Car Culture / Cars / History

Barn-Found: Golden Sahara II w/ Video

How many wacky kustoms did George Barris build? We all know about the Batmobile, the Monkeys GTO, and the gaggle of morbid yet cool Munster cars. But what is the Golden Sahara II? What happened to the first Golden Sahara? Forget George Barris, we’re thinking hello George Jetson!

Based on a 1953 Lincoln Capri, the Golden Sahara II was a technologically futuristic (for the times) kustom that features a Barris signature bubble top, a long slabbed and low-riding chassis, and tons of one-off design elements. The donor car was close to Barris’ heart because it was his daily driver before a wreck in thick fog sidelined it.

Dubbed the Electronic Car, the Golden Sahara II’s claim to fame was its self-driving ability… take that Waymo! The car has five independent steering systems, and radar braking system, paint made from fish scales, and the head-scratching “Gold Glass” tires. The massive machine was built for Jim Street (whose real last name was Skonzakes), a passionate enthusiast who toured the car all around America after its debut at the 1954 Petersen Autorama show in Los Angeles. The kustom ride was the center of attention at every stop, drawing massive crowds and hordes of media. It was even Motor Trend magazine’s cover car for the May 1955 issue… a hit indeed.

Possible steering strategies include push button, conventional, voice command, radio, and something called unitrol… It also appeared on popular TV talk shows of the day (see video below). Jim reportedly tucked the stone-age tech Zenith television remote controls up his sleeve to activate the car’s many autonomous features as if by voice command. The rear seat, which is more hipster lounge than commuter cabin, features built-in massage units and the rear cabin is set-up as a cocktail bar, complete with ice machine.

As mentioned above, the original version of the Sahara was built by none other than George Barris. The car got its “II” moniker when it was updated by Bob Metz and Delphos Machine & Tool in 1959. This is when features like the split fin treatment at the rear and the famous gold illuminated wheel-and-tire combo were added.

Golden Sahara II became a literal star for its performance in the Jerry Lewis comedy, “Cinderfella.” The car serves as the enchanted horse and carriage from the original fairy tale… we’re not sure what happened after the clock’s 12th bell… maybe the Golden Sahara II turned into Fred Flintstone’s foot-powered car or a white rhino.

In real life the car dropped out of the limelight with magical swiftness, disappearing from the scene almost overnight in the late ’60s. Jim hung on to the car through thick and thin before passing away in 2017. The Golden Sahara II was discovered barn-find style and is now making its way to auction in as-found condition. It will be offered at Dana Mecum’s 31st Original Spring Classic this May in Indianapolis, Indiana.


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