I checked out the Batmobile. It rested in broad daylight in a showroom in the San Fernando Valley, like you could go inside, step on the tires, and sign the papers to take home.
George Barris, the greatest auto tuner, designed the Batmobile for the 1960s TV show. He had about three weeks to convert a Futura concept vehicle with its bubble-like cockpits into the fin car that carried Adam West and Burt Ward through Gotham City.
The replica version is on display at Barris Kustom Industries in North Hollywood, but not for long.
The Barris operation plans to move west to Ventura in 2022. His six-decade-old home at 10811 Riverside Drive is for sale, news that rocked the Hot Rod world. The 18,000-square-foot corner lot is listed at just under $ 4 million.
“We already have two substitute offers behind us,” daughter Joji Barris-Paster told me when I visited on September 4th. “It happened so quickly. Almost too fast. “
The process was emotional for the family, similar to tidying up a home after their death. George died in 2015 at the age of 89. He had been semi-retired for years but kept the property as his headquarters, office, and storage room.
And he had a lot to stow away. He loved buying toys, thousands of them based on his creations, not just the Batmobile but also the Munsters Koach and the Clampetts truck on “Beverly Hillbillies” among others. And he kept several copies of every magazine that had him.
Much of it was sold. Barris Kustom is involved in auto shows and youth education programs, but no longer takes on new projects, so a full custom shop is no longer needed. Which doesn’t mean it’s easy to walk away.
“It’s not easy for us,” says Barris-Paster. “It’s bittersweet. Days when we break down and cry That was a big part of our life. “
During the early stages of the coronavirus, the Encino family left for a second home in Oxnard. During the year they decided to stay on the coast, especially when they made friends there in the auto show community. So they bought a bigger house for permanent residence and decided to relocate Barris Kustom instead of commuting. A location has yet to be found.
“It’s not that we’re closing. We’re moving, ”emphasizes Barris-Paster.
I was interested in my usual detour. The anthology “Writing Los Angeles” gave me the opportunity to read Tom Wolfe’s famous 1965 Esquire article “The Kandy-Colored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby” about the custom car phenomenon in LA.
Barris was a big part of the article, along with Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, both of whom built boxy cars with wilder paint, a streamlined shape, or other modifications that Wolfe considered a valid art form.
“He doesn’t build cars, he creates shapes … in the end they are sculptures,” wrote Wolfe of Barris.
After spending the weekend in North Hollywood recently, I perked up when Wolfe gave the address 10811 Riverside Drive. Less than a week after reading this essay, it was announced that the Barris family would be selling.
And as I was preparing to return to NoHo for Labor Day weekend, I checked out Barris’ Facebook page and learned that they offer free tours every Saturday in September. Perfect.
On Saturday, I’m performing before the 9am opening because I’m worried there will be a line. There is not any. I am the first there.
Jared Barris, 32, greets me. In the next few minutes, a few other car enthusiasts crowd in.
Barris shows us the Batmobile and points to the empty spot where the Munster Koach – the hearse of the TV family “Munsters” – would be if it wasn’t at a show. We see his grandfather’s old office with toy cars, the garage and the archive everywhere.
George joined NoHo in 1961 after living in South LA. had become known
“Grandmother came here and found this place,” Jared tells me. “Studios came. Universal was here, Disney was down the street, Warner Brothers was nearby. ”Barris, who had already done some film work, bought the property, a former car dealership, and set up a business.
Photos line the walls of celebrities standing next to Barris, usually with the garage doors behind them: Steve McQueen, James Caan, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Elvis and Priscilla Presley, Clint Eastwood, dozens more. Framed posters of car films hang near the ceiling.
In the early 1980s, at the urging of his wife Shirley, Barris semi-retired to consult on designs and perform in person. The street corner next to his shop was named George Barris Place at a city ceremony in 2007.
“He was a self-promoter. It was larger than life, ”says Joji affectionately.
Jared, who works in advertising, adored his grandfather and spent as much free time with him as possible. During the informal tours, he shares stories about Barris’ famous customers, his willingness to try and fail, his ability to see how the shape or color of a car could be modified to reflect the personality of its owner.
The company, which includes Joji’s husband Barry and brother Brett, will continue to operate after the property is sold.
“COVID made us think about our legacy,” explains Jared. “It’s a chance for a fresh start.”
Tours run from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on September 11th, September 18th and 25th at 10811 Riverside Drive, mask required. At some point there will be a car show to say goodbye in a big way.
And later the Batmobile will roar to Ventura.
When I wrote about my visit to the San Fernando Valley in July, I mentioned my salmon, egg and onion deli breakfast. This is called LEO, as reader Diane Pfahler emphasizes. When she first saw it on a blackboard card, she assumed it was the chef’s name. When she saw it on a second menu, she thought the cook was working illegally. But no, LEO is an acronym for the ingredients. She adds a pro tip: “Instead of fried onions mixed with the salmon and eggs, I prefer raw red onions to sprinkle over the eggs and salmon.”
David Allen writes columns Friday, Sunday and Wednesday that onions could improve. Email [email protected], phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook, and follow @ davidallen909 on Twitter.