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Questions for George Barris about the Modern Grecian.

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  • Questions for George Barris about the Modern Grecian.

    A couple of years ago, I had exchanged e-mails with someone at regarding a need for information on the "Modern Grecian" 1948 Studebaker kustom created George Barris . The idea was to put together an article for "Turning Wheels". I don't know if Mr. Barris has ever been interviewed about that car in particular, especially from the standpoint of a Studebaker enthusiast. But, so far, my attempts have been fruitless.

    Do any of you have any ties to Mr. Barris? If so, it would be great to put together
    a Q&A sort of article, and submit it to SDC for publication in Turning Wheels.

    I am particularly interested in as many photos as can can be compiled with regard to the kustomization of the car. Too many photos wouldn't be enough!

    Here are the questions I have come up with. Hopefully, one of you can take these questions and run with them:
      • According to your web site,, the "Modern Grecian" was one of the most radical 4 door Barris Kustoms. Where did you obtain the 1947 Studebaker used for this project?
      • Was this a job for a customer (if so, who), or was this your own project?
      • Was the car a wreck, a nice running stocker, or already mildly customized by the time you started?
      • Do you recall whether it was a Champion, Commander, or Land Cruiser?
      • When did you begin the project, and how long did the entire build (original version) take from the time you pulled it into your shop?
      • Where was your shop located at the time?
      • Your web site also indicates that the car was chopped and channeled. Do you recall the dimensions of these modifications (in inches)?
      • But it also appears to be sectioned. Is that just an illusion due to the pancaked hood? If it was sectioned, then how much?
      • For the canted quad headlights, what kind of headlight bucket was used? Or were they completely hand-formed?
      • What material was used for the frosted headlight covers?
      • Was any part of the build (upholstery, etc.) handled by another shop? If so, which one?
      • Were the paint colors chosen from a production vehicle, or custom mixed?
      • I can see a 1955 Oldsmobile grille bar was used in the center of the front bumper. What was the rest of the bumper made up from? What about the rear bumper?
      • The car has a very intricate grille. What were the various components that were assembled for that piece?
      • What trim was used for the side trim? What about the spears in the hood/fender scoops?
      • Were the rear fender scoops appropriated from a production car, aftermarket, or hand-built?
      • The rear window is a three piece unit. What did it come from?
      • Can you describe the various modifications to the rear of the car?
      • Were the cast aluminum hubcaps created especially for this car? How many copies did you make, and do you still have the molds? Was this style hubcap used for any other cars that came out of your shop?
      • Was the drivetrain all stock, or did it get some work too?
      • Was the suspension modified to get the low ride height, or was it just the channeling that got it that low?
      • What about any special features of the interior, such as colors, materials, and kustom bits (more photos would be helpful!)?
      • Any idea what the customer paid for the modifications at that time?
      • Did you ever drive the car after it was finished?
      • What was the response to this car from the general public?
      • Where was this car shown? Did it receive any notable awards or magazine coverage (scanned color images of period magazine covers or articles would be helpful!)?
      • Of course, this car has special meaning for Studebaker fans. Was this an significant car for you personally or professionally?
      • Prior to the "Modern Grecian" had you customized other Studebakers (either for yourself or customers)? What were they?
      • What details can you provide about the later customization to the car (going from "Grecian" to "Modern Grecian")?
      • Do you have any interesting stories you'd like to share about this car?

    Surely others could come up with other great questions.

    I think it would be great to document this unique chapter in Studebaker history for posterity!
    I am afraid that the history of this car may be lost if it is not properly documented now.
    ~Matt Connor
    '59 Lark 2-door

  • #2
    Of course, the Modern Grecian was painted several colors during it's lifetime. I've seen pix of it in pink, and also green. It's most unusual feature - is that it was a 4 door kustom, back when 4 doors were not considered cool at all.

    Here's a little about it from Kustomrama website:

    And here's another thread from this very forum about the car:
    The only difference between death and taxes is that death does not grow worse every time Congress convenes. - Will Rogers


    • #3
      True. The best news is that -- as of at least a couple of years ago -- it was still being displayed at car shows. I would just love to hear get some "behind-the-scenes" stories made available to the general public.
      ~Matt Connor
      '59 Lark 2-door


      • #4
        Based on my last conversation with him, at his age, I'm afraid that any attempt to ask Barris those kind of very detailed questions would be futile.
        Hopefuly, the details are in a book or period magazine article .
        63 Avanti R1 2788
        1914 Stutz Bearcat
        (George Barris replica)

        Washington State


        • #5
          Sorry to hear that. But thank you for the reply. I guess the next best thing would be to interview the car's current owner. Undoubtedly, he (or she) has done a lot of this "legwork", and probably has a great deal of valuable knowledge to share. Anybody have connections to that individual?
          ~Matt Connor
          '59 Lark 2-door


          • #6
            With the appearance of rear door vent windows, and a '47 Commander/LC style dash, I'd say he started with a Land Cruiser. Answers to many of your other questions can be found in the link Chris Pile provided at

            1947 Studebaker restyled by Barris Kustoms for Earl Wilson of Los Angeles, California. The car is also known as the "Grecian". The top of the car was chopped 4 inches. The body was channeled and sectioned 5 inches. 1951 Mercury rear fenders were molded to the rear of the car. The rear fenders were fit with functional air scoops. Functional air scoops were also fabricated onto the front fenders and hood.[1] it featured push-button operated windows, doors, hood, aerial and deck lid. The grille opening was made from two 1949 Mercury grille shells and a lot of sheetmetal. The grille was made from two 1951 Lincoln grilles combined with parts from several other cars. The front fenders were extended and fit with frenched headlights. The front bumper was made from 1952 Oldsmobile grille bars and Lincoln bumper ends. [2]. Frenched DeSoto taillights were used in the rear of the car. Vertical exhaust pipes openings where cut into the rear Lincln bumper courners. A Kaiser bumper guard was also added. Carson Top Shop covered the interior in green velvet and white leather. Once the car was done in 1952, it was considered to be one of the country most highly customized car.[1]

            The Grecian came back to the Barris shop when it was needed for a movie. It was fit with twin extruded aluminum fins on each rear fender, canted headlights, a new grille and a pearl yellow paint job with green diamond dust panel scheme that was applied by Junior Conway. The interior was redone by Eddie Martinez and featured four swiveling bucket seats trimmed in green and yellow upholstery with a silver piping, a tv telephone and a modified steering wheel. It was re-named into the "Modern Grecian".[3]
            Last edited by kurtruk; 02-17-2013, 07:07 PM. Reason: Added copied text.
            (read it backwards)

            Nothing is politically right which is morally wrong. -A. Lincoln


            • #7
              That pink is godawful, particularly as just a solid color. MAYBE it could have been a base color with some accent colors to make it a scheme along the lines of the yellow/green paint job. Looking at that color scheme, there could have been a slight adjustment and it could have been called the Green Hornet!

              Speaking of the yellow custom, the steering device seems to be something and not a standard wheel, doesn't it?

              I have to say, the solid creme color with the gold wings is sort of attractive. That rear end needs fins of some sort over the low fender lines, imo. We can argue the plexi fins as the answer.


              • #8
                Click image for larger version

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ID:	1679059 Here's another of the Barris Studebakers from that era. Built for a Mr. Tom Thornburgh. Not seen any coverage this article in Motor Trend March 1953.
                I met George Barris last year and had a brief conversation with him. He was not into a lot of talk!