Richard "Korky" Korkes was born April 1, 1935 in Whippany, New Jersey. His dad was a union carpenter and he was very knowledgeable when it came to cars. According to Korky, his dad showed him much of what he knew when he started his customizing career.
Korky attended and graduated from Morristown, New Jersey high school. He went on to engineering college but his love of cars and his ability to customize replaced the goal of completing his studies. Korky's first car was a 1946 Ford convertible. He got the car at age 17 in 1952. Naturally Korky could not leave the car alone and soon it had a full race engine, two speed rear end and other Korky improvements including a metallic blue paint job. Korky admits he did not paint the car himself as he was just learning how to paint. Korky attributes much of his inital car knowledge to his father Joseph Korkes and tells us that he then learned much of his craft on his own.
Korky's second car, at age 19, was a brand new red 1954 Ford convertible. Korky was more into customizing by then, and the brand new Ford evolved into The Parisienne. The Parisienne is one of the most famous cars of its day and won many car shows on the East Coast. About the same time Korky created the Free Wheelers of Whippany car club.
The souvenir program for the 1960 Hartford Autorama contains an ad for Korky's Kustom Shop. At the time, the shop was located at 14 Highland Avenue, a two-car wood frame garage behind his parent's house in Whippany. In 2019 Thomas Casserly told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama that he used to watch Korky build many of his customs in the early to mid-1960s;"Korky’s Parisienne was built in my back yard, the house where I grew up had a back yard that backed up to Korky’s. When we were small kids we would go down and look in the windows to see what he was working on. Little did we know that we were watching history. There were times when the Barris show made the rounds to the East Coast and all the cars, the Batmobile, Bat Cycle, and Sonny and Cher’s cars were all in Korky’s parent's driveway. Unbelievable when I think back."
At the age of 28 Korky built a futuristic bubble top Jaguar for Bobby Freedman. The car was instantly famous and won many major car shows. So famous became the car, that George Barris of Barris Kustoms wanted to tap into Korky's talants and solicited Korky to work in California. Korky decided to come to California and go to work for George Barris in about 1963 as his shop foreman. Korky solicited Bobby Freedman, the owner of the bubble top jag to pay his way out to California. He packed up the Parisian hooked up a tow hitch, rented a uhaul, loaded the bubble top Jaguar and headed to California with a employee and friend named the "Greek".
As shop foreman at Barris Kustoms Korky was in charge of the cars that were built. George was the promotor and constantly on the road while Korky ran the shop, solved completion issues, and made certain the cars were finished on time. While working at Barris Kustom City, Korky was involved in builds such as the Batmobile, the Munster Koach, the Bat Cycle and the Calico Surfer . Among the celebritiess that Korky built cars for both at Barris and at his own shop include: Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bob Hope, Farrah Fawcett, Marvin Gaye, Jermaine Jackson, Tom Daniels, Harry Bradley, Reverend Ike, Bernie Cornfeld, Cher, Doug Rose, Canned Heat and many more.
While working at Barris there were some strange requests made of Korky. One was to customize a golf cart to look like Bob Hope. Korky took on the assignment and the Bob Hope Golf Cart was born. It then made it way into may parades, TV shows and golf appearances. Eventually Korky left Barris' to open his own shop, Korky's Kustom Studios in North Hollywood, teaming up with Joey Baker, a promoter. Korky and Joey pitched and built the now famous National League stadium carts and the Major league baseball "bull pen" carts.
Richard "Korky" Korkes' Personal Cars
Cars Restyled by Richard "Korky" Korkes
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