by Mark E. Neumann
Editor’s Note: this is the tenth in a series of columns about interesting stories connected with Firebirds and Trans Ams.
First-Gen Firebirds and George Barris: A dynamic duo
We all know the custom car builder George Barris for his crazy movie and TV show cars – the Munster Coach, the Batmobile, the Green Hornet, and lots of other eye-opening projects.
But Barris, who passed away in November 2015, also had a penchant for Pontiac power. He designed a motorized stagecoach for the rock band Paul Revere and the Raiders, known for their hit songs “Cherokee Nation” and “Kicks.” Called the Raiders Coach, the two 428 ci Pontiac V8s delivered 800 horsepower to the car. The band, which also did commercials for Pontiac when the GTO Judge debuted in 1969, took the Coach with them while touring (see pictures at the Raiders Coach Facebook page).
Barris also did custom paint work and body mods on several first-generation Firebirds for TV shows in the 1960s and 1970s, including “Groovy,” a teenager situation TV series.. He customized a ’67 Firebird and made a guess appearance on one of the episodes. He also produced a customized ‘Bird for “A Boy, A Girl” – a movie starring Dino Martin (son of Dean). The convertible was basically stock except for a wild, flamed paint job.
Another Barris-customized Firebird crossed over the auction block recently at Mecum’s Chattanooga, Tennessee auction. It was a 1968 Firebird convertible customized by Barris for the “Sounds of ‘68” variety show on ABC-TV. Barris built three copies of the car as giveaways at the end of the show’s season to the best “Super Teen” musical talent.
The one that went on the auction block is believed to be the last remaining example; it was authenticated by George Barris and Barris Kustom Industries in 2006.
The styling cues that Barris developed for the car may have inspired some of the design work by Pontiac for the 1969 Firebird Trans Am, according to the car’s information sheet.
The car has a matching number 400 c.i. motor and factory teal interior. PHS Services documentation and a build sheet indicate the car was assembled at a GM plant in Los Angeles and originally sold by a Sherman Oaks, California Pontiac dealership. It has an automatic transmission with Posi traction, air conditioning, tilt wheel, and it was priced at $5,072.16.
Barris’s custom additions include simulated side air scoops, adjustable trunk mounted spoiler, unique hood, sequential taillights and unique bumpers front and rear, along with a side pipe exhaust.
In an interview with High Performance Pontiac in March 2008, Barris said he picked the Firebird for the “Sounds of ‘68” show because the car was “very youth oriented. I thought that car was the cat’s meow for that show, and I could make the car even more appealing to the 15-35 age group through design and styling upgrades,” he told HPP writer Christopher Phillip.” I loved the car. It was really great.”
Bidders took the car to $60,000 once it hit the auction block at Mecum, but it did not hit the reserve..
Clearly not a Raider’s Coach, but a nice one-of-kind collector car with the George Barris touch.
Barris G. and Featherston D. “Barris TV and Movie Cars.” MBI Publishing, 1996.
Mark enjoys taking rides in his 1974 Buccaneer Red Trans Am and serves on the copyediting team for The Eagle. He lives in Chandler, Arizona and belongs to the Valley of the Sun Pontiac Club. ( www.valleysunpontiacs.com ).