The Golden Indian returned to Detroit four decades after leaving the Alexander Brothers' shop and was greeted with awe and applause at the 50th AutoRama. Lou says he's amazed how many people remember its R&C cover. "This Pontiac could be the most famous and photographed car from its tribe," he says. We'd be inclined to agree.
The Kopper Dust OldsThe Olds is more of an unknown, proving that not all George Barris customs were famous. There were brushes with stardom as the subject of headlight "how-to" stories in Custom Cars magazine and Petersen's Custom Headlights & Fenders, but the Ohio-based custom was otherwise anonymous. Still, the chopped ragtop showcases clean, classic styling from an era (late 1958) when King George was known for more flamboyant creations like the Aztec and Ala Kart.
Pat Orsillo's journey with the car began in the '80s with a call from previous owner Bob Wescott. Barris Kustom collector Kurt McCormick had given Pat's name to Bob. That the Olds was too rough for Kurt should tell you something about its condition. Pat welcomed the call nonetheless.
"Within moments I gathered the family together and said, 'How about a trip to Graceland!'" Pat says. "Two days later we were all in an alley where the car was being stored. Eyeballing the car, I knew exactly why it had found me-it was completely gone! The only items that were still in nice shape were the original Barris crests. How they survived, I'll never know."
Pat has been able to trace some of the custom's history. It reportedly ran moonshine in earlier years, which accounts for the '57 J-2 engine, six two-barrel carbs (now just three), four-speed, 4.11:1 gears, and traction bars. Owner Don Hurley took the car to Barris in late 1958; he later sold it to Fred Glidden, who drag raced it. The Olds vanished after that. Bob's friend discovered it in the '80s, long abandoned, in the South Carolina woods.
Restoring the ragtop was a "love/hate" affair, Pat says. He loved handing off the extensive sheetmetal work to Russo's Auto Body in Middletown, New York; paying for it was a "hate" thing! Like the Pontiac, many of the Olds' body panels were replaced, then re-customized, before the PPG Copper Pearl paint was sprayed.
The Olds' fluid, simple styling has the aura of an early-'50s custom, with two exceptions giving it away as a later creation: quad headlights and '56 Packard taillights. Kudos to Barris for making both elements look right on this bulbous beauty. Naturally, the 4-inch-chopped convertible top remains a focal point, although we think the handmade grille bar with flush parking lights is a strong asset, too. Other highlights include handmade cruiser skirts, '57 Cadillac trim, recessed license plate, and shaved bumpers. Inside there's a '58 Pontiac dash and '58 Olds wheel complementing the two-tone leather by Classic Auto Upholstery.
Pat has made a few deviations from the custom's original form, namely the Kelsey Hayes wires and air springs from Air Ride Technologies. Otherwise, the car remains faithful to its beginnings. "My favorite thing about the car is that it is a Barris custom," Pat says, "and I brought it back to its original glory." Amen to that, our custom brother!