Just yesterday I was watching an episode of one of those lame car build challenge shows on which George Barris was a judge. My wife commented that he was looking very old, more so than he usually does.
It was a bit of shock this afternoon then to learn that the pop culture legend had passed away.
I hate writing obituaries, as I can never find the words to say what I mean in a way that doesn’t come off as cheesy. With Barris however, cheese is a welcome part of the conversation. In recent years his bling made Flava Flav look moderate.
An original in the hot rod and custom car scene, Barris’ talents came into the public eye as a result of the creation of the original Batmobile, a machine that would make him a monster of pop culture, reaching far beyond the automotive world.
As a kid in the late Sixties and early Seventies, living in a road racing household, my only exposure to customs were the annual custom car shows in Toronto. If I recall correctly, Speedorama was the big one. At those shows, I would marvel at the fantastic designs from the big builders. The Batmobile was cool, but some of Barris other creations were even cooler. Drag-U-La was huge for me. The Munster Coach was another fave for me.
I am sad that I never had the chance to meet the man. My good friend Willy Williamson, star of the HGTV series Buy it, Fix it, Sell it did however and remembers “Had the opportunity to meet and spend time with George on many occasions. Every few months I’d call his shop. He would answer the phone himself and always remember me and ask about how things were in Winnipeg, how my family was and what projects I was working on. Truly one of the legends of the car world and a gentleman I was honoured to know and call a friend.”
Canadian performer Silver Elvis interviewed Barris in London, Ontario at Steve Plunkett’s Fleetwood Country Cruize-In in 2013.