I first came across a photo of this roadster when I bought a print of it from George Barris. I was instantly in love. That color image can't get much more pure '60s, featuring the hot rod pictured in the above large photo with a bikini-clad girl laying on a longboard resting atop the dark aqua blue roadster. When one of the Barris books about the '60s was first published I learned that this roadster was owned by Skip Barrett. I knew of Barrett as an employee of both Barris and Roth in the '60s, but never knew of him as building or even having a hot rod. A few years later I stumbled upon a bright red roadster at the Throttlers yearly picnic in Burbank. I quickly learned from the owner, Bob Barmore, that his red roadster was unbelievably "what I always called" the Skip Barrett roadster! It had somehow survived but had lost a lot of its aggressive race/show look. I exchanged numbers with Barmore in hopes of solving his car's history, but I never got in contact with him.
Then an article came out in The Rodder's Journal about the L.A. Roadsters and one of the photos had a lot of similarities to the one sitting in Barmore's garage. It was discovered to be the same car that was originally built by David C. Martin of the L.A. Roadsters! Current owner Bob Barmore attributes Jim Aust as figuring out what car he had been enjoying driving for a number of years.
Five years later I came across it in some cool car show photos in our archive. I was working on last month's installment when I got a phone call out of the blue from Barmore who said he had been contacted by the original builder, Martin. He came across a picture of his old roadster on the Internet and couldn't believe it was still around. As far as he knew it was gone since he hadn't seen the car since the early '60s.
Although some of the car's history is still vague we've done the best to compile what miraculously came together in the last couple months. What a crazy turn of events for Barmore who now has almost all the pieces of his hot rod puzzle.
The Story As We Know It Today (Research Ongoing)
Concept sketches for his roadster, circa 1958 by David C. Martin.
Around 1958 David C. Martin bought a stock roadster from a farm where it was being used as a woodshed. He did some sketches of what he wanted to build and then started collecting parts, which included the "junkyard" Buick Nailhead mill. Larry Watson photos have surfaced showing Bill DeCarr working on the car. According to Martin the bodywork was handled by someone in Whittier with the possible name of Reiley (spelling unknown). Once the bodywork was complete he took it to Watson who matched the gold paint to a bottle of fingernail polish Martin provided.
By 1958 the beautiful roadster was on the road and Martin became the 16th member of the L.A. Roadsters. Shortly after this time it was sold to Nick Alexander (known today for his one-time mammoth woodie collection and Nick Alexander BMW dealership). Alexander has a picture of him drag racing it at Lions Drag Strip and claims to have a timing slip to prove it ran 103 mph. After owning it for less than a year, his dad, Ben (who played Joe Friday's sidekick on Dragnet), felt the hot rod was too dangerous and made him sell it around 1960. In exchange his dad offered him a new car (from his "Ben Alexander Ford").
Alexander sold the car to a guy in Pasadena, CA. Recently ownership was traced to South Pasadena high schooler Tony Harvison, who owned it around 1961.
Photo by George Barris, courtesy of the Robert Barmore collection.
In 1963 Barris and Roth employee Skip Barrett was the owner and updated it a bit with a dark aqua blue paintjob, taller shifter, different carburetion, taillights, and chromed Astro mags.
In 1970, on a trip to the L.A. Roadsters Show, Don Bunch bought the car in Long Beach and brought it home to Tennessee. He had James or Tom Long of Long's Rod Shop, in Morristown, TN, redo the car. The body and grille shell were left alone, but a new frame was built, full hood added, 302 Ford mill replaced the Nailhead, and it was squirted yellow. Bunch finished it in October 1975.
Dave Brittonook owned it from 1976 to 1980. He added green flames and still has the carb scoops from the Skip Barrett version.
Auto dealer Don L. Knight bought it sometime between 1980 and 1981, and owned it until 1983.
Steve Anderson owned it from 1983 to 1985, painted it red, dyed the brown leather silver, added a tilt steering column, and ended up selling it through Jim Ellis Auctions of Bristol, VA.
Greg Lewis from Elizabethton, TN, acquired the car in very poor condition in 1987 and repainted it red again and put in the current gray interior.
Bob Barmore bought it in 1998 from Greg Lewis of Tennessee and brought it back home to California. He changed out the chrome wheels for steel wheels and added new tires.
In Robert Williams' book The Hot Rod World Of Robert Williams, he says that in the '50s and '60s "if you were involved in hot rodding you were some kind of a doofus!" That's where the current personalized license plate idea came from.
Photo courtesy of the L.A. Roadsters Archive.
All the owners in Tennessee loved the car and reported that it "hits the road like a dream
Dave Brittonook took it to the NSRA Nationals in Memphis in 1975.
Barmore is in the process of reinstalling Pontiac taillights like Martin used, moving the