Originally published November 25, 2013 at The Los Angeles Beat
Author’s Note: George Barris sadly passed away on November 5, 2015, two weeks before his 90th birthday.
As we think of the many offbeat subcultures that have sprung from the creative loins of our beloved City of Angels, one that has reverberated worldwide has been Kustom Car Culture. After all, Los Angeles came of age with the automobile and customization is a natural outgrowth of our need to see and be seen. A passion for hot rods and drag races became stereotypical of 1950s to mid-1960s L.A. and chalks up right along side surfboards and movie stars as something emblematic of our city.
Mixing in the movie industry, which often requires one-of-a-kind specialty autos for use onscreen in films and TV shows, has brought notoriety and fame to a few of the genre’s most talented creators. At the top of that list is car designer George Barris, whose most famous creations include the original Batmobile for the ’60s TV show Batman and the Munster Koach for the series The Munsters. George opened his custom shop, Barris Kustom City, on Riverside Drive in North Hollywood in 1961 and over 50 years later it occupies the same location.
George is still extremely active in the custom car community as both owner of his shop and for his annual George Barris Culver City Car Show held each spring. His 88th birthday party this last Sunday at the Kustom City shop, brought out celebrities, car aficionados, friends and fans of his work to celebrate his iconic genius and to personally give him greetings on his special day. Party guests were treated to Mexican food, an Elvis impersonator and a chance to see many of George’s custom cars in person.
While a DJ played Dusty Springfield, the Beach Boys and ’60s girl groups, George made the rounds posing with party guests such as the iconic 1950s blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren and The Partridge Family mom Shirley Jones. It was truly a memorable party and here’s hoping George has many more..
Barris Kustom City: 10811 Riverside Drive, North Hollywood, CA 91602.