SAM BARRIS BUICK Part 2
Sam Barris his personal Milestone Custom from the early 1950s disappeared on the East Coats of the US in the 1960s. Neglected for many years, it was eventually found, restored and enjoyed as intended.
As mention in part ONE the whereabouts of the Sam Barris 1950 Buick after 1960 gets kind of sketchy, There are many stories told about this period, many names as possible owners have been mentioned. But a clear historic fact base story about this period has not yet been shared. And at this moment we also do not have these facts, so we will try to tell as much details in this part of the story as we can, but will leave out some of the names and details which have not been confirmed yet. Hopefully one day the whole story will be told, and shared. This is the second part of the story on Sam Barris his Milestone Custom…. Sam Barris 1950 Buick 2
Several sources have mentioned that the Buick was owned by drag racer who used it for drag racing and promotion work. It is said that the stock straight-eight engine was replaced by a hopped-up Buick Nailhead V-8 and that the rear inner fenders were cut out to make place for big slicks. We have not been able to locate any photos of this period of the car. Then the car disappears again until it was found in the late 1960’s and bought to be restored. The car was in sad condition, but most of it was still there and very restorable. Only nobody back then was really into Custom Cars, et alone restored an original Custom from the 1950’s. Three photos from the early 1970’s show that the car still has the same wire wheels as the photos taken in 1957 show. It is hard to tell from the pictures, but it appears the rear wheels are also wires, which makes the drag racing story a bit questionable. But who knows perhaps after the racing the wire wheels were put back on.
This photo shows the car in early 1970’s. We can see the wire wheels which look a lot like the once on the car in the 1957 NJ photos. It also looks like the rear wheels are wire wheels. Notice the broken windshield. The car was now owned by Robert Bartel from Port Jefferson Station in NY.
Robert offered the Buick up for sale in an 1970’s Hot Rod Magazine (thanks to David Squires for the scan).
Another photo shows the car with an early 1970’s Buick engine installed. That is about as far as the restoration went with this owner. Notice that the broken windshield has been removed by now.
Junked and Rescued
After this the car ends up parked en neglected once again, many parts went missing in this period. It was “parked” next to a garage and left out in the open as if it was some junk. Fortunately it was discovered by Chris Carrier and saved. It ended up being for Sale correctly listed as the Sam Barris 1950 Buick at a mid 70’s Hershey, Pennsylvania swap meet. It was here that Jim Walker from Dayton Ohio sees the car, and falls in love with it.
Yep… this is it… the Sam Barris 1950 Buick… the real deal. Its even amazing that back in the early/mid 1970’s Chris and his friends went true all the trouble saving this old Custom. This was the area only very few people were into Custom Cars, let along finding original customs and restoring them back to how they used to look.
Ron Fortunato remembers the Sam Barris Buick from the early 1970’s
Around 1972 or 1973, I saw an ad for the Sam Barris Kustom Buick, in the back of the then, latest monthly issue of Hot Rod Magazine. There was a small photo showing the very rough Buick. I called the phone number wanting to buy it. I think this was just when it was pulled out of the woods. The then owner told me, it was already sold, and I was too late!
I asked him to please take my name and number, just in case things change. He kindly took it.
Well, sadly, I accepted the bad news, and I tried to forget about it, but I never did.
Some time after that call, I unexpectedly received a phone call one day, from a fellow that owned Sam’s Buick, asking me if I was still interested in buying it? Of course I immediately said yes! Because I really wanted to have it, buy it and restore it.
Then I remembered, I now had no place to put it, because I had since purchased a 1951 Ford Victoria hardtop to restore.
So, as it was, I regrettably had to turn it down. It was just bad timing again for me, and Sam’s Kustom Buick.
Jim Walker, bought Sam’s Buick after that, and had it restored. I’m glad he did it, because I’ve always felt sick about the outcome for me, but I’m glad people were able to enjoy that great Barris Kustom beauty again!
Although, it has always been, one of the BIG regrets in my life, it will be great however, to see it back again, for many people to view and enjoy!
Mid 1970’s at the Hershey, Pennsylvania swap meet the body was in red oxide primer to prevent further damage. But as the photo shows many parts like the bumpers, rare taillights, windshield, grille, interior and various trim pieces are missing.
Jim Walker Restores the Buick
After Jim Walker bought the remains, the painstaking job of finding all the missing parts could start. Fortunately the February 1954 issue of Rod & Custom Magazine was a big help. The article was written pretty accurate and a lot of missing parts could be identified with the help of the magazine. Some parts, like the Pontiac wagon taillights were not easy to find, but in the end Jim and his team where able to find most of the parts. And the restoration could start.
Jim found an 1950 Buick Riviera two-door that he used for the frame and drive train. The Sam Barris customized body was removed from the original frame which was in very sad condition by now, and set on the new in much better shape Riviera frame. Once again the Buick had a Straight-Eight engine. Jim hired Dave Oakes to do the restoration on the Buick. Dave did a great job fixing all that had been damaged over the years of abuse. Straightened the body, repaired parts, and reinstalled missing parts. The car was painted in 1970 Buick Titian Red which came close to the original paint samples found on the car. The interior was redone using all the old photos from the little magazines Jim was able to find. He only changed the white shag rug for a black one since Jim planned to use the car a lot, and white carpet might then not be the most practical. The restoration was finished in 1979. Jim enjoyed the car a lot, he visited many KKOA and other shows and the car was seen a lot driving all over.
Kurt McCormick the new caretaker
A few years later, Barris Collector Kurt McCormick, was able to talk Jim into selling him the car. The Buick has been in Kurt’s amazing collection of historical important customs ever since. Kurt has driven the car quite a bit, and showed it at many shows, including a long period at the Darryl Starbird Museum in Wichita.
The Sam Barris Buick was featured in magazines from all over the world and appeared in several books. The car with the help of Jim Walker and Kurt McCormick helped put Customs back on the map again in the 1980’s. This front 3/4 view show how well proportions this car is.
Steve Boutte took these photos at the Darryl Starbird Museum in 2007. The car was on display there for several years. The photo on the left shows that the 1980’s restoration was missing the chrome lip inside thee headlights as it was created by Sam originally. It also shows that the car is showing some signs of age.
In late 2013 Kurt decides he wants to update the drive train on the Buick with the installation of a Buick Nailhead engine. This would help him drive the car on a more regular base. The car was delivered at Manns Restoration for the update. When the car was in the shop they asked if they could repaint the car so they could use it as display piece for an upcoming show. But once they removed the interior they discover a much more rusty base than everybody had expected. Kurt then decided to go for a complete restoration. We are looking forward for the Sam Buick to get back on the road and visiting the local car shows again.
When the Buick is fully restored we hope to be able to bring you part three in this series….
And hopefully some of the missing parts in this cars history can be confirmed and filled in. Stay tuned….
Go back to part ONE of the Sam Barris 1950 Buick
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