The legend lives on. Two legends, actually, if you choose to believe the claimed provenance of a rare custom Corvette that sold recently at Bonhams’ Tupelo Auction.
More than three years after George Barris’ death in November 2015, his custom creations (kustom kreations?) continue to make their way into the automotive spotlight. Late last month, one of about a dozen “Barrister” Corvettes that the King of Kustomizers built for celebrities like James Caan, Bo Derek, and Sammy Davis Jr. sold for $51,520. The outlandish black-and-gold stretched Corvette is believed to have been owned by Liberace, and although there is no documentation to validate that assertion, the eccentric car certainly seems like something that the equally eccentric pianist would drive. The pre-auction estimate was $50,000–$80,000, so the buyer may even have scored a bargain.
“George Barris is among the best-known customizers of all time and just about anything he built is collectible,” says Hagerty valuation editor Andrew Newton. “With that said, his signature style—and the look of neoclassics, in general—isn’t to everyone’s taste. Plus, the Liberace connection is unverified. So, all things considered, this was a realistic price.”
The Barrister, which Barris referred to as “a 1930s-style modern sports car,” began its life as a 1982 Chevrolet Corvette. After Barris lengthened the frame, he added a long hood, gold radiator shell, the headlights from a Ford Granada, faux side-exhaust pipes, v-windscreen, and fastback humps behind the driver and passenger headrests. The interior features velour, tufted bucket seats, wood trim, and a candelabra between the seats, a tribute to its supposed previous owner. Under the hood is a 350-cubic-inch OHV V-8 engine with Cross-Fire fuel injection, which generates about 200 horsepower. The car has a four-speed 700-R4 automatic transmission, four-wheel independent suspension, and four-wheel hydraulic ventilated disc brakes.
It may not be a Batmobile, but it definitely has the look. And Liberace was known to wear a cape, right?