George Barris' 1941 Buick

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A rare photo of George's Buick next to Jim Kierstead's 1939 Mercury, at Balch Garage in Inglewood, California. This photo was taken before any restyling was done to the Buick. Jim's car is in white primer at the time, so the photo is most likely taken early or mid 1947. Photo from the Jim Kierstead Photo Collection.
George standing on his hands, and behind him the start of his 1941 Buick. The work on the Fadeaway Fenders had just begun.[1]
The Buick in white primer at El Mirage, 1947. George and Sam went along with Jim Kierstead. Jim was driving his 1939 Mercury Coupe, and the two customs made a big splash on arrival. There is a story behind this photo, notice the beer bottle. People were staring at the car all day, so it was almost impossible getting a clear shot of it. Then Jim put the beer bottle in front of the Buick, and said that: "Whoever that'll pass me and the bottle, will get punched down". Photo by Jim Kierstead.
Note the stock 1941 Buick front bumper.
This is how it first looked once it hit the streets. Typical for the era are the black wall tires.
A rare color photo of George's Buick from the Jerry Fassett Photo Collection on Kustomrama.
On the cover of Road and Track May 1948.
Besides the side Compton Avenue shop. Photo by Bart Bartoni.
The Buick with some sort of award ribbon on the antenna. Could this have been after the car won the award at the first at the 1948 Hot Rod Exposition?
After the crash.
The Buick rebuilt after the accident, still in primer.
Barris Kustoms business card.

1941 Buick Convertible, owned and restyled by George Barris of Los Angeles, California. George built the Buick while, or right after he moved Barris Kustoms from the Bell Shop into the larger location at 76th Place and Compton in Los Angeles.[2] When George moved from Sacramento to Los Angeles, he drove a 1936 Ford Convertible. George soon understood that in order to get a profitable custom body shop, he needed something more to advertise his workmanship. He got hold of a 1941 Buick convertible that he built int his dream car. It was the Buick that established George as a builder, and it was used on his business cards for some time as well.[3]

Geroge started the build by chopping the top and lowering the suspension. It was then fit with fadeaway fenders. Made from sheet metal, the fadeaways were cut, shaped and bended to fit the Buick body. Both front and rear fenders were molded to the body. George shaved the hood and frenched the headlights. The trunk and doors were operated using solenoids. The front end was reshaped to fit a 1941 Cadillac grille. The area between the hood and grille was created from sheet metal, and the hood character line was very nicely repeated into that and shaped to end just above the grille. The rear fenders were flared into the body with a gentle curve. The deck lid was shaved for emblems and handle, the outside hinges were removed and replaced with internal versions. The taillights were removed from the body as well, making the body totally clean and simple. The bumpers were replaced with 1946 Oldsmobile units. The taillights were relocated in the rear bumper guards. Bob and Glen Houser of Carson Top Shop created the padded top and reupholstered the interior in white and dark red. When most of the bodywork was done, it was painted in white primer. George drove it around for a while so he could get all the bugs cleared out before he would finish it, and add a glossy paint job. The Buick was painted many coats of deep Royal Metallic Maroon, which later would become one of the Barris trademark colors. When the car hit the streets late in 1947, it featured Appleton spotlights, black wall tires and beauty rims to accent the large moon hubcaps.[3] It was later fit with white wall tires. The overall height of the car was 58 inches.[4]

George's Buick was shown at the 1948 Hot Rod Exposition in Los Angeles, where it won the show. It was also on the cover of Road and Track May 1948. Some time Later the car was involved in an accident. George and some friends were hanging in Culver City, and they saw some cute girls that they started to talk with. The girls boyfriends didn't like that they were talking to these Kustom guys and so a fight broke out and in the mist of it all the cops showed up and arrested George for being a part of the fight. A friend of George decided to drive the car away from the scene and get it out of the area so they wouldnt' impound the car. While george was in the holding cell he hears "APB ALL UNITS REPORT TO ACCIDENT INVOLVING 1941 BUICK". George knew right away that it was his car. It turned out that his buddy had tried to get out of the area too quickly and lost control of the car and smashed the driver side.[5] George decided he could fix the car up, and update it at the same time. The damaged 1941 Cadillac grille was replaced by a cut down 1946 Cadillac grille, the large smooth hubcaps were replaced with Cadillac Sombreros.[3]

George has no idea what happened to his old Buick. At one time he planned to build a clone, but it never happened. It has not been seen by the public eye since he sold it. George's 1941 Buick was a classic styled custom could certainly be called a trend setting custom, it had it all, perfect stance, perfect flowing lines with the chopped padded top and full fade away fenders. Twin Appleton spotlights, dark paint and white wall tires, with smooth large disk hubcaps. Perhaps its time for somebody to build a clone of this iconic custom.[3]

Magazine Features

Road and Track May 1948
Custom Cars Trend Book No. 101
Trend Book 208 Custom Cars 2012 Annual



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