The movie czar

Australian Muscle Car - - Movie Star Cars -

To cel­e­brate Ge­orge Bar­ris’s trip to Australia for Mo­torEx 2015, AMC takes a look at some of his most mem­o­rable TV and movie cre­ations.

In 1948, at age 23, Ge­orge Bar­ris cus­tomised a ’41 Buick, which took out top honours at the Los An­ge­les Hot Rod Ex­po­si­tion. From there, Bar­ris Kus­toms, run by Ge­orge and his older brother Sam, be­gun reg­u­larly turn­ing out renowned and iconic cus­toms – the style of which are revered and copied un­til this day.

By the end of the 1950s, Sam had left the orig­i­nal busi­ness, leav­ing Ge­orge to ex­pand op­er­a­tions, open­ing a new, big­ger shop, Bar­ris Kus­tom City, in North Hol­ly­wood. Along the way Ge­orge had built him­self a rep­u­ta­tion as one of the world’s most in­flu­en­tial cus­tomis­ers, how­ever that was not enough for the brash Mr Bar­ris. He set about fo­cussing his bound­less en­ergy and cre­ative tal­ent on tack­ling Hol­ly­wood.

“I wanted to take some of the ex­cite­ment and en­ergy that we had gen­er­ated in the hot rod and cus­tom car scene and take it to the sil­ver screen,” says Ge­orge.

In true Bar­ris style, he very soon be­came Hol­ly­wood’s ‘go to’ guy when it came to designing and build­ing wild and dis­tinc­tive ma­chines – many of which are well-known to Aus­tralian TV and movie au­di­ences.

The most fa­mous of all his cin­e­matic cre­ations is the orig­i­nal 1966 Bat­mo­bile. Hav­ing sup­plied ve­hi­cles to var­i­ous movies and TV shows, Ge­orge was known to a num­ber of in­flu­en­tial pro­duc­ers. One of th­ese pro­duc­ers, Wil­liam Dozier from Amer­ica’s ABC TV, ap­proached him to build a sig­na­ture ma­chine for the hit TV show Bat­man that ran from 1966 un­til 1968, with over 120 episodes.

“They wanted me to make a 20th Cen­tury crime-fight­ing Bat­mo­bile, in the ’60s’,” says Ge­orge. “We didn’t have the com­put­ers and spe­cial ef­fects we have to­day and I wanted the car to do tricks all on its own. I also wanted to in­cor­po­rate all the Bat fea­tures into the car.”

This de­sire, along with the short build time of just a few weeks, ruled out build­ing a suit­able ma­chine from scratch. In­stead Bar­ris de­cided to take the al­ready fu­tur­is­tic-look­ing Lin­coln Fu­tura con­cept car (that he had ac­quired for $US1 through his in­volve­ment in the Ford Cus­tom Car Car­a­van) and give it the Bat treat­ment. The black with eye-catch­ing flu­o­res­cent or­ange high­lights ma­chine that rolled out of Bar­ris Kus­tom City (in the al­lot­ted time pe­riod) went onto be­come just as big a star as Bat­man’s lead ac­tors: Adam West and Burt Ward.

Bat-tas­tic Bat­mo­bile en­hance­ments in­cluded a rocket en­gine (a fea­ture in­cor­po­rated in all sub­se­quent Bat­mo­biles), bul­let-proof body­work, plex­i­glass bub­ble top, Bat­phone, Batscope and De­tect-a-Scope. Dual Bat rays (lasers) were for dis­in­te­grat­ing any­thing that got in their way, along with a hy­drauli­cally-op­er­ated chain and ca­ble cut­ter to stop the dy­namic duo from be­ing cap­tured by abom­inable crim­i­nals.

Other gad­gets in­clude the fly trap, Bat shark re­pel­lent, rocket launch­ers, dual para­chutes, 360-de­gree ro­ta­tor, ex­haust shut-off (for si­lent run­ning), Bat smoke and on­board fire ex­tin­guisher. All of which helped the Gotham crime fighters out of many a sticky sit­u­a­tion.

Not so Bat-tas­tic was the Bat­mo­bile’s orig­i­nal high-per­for­mance 330hp ex­per­i­men­tal Lin­coln

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