Car Thoughts: An Abandoned Barris Kustom ’72 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 Hearse

A cause for some concern, this apparently-abandoned Barris Kustom Hearse was seen parked and collecting an incredible amount of dust down on the bottom level of the Hollywood & Highland parking garage in Hollywood, California.

As nearly as I can tell, it has been down there for almost two months, possibly longer. It seems as if someone just parked it, locked it, and walked away. This raises a couple of questions that had been lingering since George Barris’ passing in 2015, like what happened to his estate? As nearly as I can tell, he had no offspring (will correct this if I find out otherwise) and his wife passed away in 2001, so I don’t doubt that someone with a creative portfolio and tangible assets like the historic body shop and personal collection of Kustom cars like Barris’ would find people fighting a raging war of rights over the assets.

But what you wouldn’t expect, is that someone would just give part of it up as seems to be the case here. Puzzling…very puzzling…

The front seats were upholstered in faux tiger skin and it had a chain link steering wheel and chrome skull gear selector. Notable additions to the exterior included a skull hood ornament and. naturally, the Barris crest on both front fenders. The rear glass was tinted to the point that I couldn’t get my camera flash to punch through it. Perhaps if it’s there when I go back, I’ll remember to bring something more powerful.

Of course it was only a matter of time before weekend revelers started drawing inappropriate images in the dust, so yeah, there are things like a “horizontal bowling pin” on the hood. I say “horizontal bowling pin” because I consider myself to be a completely unqualified art critic and that’s what it looks like.

Car Thoughts: The Ballad of Norman Bent

My little limerick about Norman Bent and his shop tricycle (referred to as a traffic car back in the day) was originally published on DriveTribe six months ago, but the site, still in its infancy, had issues with formatting the verses, so here it is, looking the way it’s supposed to:

Before you go to bed
Have you heard the tale?
Of a fellow who’s a legend
Not one mission did he fail.

The man of whom I speak
The man who we all know
Would go to anyone anywhere
With his parts and tools in tow

This man was Norman Bent
He was kind and dedicated
He treated all with respect
As if they were related

Got a broken moto?
Got a broken bicycle too?
Got a broken model airplane?
Norman Bent can bring the glue.

Norman Bent's Cycle Shop Tricycle

Norman Bent, he travels
On his trusty traffic car
Delivering parts and service
To people near and far

Norman Bent's Cycle Shop Tricycle

It’s got a suicide shifter
Three wheels of spoke and steel
And a cargo box weighed down with tools
To give it that stable feel

He’s the automotive Santa
On his trike of tools and parts
You could say he has a doctorate
In the automechanical arts

Norman Bent's Cycle Shop Tricycle

Norman he does travel
On his trusty Indian moto
But this was in the days
Before all could snap a photo

Now there’s all this sharing
These insta’s, tweets, and snaps
But of Norm there are no photos
On social media traps

Norman Bent's Cycle Shop Tricycle

But then one day he vanished
Friends searched far and wide
They were in need of services
That only Norm could provide

He left behind his trike
It’s still with us right here
But Norm was never heard from
The trike we hold so dear

Did he depart too early?
From something he could not heal?
Folks think it’s something better
They call her Norm’s “fourth wheel”

Norman Bent's Cycle Shop Tricycle

And so Norman Bent the legend
The mechanic we’re so fond of
He started a new journey
Just he and his newfound love

We all want Norman back
If we had our druthers
But let’s stop being selfish
Because Norm, he helped out others

So while we’ll never know
Where the legend went
We all can practice kindness
Like the helpful Norman Bent

Norman’s traffic car was on loan from the AMA Hall of Fame Museum to the Petersen Automotive Museum. I’m unsure as to whether or not it’s still there, but it doesn’t matter because the Petersen is an astonishing car museum, and you’ll see more posts from me there as I’m a member.