Barris Kustoms is Closing After 60 Years
It was announced this week that Barris Kustoms is Closing After 60 Years. A sad day for fans of Barris’ creations and legacy. Personally speaking, I had a connection to Barris that goes back to 1967- the first year I picked up a toy car which happened to be a Batmobile. From that day, I was hooked on cars and every car I built had to have some sort of cockpit feel and a whole batch of buttons and switches.
Years later, I found myself spending much of my time in the San Fernando Valley. At one point, I worked at Super Shops in Van Nuys, not far from Barris’ shop. Occasionally, I’d grab a burger and sit in my car across the street to see if I’d get a glimpse of some new creation, I never did, but I was content just to look at the cars through the window.
Barris had been in the building since around 1961 and has about 10,000 sq. ft of space if I read the commercial listing properly. In 1944, Barris had moved to Los Angeles from Northern California and opened his first shop in the city of Bell. In 1945, his brother Sam came home after completing his military service and joined George in 1945. About a year later, they moved to a larger shop on Compton Ave.
They went back to in Bell and stayed there a couple of years (around 1949/1950) if my Uncle Gary is right, but then moved to the Lynwood area around the mid-1950s. Not long after that, brother Sam left the business in 1956 and moved up north. Sam passed away in 1967.
Lucky Me, Barris Moved to North Hollywood
The move to North Hollywood happened in 1961, and the shop has been there ever since. Throughout the 1960s, the creations of Geroge Barris made him a superstar among car enthusiasts.
Some of his builds are legends to this day — cars like the Golden Sahara, the Hirohata Merc, and the Emperor, to name a few. I never saw those cars until the late 1990s and by that time, styling trends had changed dramatically and those builds were too disco for my liking. However, I could look at almost any car and could tell if Georgr Barris had a hand in it. His style was unmistakable.
I instead favored his movie cars — the Munster mobile and of course, the Adam West Batmobile.
I had the opportunity to meet him personally at the 2002 SEMA Show. At the time, I was selling my own movie car — the original Toyota Supra from The Fast and The Furious — and Barris was interested in buying it. His offer was four times less than what it sold for and so I never got the chance to say that ‘I sold a car to my idol.’
Nevertheless, after working in the industry for nearly 30 years, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the man and his creations. It was confusing to me at first, because his name came up over and over, even when we were talking about cars he never built. I learned that he had his hands in a lot of pies and was connected or at least influential in many builds.
Since Barris Kustoms is Closing After 60 Years, What’s Next?
That’s hard to say. Most of the family has moved up to Ventura County, about an hour away. And since the movie car business has changed radically in the last 20 years, and with electric cars coming down the pike, the changes will keep on coming. His creations will live on, immortalized in books, magazines, TV shows, car museums, and motion pictures–and his influence will prove to be an inspiration for generations to come.
The property is listed at $3.95 million.