous cars in history and their owners. So many were sold that it is out of print. Three more series of books were also written; Barris Cars of the 50’s and Barris Cars of the 60’s, Barris Kustom Techniques of the 50’s Volume 1-4 and the Barris Big Book. Currently, he is working on a new book entitled; The Art of George Barris, which emphasizes the influence George has had on the baby boomer generation through his line of bicycles, go-karts, mini bikes and model toys and of course his car designs. Released in 2009 is the book; Barris Cars of the Stars, which showcases the cars he has created for celebrities from the 1950’s – 1980’s.

George is an avid photographer: his photos have appeared in many books by Motorbooks, Taschen and a variety of other publishers. George has received numerous awards and tributes for his 50 years on the cutting edge of the car and design scene from Hot Rod Magazine, Meguiar’s Treasurer of the Hobby award, Mequiar’s Car Crazy award, Lifetime Achievement Award from Petersen Auto Museum, Car & Driver, Auto Weekly, Hot Rod Hero awardfrom Good Guys Rod & Custom Association, Sci-Fi Movie Saturn Award presented by Peter Fonda, Mattel Hot Wheels Hall of Fame award, honored by Ford at the 2001 Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance, five time winner and Charter member of the Hall of Fame at the Grand National Roadster Show, Gears Magazine George Barris article by Louise Ann Noethawarded the International Automotive Media Award, featured automotive designer at the World’s Fair in Osaka, Japan. Honored at the Valley Int’l Film Festival with the Hollywood Wheels in Motion award , recipient of the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award by the Friars Club of Beverly Hills. In 2007, George was honored with an exhibit of his life and prominent restored kustom cars on the 1950’s at the NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, California, World of Wheels/Autorama Legends of Motorsports Award and many other awards too numerous to name. In 2011, George received the Halo Award from the Southern California Motion Picture Council. Barris has been profiled in Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Robb Report, Maxim, Arena, Gear, BBC-Jet Set (UK), VSD (Paris), 4W (Argentina), Motor Magazine (Sweden), VW Magazine (France), EMMY Magazine for the Academy of Television Arts and Science, Custom Garage (Spain), Toyota Prius #1 Guide (Japan), Motor Trend Magazine and many more.

George has judged at: Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance, Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance, Rodeo Concours d’Elegance, Silverado Concours d’Elegance, RM Classic Cars 25th Anniversary Event-Chatham Concours, El Dorado Concours d’Elegance, Niello Concourse at Serrano, Glenmoor Gathering and the Las Vegas Concours d’Elegance.

His cars and personal appearances are legendary at many World of Wheels Autoramas, car cruises, rod & custom shows throughout the USA, Canada, Sweden and Japan for the past 60 years. Starting in 2004, the Annual George Barris’ Cruisin Back the 50’s car show was created in downtown Culver City where George’s hot rodding began. It has grown to be one of LA’s best car shows today. In 2007, George Barris was honored to have the street where his North Hollywood, California shop is located, re-named George Barris Place “King of the Kustomizers” as an historical landmark in Los Angeles, California. Also, look for our upcoming “Barris Auto Walk of Fame” in North Hollywood, California. The Barris family works together and includes daughter, Joji, son, Brett and Grandson, Jared. The family manages the merchandising, marketing, website, shows and appearances of Barris Kustom Ind. Barris products include a clothing line, books, guitars, cruiser bikes, toys, high-end replicas of Barris cars and a variety of DVDs. To this day, George continues to create kustom cars and designs. He is currently featured as the “star” judge on the SPEED channel TV show “CAR WARRIORS.”