Sam Barris' 1950 Buick
1950 Buick Sedanette owned and restyled by Sam Barris. Built in his spare time, it took 22 months of hard work for Sam to turn his Buick into a full fledged custom. After a garage fire, only a shell full of ashes remained of the Buick. The car was then sold to a wrecking yard so it could be dismantled for parts. Sam found the Buick at the wrecking yard in 1951 and decided to bring it to the Barris shop in Lynwood. Sam had to pay $650 US for the burned out remains.
After removing the body trim outside and inside, Sam decided to chop the top on the Buick. He chopped the flowing roof in the rear by sectioning the body and by reducing the height of the deck lid. By doing this, Sam was able to retain the original body lines and use the original rear window. Up front, the top was chopped three and a half inches. The rear of the car and roof were sectioned five inches from a point below the rear quarter windows to the rear body panel, with the better part of this cut being done through the deck lid. After the cut, the windshield was slanted back to meet the front edge of the lowered top. The center of the top was dropped straight down, and the rear of the top was moved forward. To give the top and body sides a smoother look, Sam removed the drip-rails. Sam formed a similar rail inside the door opening to prevent water from leaking in the doors.
The seams between the rear fenders and the body were molded smooth. Sam shaved the door handles and installed solenoids with the outer actuating buttons being concealed in the lower door trim molding. The original side trim was replaced with chrome from a 1951 Lincoln. The Lincoln trim was both reversed and turned over. Up front headlight rims from a 1953 Buick were frenched to the fenders. The stock grille was replaced by a 1953 Oldsmobile grille bar mounted below the stock Buick grille frame. The grille tips contained air scoops that direct air to the car's interior. The front bumper was a reworked 1951 Buick bumper. For a clean look, Sam also nosed the hood and filled the portholes.
For a longer look, the rear fenders were extended four inches. Taillights from a 1953 Pontiac station wagon were frenched into the rear fenders. The rear fenders were completed with the addition of a strip of metal along their lower edge to give the car the appearance of being lower than it actually was. The deck lid was pancaked and a release solenoid installed with the actuating button located on the dashboard. Rear bumper came from a 1951 Cadillac.
Once the bodywork had been completed Sam painted the car in a Golden Maroon Bronze color. The paint job required the use of many gallons of color and necessitated several color-sanding and rubbing operations.
The car's interior was upholsterd in maroon mohair with inset buttons and pleated white leatherette by Carson Top Shop. White shag rugs were used as carpet. The headliner was done in bright maroon mohair with occasional white beading marking the supporting bows. The same maroon mohair was also used on the lower portion of the door and quarter panels, on the seat cushions and a portion of the seat backs. The mohair was studded with deeply inset white buttons. Upper part of the panels and seats were pleated with white leatherette.
Sam lowered the car just over 3 inches to give it a proper stance. It was dressed up featuring 1953 Cadillac Sombrero hubcaps, hand made fender skirts and dual Appleton spotlights. Studebaker vent-door diamonds were attached to the hubcap centers. Sam kept the original straight-eight engine that sat in the car when he bought it from the wrecking yard.
The build was completed in 1953,  and Sam admitted that he never would do another car for himself requiring as much job as the Buick did. He used the car as his daily driver for some months, before he in 1954 decided to sell it in order to afford an eye-surgery for his son John Barris. John had eye-cancer, and this was an expensive operation, so Sam had to let the car go in order to cover the medical bills.
In July of 1960, Robert A. Radcliffe spotted Sam's old Buick on a used car lot on Sunrise Highway in upstate New York. The owner wanted $600 for the car, but as Rob only had $400, was going into the Navy in 2 weeks, and already had three other cars, he passed the deal. Rob got to sit in the car, and he remembers it being perfect besides missing a couple of buttons on the seat. According to the lot owner, famous Jazz singer Billy Eckstein had sold the car to the lot.
After this, nobody knew where the famous Sam Barris Buick was, until 1969 when Robert Bartel of 12 Colgate Street, Port Jefferson Station, New York, spotted the car. Robert owned a gas station, and one day while being at work, he saw the Buick being towed in the back of a barn across his gas station. He asked the owner if he wanted to sell it, but the grumpy owner got mad and told him to get off his property. The guy sold it to a junky in town. In 1974 Robert tracked the junky down, and was able to purchase the car. He was planning to restore it, but time and money did not allow it. He installed a 1970 Buick engine and transmission, but there it stopped. He sent a letter to George Barris, asking for information about the car. He was asking for information about the grille, taillights, side trim, and color.
Robert sold the car in the mid seventies. It swapped hands a couple of times before it eventually ended up on a riverbank in Tanton, Massachusetts. Chris Canier found the car sitting there, and knew immediately what kind of treasure he had found. Chris sold the car to Jim Walker of Dayton, Ohio. Jim had Dave Oakes restore it for him, and a low-mileage 1950 Buick Sedanette had to be sacrificed in order to get the car back to its former glory. After a while, Jim sold the car to kustom car enthusiast and Barris collector Kurt McCormick.
Restored by Manns Restoration
Kurt displayed the car on several shows, and it was exhibited at the Darryl Starbird museum for a while. When Kurt got the car back in 2012, he hired Manns Restoration to do a full restoration job on the car. The restoration of the car was completed in March of 2017.
Magazine Features and Appearances
Did you enjoy this article?
Kustomrama is an encyclopedia dedicated to preserve, share and protect traditional hot rod and custom car history from all over the world.
- Help us keep history alive. For as little as 2.99 USD a month you can become a monthly supporter. Click here to learn more.
- Subscribe to our free newsletter and receive regular updates and stories from Kustomrama.
- Do you know someone who would enjoy this article? Click here to forward it.
Can you help us make this article better?
Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have additional information or photos to share about Sam Barris' 1950 Buick.
This article was made possible by:
SunTec Auto Glass - Auto Glass Services on Vintage and Classic Cars
Finding a replacement windshield, back or side glass can be a difficult task when restoring your vintage or custom classic car. It doesn't have to be though now with auto glass specialist companies like www.suntecautoglass.com. They can source OEM or OEM-equivalent glass for older makes/models; which will ensure a proper fit every time. Check them out for more details!
Do you want to see your company here? Click here for more info about how you can advertise your business on Kustomrama.