May 21, 2024 | Kaddy Gibson

George Barris’ Coolest Custom Cars


All Hail The King Of The Kustomizers

George Barris may have passed on in 2015, but he remains the undisputed King of the Kustomizers. Born in 1925, Barris started experimenting with car designs when he was just seven years old

The balsawood models of his youth would eventually lead him to create some of the world’s most unique vehicles, and even take him to the sets of some of Hollywood’s most iconic blockbusters. 

So, in honor of this legendary artist, here are 15 of his greatest creations.

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George Barris custom cars

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Barris' Ferrari 308 GTS

This golden hotrod was the perfect car for the Kustomizer King. Barris bought the car in 1978 and only improved on the already-impeccable Ferrari styling. 

He gave the car a wide body, flaring out the fenders and adding a set of super-wide wheels.

Barris' Ferrari 308 GTSTop Gear

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Barris' Ferrari 308 GTS (cont’d)

Barris also removed the pop-up headlights of the standard 308 GTS, moving them below the bumper and styling them after those of the beautiful Ferrari 512 BB.

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Add a new grille, front and rear spoilers, and several coats of custom gold paint and you’ve got the masterpiece that is Barris' Ferrari 308 GTS.

212991 Side ProfileTop Gear

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T Buggy Prototype

In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, dune buggies were all the rage. So, naturally, George Barris had to come up with his own spin on the beloved vehicle.

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In 1965, Barris built the T Buggy prototype to see if he would be able to create more of these kit cars.

George Barris T Buggy PrototypeCar and Driver

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T Buggy Prototype (cont’d)

By combining the classic looks of a Ford Model T with a fiberglass buggy, Barris created one of the most popular dune buggies of the time. The T Buggy prototype was powered by an air-cooled flat six Chevrolet Corvair engine.

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Barris kept and used the working prototype, and even had it restored years later.

Yellow dune buggy - 2009AlfvanBeem, Wikimedia Commons

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Bill Carr’s 1955 Chevrolet “Aztec”

Barris created this flashy dreamboat for his roommate Bill Carr. Carr also had some experience with automotive design, so he provided lots of input into this creation. 

The Aztec was a modified 1955 Chevrolet convertible, featuring several eye-catching elements.

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1955 Chevrolet “Aztec”Hagerty

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Bill Carr’s 1955 Chevrolet “Aztec” (cont’d)

Some of the most notable modifications include taillights that were handcrafted from red Lucite, tailfins from a Studebaker Hawk, and rear fenders that were stretched an incredible 18 inches

Beneath the hood, the Aztec was powered by a 350 Chevy small block engine and equipped with 700R4 transmission.

1955 Chevrolet “Aztec”Hagerty

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Munster Koach

No list of cool George Barris cars is complete without mention of the Munster Koach.

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Featured in the TV show The Munsters, this car was perfect for the titular family of monsters.

Munster Koach, taken at Huntington Beach Art Center - 2013Bahooka, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

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Munster Koach (cont’d)

The producers of the show reached out to Barris for this commission, and with some design help from Tom Daniel, the Munster Koach was born. 

The car as made from three Model T bodies and was an instant eye-catcher for its length and gold trim.

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The famous Munster Koach hot rod, built by George Barris for the 1960s television show, The Munsters. - 2016Bruce Alan Bennett, Shutterstock

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1966 Batmobile

This iconic car cemented Barris place in Hollywood and got him big points with auto enthusiasts. When people talk about the original Batmobile, this is usually what comes to mind. 

Barris made the car from a Ford concept car, the 1955 Lincoln Futura. The concept car was, for the most part, a flop but in just three weeks Barris reconstructed it for the 1966 Batman show.

1960 Batmobile. Special presentation of cars used in movies and television, New YorkJennifer Graylock, Ford Motor Comp, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

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1966 Batmobile (cont’d)

Barris changed pretty much everything about this car, and actually made four different copies to be used for racing, stunts, crashing, and special effects.

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He kept the first car in his personal collection until 2013, when it sold for a cool $4.6 million.

George Barris BatmobileMichael VH, Flickr

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Ala Kart

Making the Ala Kart was a project for one of Barris’ close friends, Richard Peters. 

It began as a 1929 Ford roadster pickup but used a chassis from the Model A.

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Barris also modified the truck bed, added fenders with peaks, and put dual exhaust pipes on each side.

The restored Ala Kart 1957 Kustom, orginially by George BarrisWally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

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Ala Kart (cont’d)

Beneath the hood, the Ala Kart was equipped with a Dodge Hemi V-8 engine and a suspension system that featured four coil springs with airbags, which wasn’t standard at the time. 

Inside the car, seats are made of white Naugahyde and feature black velvets pleats with chrome beading.

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With such good looks, there’s no wonder why the Ala Kart took home the trophy for America’s Most Beautiful Roadster—twice.

Ala Kart 1929 Ford Roadster Pickup engine view - 2015F. D. Richards, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

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1998 Mercury Cougar “Woodie” 2050

This car started off as a Mercury Cougar and was transformed into this strange one-time creation by George Barris. 

Before applying 40 coats of Gold Pearl of Essence paint, Barris modified the car to look more like a 1949 Ford Woody Wagon and swapped out the front of the car for a 1950 Ford design.

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1998 Mercury Cougar “Woodie” 2050Hagerty

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1998 Mercury Cougar “Woodie” 2050 (cont’d)

The grille was from a 1950 Mercury Panel Truck and the car also featured Lucas tri-beam headlights. The rear end of the car was taken from a 1950 Ford Station Wagon and then modified to fit the car. 

The finned, ribbed side pipes were inspired by those of the Corvette.

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All in all, it was a strange mashup of cars that made up one of Barris’ most unusual creations.

Barris-Mercury-Cougar-WoodieHagerty

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The Barrister

It’s said that this bad boy was once owned by Liberace. Looking at the golden trim and sleek black paint job, it’s easy to see why the legendary musician would want to be seen in this car. 

Barris started with a C3 Corvette and then went about lengthening the frame and stripping it of distinguishable Chevy features.

George Barris' BarristerMotorTrend

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The Barrister (cont’d)

To that end, he gave the car a long hood, a split front windscreen, fake external exhaust pipes and a tapered tail.

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He topped it off with a gold radiator grille and a glossy black paint job that attracted attention from celebrities like Bo Derek, Sammy Davis Jr, James Caan, and of course, Liberace.

George Barris' BarristerMotorTrend

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Bob Nordskog's 1963 "Asteroid" Corvette

Bob Nordskog was a powerboat racer who wanted to take the thrill of racing to the streets.

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He wanted an all-in-one car that could race, be driven daily, and impress fans at auto shows. 

So he called George Barris to take his 1962 Corvette to a whole new level.

Bob Nordskog's 1963 AutoEvolution 

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Bob Nordskog's 1963 "Asteroid" Corvette (cont’d)

Barris reconstructed a fiberglass hood for the car, which adds stylish flare while also hiding its powerful V-8 engine, capable of cranking out 400 horsepower. 

The Asteroid also featured an extended nose cone with a bladed grille that housed the headlights, revised sound, big headers that exited through the front fenders, and a deleted rear-window divider.

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He also gave it a shimmering bronze paint job, making it one of his more beautiful creations.

The-Story-Of-The-Asteroid-Sting-Ray-One-Of-The-Most-Iconic-Custom-Corvettes-Of-All-Time-202874-7.JpgAutoEvolution

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Barris’ 1975 SnakePit

The SnakePit was one of Barris’ more intense customizations, taking four years and a $100,000 budget to complete. Incredibly, the car is powered by six Cobra 351 V-8 engines, which was intended to help it set a new land-speed record. 

Theoretically, it could produce up to 2,000 horsepower and hit a top speed of 300 mph—sadly, it never lived up to its true potential.

Barris Kustom snakepit at Beaulieu motor museum hot rod and custom drive in - 2008chrisjj, Shutterstock

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Barris’ 1975 SnakePit (cont’d)

The SnakePit has never really tasted the open road, spending much of its time in personal collections or unique auto displays.

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Makes sense, too—with the way the car was constructed, it probably wouldn’t be as fast as Barris intended anyways.

Barris Kustom snakepit at Beaulieu motor museum hot rod and custom drive in - 2008chrisjj, Shutterstock

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1958 Custom Corvette

Hoping to garner some attention for his company, Accessories International, Lee Sims commissioned George Barris to make a unique, custom car. 

The end result was a beautifully modified masterpiece that went on to win the Los Angeles Arena Show.

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Chevrolet Corvette convertible, 1958Georg Peter Landsiedel, Flickr

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1958 Custom Corvette (cont’d)

The custom Corvette was a popular feature at car shows in the ‘60s. It was also featured in prestigious magazines, like Motor Trend and Vette. In 2019, the car was restored.

 It is now equipped with the 1964 Corvette 327 V-8 engine.

Promotional image of a couple laughing while posing behind an XP-700 1958 Corvette by ChevroletHulton Archive, Getty Images

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Jurassic Park Tour Vehicles

George Barris wasn’t credited for his work on the Jurassic Park Vehicles, but these became some of the most iconic cars in Hollywood history. Each one looks like the perfect safari vehicle, and adds to the realism of the film.

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1992 JURASSIC PARK FORD EXPLORERS - 2015davecobb, Flickr

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Jurassic Park Tour Vehicles (cont’d)

Barris revamped some 1992 Ford Explorers, adding extra lights, a glass roof, and the recognizable paint job. 

Barris also made the cars seem like they were self-driving and helped filming by making it so that a backseat driver could control the car without being seen by the cameras.

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992 JURASSIC PARK FORD EXPLORERSdavecobb, Flickr

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The Emperor

This roadster hot rod is another one of Barris' most beautiful creations

He kept the body of the car simple and sleek, but added a big custom grille, extravagant air foam upholstery, and a 40-coat paint job with Kandy Burgundy, Swedish pearl of essence, and crushed diamond dust.

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When this beauty was unveiled, people were instantly enamored. The Emperor got a feature on the July 1960 cover for Hot Rod Magazine and won an award for “1960 America's Most Beautiful Roadster”.

george barris' emperorMecum Auctions

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The Emperor (cont’d)

While George Barris made the car into what it is today, we do have to give a shoutout to Chuck Krikorian, who started the work on the car.

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He began making the car by combining a 1929 Ford Model A roadster frame with 1931 Model A frame rails and a modified Cadillac 365 V-8 engine. After being convinced to make it into a show car instead of a drag racer, Krikorian gave the Emperor to Barris to work his magic on.

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Jared Barris and his mother Joji Barris-Paster are photographed next to a roadster called, The Emperor - 2021Mel Melcon, Getty Images

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Voxmobile

In 1967, the guitar manufacturer Vox asked Barris to make car that not only advertised the company’s’ products, but actually doubled as one of their musical products. 

To start, Barris designed the shadow of the car to look like one of Vox’s guitar. To do this, he put big fake Vox guitars on the side of the roadster.

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VoxmobileBarris Kustom Industries

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Voxmobile (cont’d)

To turn the car into a functional Vox product, Barris added 32 audio jacks along the sides of the Voxmobile and lots of speakers, including three of Vox’s Beatle amps. 

Barris also made a small stage at the back of the car, capable of hosting three guitarists and one pianist.

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In its heyday, the Voxmobile could be seen during parades, with rockstars belting out tunes from the back.

Voxmobile Vintage Guitar Magazine

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Kargoyle

Goerge Barris wasn’t the biggest fans of hearses and refused to make the Munster Koach out of one. But he couldn’t avoid the somber vehicles when it came time to make a unique ride for 1980 movie Gargoyles

Since then, the Kargoyle has made appearance in shows like Hearse Life, Monster Garage, and The Girls Next Door. It was also used as PR for Mötley Crüe’s final concert.

Cadillac Goth mobile at the George Barris Celebrity Car Event at the Peterson Automotive Museum - 2005Mike FANOUS, Getty Images

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Kargoyle (cont’d)

Barris made the car by combining a 1967 Cadillac Funeral Coach with hot rod elements.

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With an oddly big engine block, lake-style exhaust pipes, and suicide doors, this mishmash of a car lives up to its namesakes. 

To complete the look., Barris added a customized spiderweb steering wheel and hubcaps and a metal flask purple paint job with airbrushed gargoyles on the side.

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KargoyleBarris Kustom Industries

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