Written by independent automotive journalist Tom Jensen
Southern California has produced a bevy of talented mechanics and car builders from the end of World War II on, but there is only one “King of the Kustomizers,” and his legend and influence are still prominent in the custom-car industry. His name? George Barris – and he truly was a larger-than-life character.
Born in Chicago, Barris and older brother Sam moved to California in 1928 after their parents died. George opened his first shop in the Los Angeles suburbs in 1944, with Sam joining him after being discharged from the military. George formed a car club called “Kustoms of America” and would grow the business even after Sam moved away.
Barris’ resume of unique custom cars is unmatched anywhere: He built the Batmobile that sold at the 2013 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction for $4.62 million. Then there were the Green Hornet’s “Black Beauty,” the Munsters’ Koach, the Fireball 500, El Parisian, Golden Sahara, Ala Kart, the Beverly Hillbillies’ truck and so many more.
Much of Barris’ work in Southern California was in movies and television. He built a pair of custom Ford Mustang convertibles for singers Sonny and Cher, a Pontiac station wagon for John Wayne, a gold Rolls-Royce for Zsa Zsa Gabor, and cars for television shows and films like “Mannix,” “My Mother the Car,” “High School Confidential,” “The Silencers” and a wealth of others.
Now, someone at the 2018 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction will have the opportunity to buy a custom car both owned by Barris and customized by him, too.
And not just any car at that. Rolling across the auction block at No Reserve will be the Ferrari 308 GTS (Lot #1379) that Barris purchased for himself in 1978. The custom Ferrari has only about 8,000 miles from new. It is signed by Barris, and the sale includes photos of him with the car, as well as a Barris Kustom Certificate of Authenticity. This is a real deal, no-excuses, one-of-a-kind collectible that would be a stellar addition to any collection.
The most obvious difference might be in the color, which is a stunning gold-over-brown combination instead of the usual Ferrari red. The two colors are separated by Italian tri-color stripes of red, white and green, as well as gold-leaf pinstripes on the upper bodywork.
Speaking of bodywork, Barris did a lot of that on his custom Ferrari. To accommodate meaty rubber on gold BBS RS alloy wheels, Barris flared the fenders front and rear on this 308 GTS. Other modifications included moving the headlamps to the grille beneath the bumper, adding driving lights with amber covers and installing a deep chin spoiler. Out back, the Ferrari got a custom grille and spoiler.
The work on the interior was vintage Barris, including an NEC telephone, a Sony TV and Kenwood audio systems. There are plenty of other period-correct high-tech touches, too, including a fully customized digital instrument pod and center console, with futuristic digital displays and LED lights inlaid in custom-made burl wood panels. And if you like gold plating, you’ll love this car, because there’s plenty of it throughout the interior.
Barris’ personal Ferrari even made a cameo appearance alongside another famous Barris creation: K.I.T.T. from TV’s “Knight Rider.” The Ferrari starred in one episode as “Dagger D-X,” the chosen steed of the ringleader of an illegal underground street-racing gang.
As noted, the Barris-owned Ferrari 308 GTS has very low mileage. According to the consignor, “The car presents in very well-preserved condition, a solid and good-running 308 with a V8 engine and 5-speed manual transmission that has covered just 8,000 miles from new, with a fresh timing belt, tensioner and clutch service.”
With the service work completed, this stunning gold Ferrari is ready to delight its new owner. Just as the car itself is unique, so is the opportunity to bid on it at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale.
Barris-owned cars don’t roll across the auction block very often to begin with, and a Barris-owned Ferrari is a rare bird, indeed. Someone is going to leave Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale with a new centerpiece to his or her collection.
For up-to-date information on this vehicle, click HERE.