When the Batmobile’s designer customizes a Corvette, this happens

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Mecum | Scott Mead

Nostalgia is a funny thing. It can inspire meticulous restorations of historically or sentimentally important vehicles. It can also result in the, ah, rather polarizing Corvette before you.

This is no amateur effort, by the way. A legitimate representative of the “neoclassic” trend popular in the ’70s and ’80s, this 1969 Corvette is the second of roughly 12 examples customized by hot-rodding legend George Barris. Barris, the creator of the original Batmobile, wasn’t above following the current fashion once in a while—turbine-powered dragsters and sofa-equipped Toronados aside. He even indulged a friend for this particular Corvette build. Frank Monteleone had already commissioned a “kustomized” 1941 and ’56 Ford from the Barris shop, and evidently he thought that the 1969 model year could use a little improvement.

Under the hood sits a 350-cubic-inch V-8, the default offering for the second year of the Corvette’s third generation. This car’s three-speed automatic, however, does put it among a more select group: Only 8161 (out of 38,762) cars were fitted with Chevy’s Turbo Hydra-Matic in 1969. But you’re wondering what exactly Barris did to America’s sports car, no?

1969 Barrister Corvette Barris custom convertible profile
Mecum | Scott Mead

Barris’ vision of “a 1930s-style modern sports car” started with a lengthened frame. He then stretched the hood, replacing the Corvette’s horizontal grille with a Parthenon-esque, upright radiator shell that juts outward from the fascia’s horizontal plane. He framed this schnoz with headlights stolen from a Ford Granada, stamping new lines into the fiberglass hood to emphasize the cab-back proportions. He raked the windshield, added a center spine, and worked a V into its top contours to mirror the cowl. (The convertible top was customized to fit the new roof silhouette.) Though Chevrolet did offer side-exit exhaust systems for the ’69 model year, and many cars were retrofitted with them, the quad-exit setup on the Barris car is for show only.

The rear deck gained two streamlined humps behind each seat and, naturally, rocket-style taillamps. Barris didn’t overlook the details, either: Check out the pinstriping around the gas cap and on the rear decklid, the caps on the wheels with the Barris crest, and the plaque in the side cove behind the “exhaust.”

It is, as they say, a look—and you can adopt it, if you like. Mecum is selling this very example on Saturday, March 19, in Glendale, Arizona. Your author is an avid fan of the 1969 Corvette and cannot, under any circumstances other than military-grade torture, imagine choosing the Barris version over what God and Chevrolet originally intended. Barris’ mechanical dexterity here, though, is objectively worthy of admiration. And if good art is meant to disturb, well … then this is great art.

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