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Remembering George Barris, King of Kustomizers

November 6, 2015 Archive Insight

1949 Mercury Customized Convertible

A museum presenting America’s ideas and innovations mourns the passing of George Barris, “The King of Kustomizers.”

George grew up building models of cars and then working on cars during his youth. He had a spark of ingenuity in the way he looked at the world as well as in the world that he built. In the mid 1960s Barris Kustom City acquired a Lincoln Futura prototype that was built for the Ford Motor Company in Turin, Italy in 1955. George had been given a contract in August of 1965 by television show producers to build a batmobile for their upcoming television show. As the legend has been told many times, he had only three weeks to build the “winged mammal” car before filming started. George had the winged-like Futura in his shop and saw the possibilities immediately, and of course the result was the most iconic movie car ever built, the Batmobile. George’s ingenious creation appeared on January 12, 1966 to millions of television viewers experiencing the spoof and kitsch of Batman.

George Barris’ Ala Kart on loan to The Henry Ford from the John Mumford Collection.

George created many iconic vehicles at Barris Kustom City including The Henry Ford’s 1949 Mercury kustomized lead sled currently on exhibit in Henry Ford Museum with another Barris masterpiece the Ala Kart, shown above, which is a 1929 Ford pick-up that George kustomized for Richard Peters in 1957 that won the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster prize in 1958 and 1959. The Ala Kart was also the first show hot rod licensed to a model car kit building company, AMT, which started a craze of show rod model kits that millions would enjoy for decades.

1949-mercury-front

We will miss George’s ingenuity, however, his ideas and innovations that influenced generations of hot rodders and car enthusiasts will live forever at The Henry Ford with the purpose of inspiring the next generation of “Kreators and Kustomizers.”

Christian Overland is Executive Vice President of The Henry Ford.

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