The Corvette-Based Barrister Is How You Did Excess in the ’80s
This particular oddball neoclassic was allegedly once owned by Liberace.
Celebrities and other rich types are spoiled for choice these days, especially when it comes to filling their garages. Want to cruise around in a comfortable, easy-to-drive coupe? There are at least eight mainstream manufacturers that each offer more than one rolling status symbol. How about a plush big-money SUV? Lucky for you, we're living in an era that's seen the rise of the ultra-luxe SUV, with Bentley, Lamborghini, Maserati, and more joining the high-riding game.
It wasn't always so easy to stand out, even for the mega-wealthy, especially postwar. There wasn't much individuality available in the marketplace, so celebs that didn't want the typical Mercedes or Rolls-Royce often turned to the aftermarket for solutions. Customizer and movie-car builder extraordinaire George Barris played muse to these societal elite, catering to their whims with outrageous and over-the-top designs.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Barris built a series of neoclassical drop-tops he christened "Barristers" for this attention-hungry customer base. Starting with the then new C3 Corvette, Barris stripped off all semblance of the Chevy, going so far as to lengthen the frame. Barris wrapped the Vette bones in a design that was a strange mishmash of eras, incorporating a long hood, a split front windscreen, a golden radiator shell, a tapered tail, and fake external header and exhaust pipes. The result was something that looks quite similar to the contemporary Stutz Bearcat II, another two-door neoclassic.
The Barrister attracted its fair share of celebrity attention, with James Caan, Bo Derek, and Sammy Davis Jr. among them. Liberace, the king of excess, allegedly ordered this black and gold example recently sold at Bonhams' Tupelo Automobile Museum sale. According to the listing, the museum purchased the Barrister at auction in 1993, wearing only 19,000 miles at the time. When the hammer fell in 2019, this distinctive custom went home with a new owner for a reasonable $51,520.