I read over the weekend that George Barakaris had died at the age of 89. Never heard of him? I’m not surprised. He was better known as George Barris. Still never heard of him? Well listen up, because he designed something that was a huge part of my childhood/early adolescence.
Good old George was a car customiser, and came up with one of the most iconic vehicles ever. He bought a 1957 Lincoln Futura for a nominal one dollar, and turned it into the original Batmobile that was such a big feature of the 1960s television series.
To be fair, he didn’t have to do a lot to the Futura. It was a concept car (based on a Lincoln Mk II chassis and drivetrtain), and you know what concept cars are like. They’re bonkers, and the Futura was no exception. It already had whopping great canted out tailfins, though George stretched these to a formidable 84”, the trademark doublebubble aircraft style canopies. He had to muck about with the front end a bit, to make it a bit beakier and batlike, but the car was already pretty dramatic. The black paint with fluorescent pink detailing were just the icing on the cake.
He was also responsible, if that’s the word, for the truly hideous Munster Koach. This was a bloody monstrosity, but my opinion may be skewed by the fact that I hated the programme The Munsters, a pale replica of the inspired Addams Family, and the use of 3 Model T bodies seemed excessive and pointlessly wasteful even to me. And I understood hotrodding excesses as you may recall.
Contrary to popular belief, he didn’t design the Monkeemobile. That bit of lunacy was the brainchild of Dean Jeffries, though Barris did buy the two of them (there were technical reasons why there were two built) and display them.
He did have a hand in the red Gran Torino from Starsky and Hutch, but he was batting on a sticky wicket there too. The car looked OK, well as OK as anything American did in the 70s, but the base Gran Torino was an absolute barker, with an engine emasculated by US smog laws in a body that was too big and too heavy to do anything much more than limp along like a three legged donkey.
But I’ll forgive him his later trespasses just because he built the Batmobile.