I’d like to state right off that I’m a huge fan of Chicago-born, legendary car customizer and soon-to-be nonagenarian George Barris. He is responsible for some of my favorite cars of both the big and small screens, including and not limited to the Batmobile from the 60’s TV series, the “Drag-U-La” from “The Munsters”, and “The Car” from that terrifying movie I referenced in my last post. He has also customized personal cars for many individuals, both famous and unknown, and his work undoubtedly inspired some of the more outlandish (and fun) Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars. Whenever I read criticism of Mr. Barris’s work as being juvenile or too over-the-top, it hurts my feelings. Customized cars are not supposed to be subtle. In my mind, mild alterations defeat the purpose of having a car customized in the first place. Still with me?
I now present a customization on the complete opposite end of the continuum from one of Mr. Barris’s masterpieces. I’m aware that Halloween was last Saturday, but this one couldn’t wait until next year. When I was a kid, I used to build model cars of my own designs using posterboard, scissors, Scotch Tape, Elmer’s glue, and colored cellophane. That’s what this car looks like to me. I imagine those compound curves were easier dreamed than realized. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in this garage when all the work was done, the tools were put away, and the owner and his buddy who helped with this project stepped back, gazed satisfyingly at this car and after a long, dramatic pause, asked for opinions.
There’s no bringing back whatever beauty the donor car once had, and I’m strictly guessing as to its year, make and model. It could be a (related) 1991 Dodge Stealth, for all I can tell. Hopefully, the owner has gotten some genuine enjoyment out of this Frankencoupe. If nothing else, I’m sure it’s a great conversation piece, and it does look menacing. Chicks might actually dig it. Also, I’m not entirely sure I could have done a better job with this customization, though if I had the funds and car to do this in the first place, I probably would have paid someone to execute the task correctly. It’s true, though, that everyone has to start somewhere, and George Barris’ first customization, a 1925 Buick done with his late brother, Sam, wasn’t his best work – though still very cool and historically significant within the legacy of Barris Kustom Industries.
I’ve spotted the mildly customized fourth-generation Chevrolet Camaro pictured above street-parked on this same, block-long stretch of North Broadway. While it, too, is not exactly a raving beauty, it one-ups the black car’s shop-class essence with lines, fit and finish that are much better resolved and fleshed-out than on the other car. I’ve got much respect for skilled auto body work, a craft I still hope to learn. I’m sure I’d make many mistakes, but that’s the only way to improve. Mr. Barris, if you’re reading this, God bless you, I salute you, and I would love to shake your hand some day.
Both cars were photographed by the author in Uptown, Chicago, Illinois, with the black one from April 2012 and the orange one from August 2011 .