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Arts and Entertainment

Original Batmobile Designer And Custom Car 'King' Passes Away At 89

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George Barris, who created many of Hollywood's most iconic custom cars—including the original 1966 Batmobile—has passed away at 89.

According to a private Facebook post from his son Brett, Barris passed away peacefully in his sleep this morning.

Sorry to have to post that my father, legendary kustom car king George Barris, has moved to the bigger garage in the sky. He passed on peacefully in his sleep at 2:45 am. He was surrounded by his family in the comfort of his home. He lived his life they way he wanted til the end. He would want everyone celebrate the passion he had for life and for what he created for all to enjoy. Thank you all for the posts and calls, your love is deeply appreciated. Peace.

Known as the "King of the Kustomizers," Barris began customizing as a teenager—along with his older brother Sam—beginning in the 1940s. Beginning with the restoration of their family's 1925 Buick in Roseville, California, the pair set to work creating unique, elaborate and highly-sought-after vehicle modifications. While his brother joined the Navy to fight in WWII, George moved to Los Angeles in late 1944 and opened up his first custom car shop in Bell, according to the Barris Kustom Industries website. When Sam was discharged from service the two opened up the "Barris Brother's Custom Shop" on Compton Avenue and later expanded to a shop in Lynwood. While Sam focused on the custom metalwork, George focused on the design and paintwork of their "kustom" creations as they became known.

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The Barris designs eventually caught the attention of Hollywood, and George began designing cars for films and TV shows—perhaps most famously the Batmobile for the 1966 Batman series, as well as the "Munster Koach," the jalopy from The Beverly Hillbillies and K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider. He famously created the Batmobile from a 1955 Ford Lincoln Futura in just 3 weeks. Barris was also asked to design custom vehicles for studio execs and stars, including everyone from John Wayne to Elvis Presley.

Here's Barris in 2011 on Motor Mavens, talking about how his work has evolved over the years:

Over the decades, Barris and his family continued to expand their custom vehicle empire, showcasing the wild designs at their showroom in North Hollywood. Barris even customized a Toyota Prius for The New York Times in 2005:

In September of this year, Barris released a new book about his design work, called King of the Kustomizers: The Art of George Barris.

Here's a tribute to Barris for his 88th birthday last year: