Master Fabricator: Wherein George Barris Takes Credit for Everything
When the original Batmobile rolled across the auction block at last year’s Barrett-Jackson auction, there was a familiar, gold bespectacled face on the stage to help sell the iconic ride. It was George Barris, who took over construction of the original car from Dean Jeffries in 1965. With all that cash, and with all the legitimate credits to his name – the Voxmobile, the Batmobile, the Beverly Hillbillies’ jalopy and hundreds of other cars – what would possess a guy to tarnish his own reputation by reinventing history, taking credit for things he never built? There’s some pathological need to be involved with every automotive creation in the last 50 years that defies explanation.
The Black Beauty
Dean Jeffries designed and built the Black Beauty for the TV show The Green Hornet. According to Karl Kirchner, who owns one of the two Black Beauty cars built for the show and runs the outstanding website BlackBeauty.com, “Mr. Jeffires had a crew working on both of these cars pretty much 24 hours a day in order to meet the deadline. Jeffries work is well known for its reliability and functionality.”
In Tom Cotter’s excellent book on Jeffries, there’s a period photograph of a banner from when the car was originally displayed, identifying Jeffries as the car’s builder. Karl Kirchner has a document from William Dozier, the producer of Batman and The Green Hornet on ABC, from 1968, identifying Jeffries as the builder.
Barris pitched a concept for the Black Beauty (below) , a design that Karl Kirchner has on his website, but the design was rejected in favor of Jeffries’ cleaner, classier original sketch.