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Kustomizer to the stars a sparkplug

September 21, 2003|Carolyn Patricia Scott

"Like every other Northern California boy, I loved four wheels," George Barris, the legendary "Car Man," begins. "Somebody gave me a hand-me-down 1925 Buick and I customized it, hung around the shop and learned all the tricks. Then somebody handed me $10 to do something to their car and that was it. I said, 'I'll do anything.' "

Barris' roster of former and current clients runs from Clark Gable to Elvis Presley and Zsa Zsa Gabor, spinning into the present with the speed machines from "The Fast and the Furious" and "XXX."

What's in a car when money's no object? "It all depends on the personality," says Barris, whose Barris Kustom Industries is still rolling them out for entertainment royalty. Zsa Zsa, he recalls, "had to have her makeup cabinet in the right position. And everything inside and out was gold."

Other favorites?

Sonny & Cher: "How can you build a car that they would agree on? You can't." He worked on their (two) Ford Mustangs.

"Batman": "They wanted a 21st century car in 1966. They had no money to speak of and gave me three weeks to do it." (He did it by reworking a concept car.)

What's next? "I just finished working on 'Starsky and Hutch,' " Barris says. "The only difference is that ... I've got Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller doing the driving."

-- Carolyn Patricia Scott

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