George was born in Chicago in the mid twenties. In 1928, he and his older brother Sam moved to Roseville, California with relatives after their parents died. They both were excellent students especially in drama, music and drawing. George pursued a passion for building scratch-built aircraft models which led to model cars. He won competitions for construction and design. The family gave the brothers a 1925 Buick in need of repair for the work they did at their restaurant.This Buick became the first "Barris Brothers" custom car. The old Buick needed much attention and their creative urges to make it different took hold. They straightened the body and added bolt-on accessories before George hand painted the car in orange with blue stripes. It was promptly sold to purchase a 1929 Model A.
The brothers interest in cars intensified during their teenage years as they discovered "the black art" of body work by hanging out after school at local bodyshops, including Brown's and Bertolucci's in Sacramento. George created his first full custom from a used 1936 Ford convertible before he graduated from High School. This automobile lead to their first commercial customer. Shortly after George formed a club called Kustoms Car Club where the first use of "K" for kustoms appeared.
After Sam entered WW ll, George moved to Los Angeles where his talents began to flourish. He soon opened his first shop in Bell, a Los Angeles suburb in late 1944. Sam joined him after his discharge in 1945. They opened a new shop on Compton Ave. in Los Angeles. The shop was known as the "Barris Brother's Custom Shop". Sam's natural metal craftmanship served as a perfect foil to George's desire to design, paint, manage, and promote.
The Barris brothers outgrew their shop on Compton and moved to a larger shop in Lynwood where the famous Hirohata Merc was born. Sam bought a new two-door Mercury and knew it would make a great custom. He figured it out all in his head and began cutting it up and reformed the car. Bob Hirohata admired Sam's style and brought in his '51 Merc for a full custom job. Sam finished his car so it could be shown at the 1952 Motorama. It turned out to be the sensation of the show.
George formed "Kustoms of Los Angeles," which was initially restricted to Barris customers and later became "Kustoms of America." The group grew out of weekend custom runs which George help put together. Kustoms of America is still a major club today that has a major cruise in Paso Robles.
The movie studios had taken note of Barris kustoms on the streets and at races and came to George for cars for their films. One of the first films Barris made cars for was called "High School Confidential". The success of the initial movie car venture motivated George to seek business in Hollywood. This included customizing the personal cars of the stars as well. As the past forty plus years have shown, this association with the studios and stars has been long and fascinating.
Original kustoms and hot rods continued to roll off George's drawing board. They were built and decorated by the best fabricators and craftsmen in the business. This pool of talent included Bill Hines, Lloyd Bakan, Dick Dean, Dean Jeffries, Von Dutch, Larry Watson, Hershel "Junior" Conway, John and Ralph Manok, Bill De Carr, Richard Korkes, Frank Sonzogni, "Jocko" Johnson, Lyle Lake, Curley Hurlbert, "Gordo", and for a brief time Tom McMullen. Many of them went on to do their own notable work. As the sixties began, George shifted gears and bought a new shop in North Hollywood where he designed and built award winning cars. George continues to work out of this shop today.
Legendary Custom Car Builder Gene Winfield has been working on cars for over 60 years, and has established himself and one of the premier customizers and car builders in the world. His ideas and painting techniques have permanently influenced the way custom cars are built today, and will be in the future.Starting in the late 40's, Winfield opened his own shop, hot rodding Ford flatheads and doing custom bodywork for friends and customers. He taught himself to weld and paint, and soon developed a great reputation due to his innovative styling ideas and quality of work.
In the early 60's, Gene Winfield was a well-known name around the show car circuit due to his custom creations and dazzling paint jobs. His first nationally recognized car was a stylized 1956 Mercury called the "Jade Idol" which sported Chrysler tailfins, quad headlights, and a future Winfield trademark, the "blended" paint job. Unfortunately this beauty was rolled in a trailer accident on the way to another show.
Winfield received national recognition for his beautiful "Jade Idol." The sculpted body modifications and the new "blended" paint scheme was very popular at shows across the country.
Meanwhile, Detroit automakers were closely watching the work that Winfield and other customizers were doing in the 1960's. After a few failed attempts by their own styling studios, Detroit turned to craftsmen like Winfield, George Barris, Dean Jeffries, Bill Cushenbery, Darryl Starbird, and the Alexander Brothers to add their custom touches to factory cars. From this, the "Ford Custom Car Caravan" was born. Ford, and later Mercury, offered new cars to these artists to add their new, custom ideas. During this time, Winfield customized a Falcon, an LTD, and Econoline van for Ford, and a Comet convertible for Mercury.
Also known as the King of the Bubbletop, Darryl Starbird is a legendary kustom and show car builder from , Wichita Kansas. Darryl was born in 1933 in Topeka, Kansas. Darryl graduated from high school in Wichita with the class of 1951. Darryl went on to Wichita University, where he took a major in Business Administration. The three and a half years spent there were shared with night shift job in Boeing Aircraft's plant as a design draftsman in the engineering department. In 1951 Darryl dropped school and work, and started Star Kustom Shop In the beginning, Star Kustom Shop did mainly nosing and decking.
Darryl's first true show custom was his own 1947 Cadillac Sedanette. His next full custom was a 1955 Plymouth that he finished in late 1956. Both these were featured in Rod & Custom Magazine. After this many partial customs went through the doors at Star Kustom Shop and in order to promote his work, Darryl started to shoot photos of processing the cars, and submitting the pictures for How-to articles in magazines such as Car Kraft Magazine. In 1959Bob Turgeon's 1957 Ford Thunderbird won the Sweepstakes and Top Custom Shop Achievement Awards at the NHRA National Championship Custom Car Show in Detroit. The win swept Darryl into national prominence and made him a definite figure to be reckoned with in future championship shows. Darryl's first full-blown show car was the Predicta. The Predicta won virtually every award available, and established Darryl as a respected custom and show car builder. In 1962 Darryl Starbird was hired as Custom Car Design Consultant for future models on Monogram models.
Photo of George Barris & John D' Agostino
Born in Pittsburg, California, and now residing in Discovery Bay, California, John D'Agostino got into building and customizing model cars when he was a child. John was lucky because his hometown of Pittsburg and nearby Antioch were hot spots for custom cars when he grew up. Cars built by Barris, Bailon, Winfield and others showed up at the local Hazel's and Panther drive-ins through the 1950s and 1960s. Inspired by the works of Barris, Winfield, Hines, Starbird, and Watson, D'Agostino's first custom was a '56 Chevy hardtop that was lowered, molded, and painted in a two-tone royal triton purple and white by Frank DeRosa in Pittsburg. John was driving his kustom to high school and showing it at local shows. When he attended college in Phoenix, Arizona, he drove a mildly customized pearl white and gold '63 Pontiac Grand Prix, cruising the streets with cool tunes spun on his 45-rpm record player, which was installed in the car.
Just before leaving college, however, John ordered a brand new '70 Pontiac Grand Prix and took it straight to Art Himsl in Concord, California, to be customized. It was first shown at the '70 Oakland Roadster Show, where it won "OUTSTANDING CUSTOM." The car was lowered, molded, and painted different shades of candy gold and tangerine. Even in those early days, this car had D'Agostino's trademark, chromed wire wheels. He showed the Pontiac at all the ISCA shows on the West Coast during 1970 and 1971 (about 14 shows in all).
After owning two older-style customs, a black '49 Olds Coupe and a '60 Buick in midnight blue pearl Invicta, John got another new car, a '72 Buick Riviera "Boattail" that he took to Himsl for some wild customizing. "This time, I had a top designer sketch an artist's rendering of the car for me, before we got started," says John. Among the modifications were the grille, headlights, taillights, and the wheel wells, which were radiused and flared. Art Himsl and Mike Hass also painted the Buick in candy red metalflake, toned to different shades of tangerine with silver scallops.
It was awarded "INTERNATIONAL CLASS CHAMPION" in the full custom category in the 1972-73 season. Customs were scarce in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I showed my customized Lincoln '72 Mark IV that was built at Himsl's Custom Paint Studio in Concord, California. The Lincoln was sold right out of the Oakland show to a Lincoln dealer in San Francisco."
Larry Watson (July 21, 1938 - July 20, 2010) was a legendary custom painter and pinstriper. In 1955, at the age of 16 Larry began his pinstriping career. His inspiration came from watching Von Dutch striping, while sitting on his bicycle outside of Barris Kustoms in Lynwood. One day his friend Gary McNaught came by the house and asked if he would come along down to Barris Kustoms and watch Von Dutch stripe a car. Von Dutch had moved his operation uptown working out of "The Crazy Arab's" Competition Body Shop at 7201 West Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, so instead it was Dean Jeffries doing his first striping for George Barris. The car he pinstriped was Johnny Zupan's 1949 Mercury. Larry stepped over the rope at Barris and asked Jeff where he had bought his brushes. Jeff answered "What do you want to do? Put me out of business?" At the time it was only Von Dutch and Dean Jeffries who applied what they called "Modern Striping.
" Larry answered that he just wanted to stripe his own car, butJeff still wouldn't tell him. Larry went to an art store and bought some brushes, and he went to Jackson Paint Store and bought some copper paint. He spent the next two days striping his 1950 Chevrolet, the Grapevine. Once completed he drove his newly pinstriped Chevy over to the Bellflower Clock Drive-In where everybody wanted to know how the hell he could afford a Von Dutch artwork on his car. He told them he had done it himself. Nobody believed him, they even thought he had had Von Dutch sign Larry's name on the striping. Harvey Budoff called the bluff and pulled into Larry's driveway with his car one day after school. Larry finally found out where Von Dutch bought his brushes and paint. It was in a little store down on Compton Boulevard, west of Long Beach Boulevard in Compton. Harvey Budoff's 1950 Ford was the first car Larry pinstriped for a customer. After visiting the store he bought some German brushes and white 1-shot. He spent the whole day pinstriping the car. He put an eyeball on a spoon with blood dripping out of the spoon in the back of the glove box. Larry didn't tell Harvey about the artwork, but his girlfriend eventually found it. After that Larry was the hit of the drive-ins, and every time he got home from school there would be three or four cars sitting in the driveway ready to be striped. Among the most notable cars being pinstriped in Larry's driveway is Duane Steck's 1954 Chevrolet - The Moonglow.
Larry applied his first flame paint job on Buzzy's Ford. Von Dutch was doing crab-claw-style flames, so that's what Larry also did. Walking back and forth to get the flames symmetrical, the paint job took 6 hours. After Buzzy cruised the Clock with his newly painted Ford, other people also wanted Larry to lay flames on their cars. After painting a brand new 1956 Oldsmobile he laid in bed thinking about what he could do in order to make the job go faster, he was tired of the 6 hours work it took. Laying in his bed he hit upon the idea of using with tissue paper and a bright red china marker. That was it, after that it took only 2 hours. In 1956 Larry shot his first metallic paint job and his first scallop job. The first car he scalloped was Bob Schremp's 1954 Chevrolet. Bob had Branson Auto Body in Artesia paint his car. During the job they put a run underneath the trunk and one on the hood, so he turned to Larry and asked if he could cover the runs up.
Thomas Martin Ryan - Minden/Gardnerville Nv.
He was a true pioneer on the Motocross scene of the late 1960's-1970's in Southern California. He raced his Honda 350 at California's Paris Racetrack and at the now legendary California "Hope Town" Races. He was a fast & furious desert racer who loved riding with his son Duane in the hot desert Sun. Together they enjoyed racing in the annual Prospectors desert enduro races! A member of the legendary California "Prospectors" motorcycle club in the 70's.... He loved camping under the stars with his family and riding fast! Unfortunately, I never had the honor of meeting him. He passed too soon, but I think of him and wish he was here to help me in my hot rod shop. (photos: Yamaha Magazine Ad photo layout taken at Hope Town California Races 1970's and his daily ride a Custom 1966' TT Bonneville Special Triumph).