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Batmobile Creator George Barris Dies At 89

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

While Henry Ford was the father of the mass-produced automobile, George Barris was the master of the custom car. Barris died yesterday at age 89.

MCEVERS: Although he made his name in California, the whole country saw George Barris's cars in film and on TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BATMAN THEME")

UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (Singing) Batman.

MCEVERS: In the 1960s, the producer of the TV show "Batman" came to George Barris with a request. They asked him to build a car fit for a superhero. Barris told the story to NPR in 2010.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

GEORGE BARRIS: If you'll remember, that pow, bang, wow was going out throughout his whole script. That gives you an idea of what I had to contend with. I said, well, if you're going to make these exciting sounds and all this zing that comes up, I'm going to do the same thing to the car.

MCEVERS: In three weeks, he turned a Lincoln Futura into the Batmobile.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Barris created a very different kind of custom car for another '60s TV show.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BALLAD OF JED CLAMPETT")

JERRY SCOGGINS: (Singing) Well, the first thing you know, old Jed's a millionaire. The kinfolk said, Jed, move away from there, said California's the place you ought to be. So they loaded up the truck, and they moved to Beverly.

SIEGEL: "The Beverly Hillbillies" called for a real clunker, so Barris slapped together parts of a flatbed truck and a 1921 Oldsmobile to make the Clampett family car.

MCEVERS: Some of the Barris custom cars were designed for legendary stars, like Elvis Presley and Bob Hope. As for Barris himself, The LA Times says he liked to drive a Toyota Prius, custom-built with vertical doors and painted in shiny green and gold.

SIEGEL: George Barris died yesterday. He was 89 years old. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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