Did Bill Hibbler buy The Batmobile?

The Batmobile

Did I buy the Batmobile? Actually I didn’t because I’m a little short on cave, er garage space but I did have a nice conversation with the owner Friday.

Friday, while my wife, mother and sister hit the mall, I snuck off to the Autorama, a classic car show in downtown Houston.

There I saw hundreds of gorgeous automobiles including immaculately restored Chevrolets, Fords, Chryslers, Dodges, Oldsmobiles, Buicks, Nissans, Volkswagens and others. It was a car nut’s paradise.

Lance Armstrong’s custom GTO, a gorgeous fully restored 1960 Corvette (shown below) and dozens of 70’s ‘muscle cars’ in pristine condition.

I also got to meet an early hero, George Barris, King of the Kustomizers. George was at the show along with two of his most famous creations, the original Batmobile from the TV series and the Munster’s coach from The Munster’s movie and TV series.

The Batmobile might be the most famous car in America, if not the world since the TV series has been syndicated worldwide for 40 years. Barris is also the creator of cars like the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard, KITT from Knight Rider, the Ectomobile from Ghostbusters, The Monkee Mobile and cars for Starsky & Hutch, the A-Team and many other shows.

Besides being a great custom car designer, George Barris is a master marketer. Orphaned when he was only three years old in Chicago in 1928, he and his older brother Sam went to live with relatives in California.

The Barris Brothers developed a passion for cars at an early age and young George won competitions for construction and design with his scratch-build model cars. As teenagers, the brothers learned how to do body work on cars by hanging out after school at local body shops.

The brothers opened their own custom car shop, Kustoms of Los Angeles, just after WW II in Los Angeles. This was just about the time the hot rod craze was starting in America.

Barris organized car clubs, cruises and participated in car shows to promote the business. He also quickly got the attention of the Hollywood movie studios. Barris not only made custom cars for the movies but also customized the personal cars of the stars.

He became one of the first columnists for Hot Rod magazine and was quite popular for his do-it-yourself articles.

George would travel all over the U.S. in his cars with the name “Barris” plastered everywhere he could. He covered car shows, did radio interviews and appeared with his cars on TV talk shows. He even got the toy companies involved when in the late 50’s, Revell began making model kits of George’s cars.

I remember building some of those models myself when I was a kid. That’s where I first heard George Barris’ name.

Nowadays, car customizing, along with custom choppers has become a huge industry thanks in large part to TV shows like Overhaulin’, Monster Garage and American Chopper. Customizers like Jesse James, the Teutuls and Bob Foose have become celebrities.

But Barris was the first and his cars are the most famous of all. I didn’t get to speak to Bob for very long but he was nice enough to take a picture with me in front of The Batmobile.

In addition to the cars on display, there were also cars up for auction, a number of booths selling various car merchandise and a giant swap meet/flea market for car enthusiasts.

I’ve mentioned this in previous newsletters but I think this market is an example of a perfect niche for online marketers. Why? Let me explain…

The Autorama attracts enough people that it’s held in Houston’s largest convention center for three days. Adult tickets ran $16 per person. A large crowd was on hand when I visited on Friday and people were spending money hand over fist.

People bought car polish and wax, auto-related clothing, parts, custom license plates, sound equipment, wheels and much more. One of the hottest selling items were small scale replica cars.

This is a rapidly growing market. Several booths featured nothing but these little metal cars and they were selling like hotcakes. People wanted replicas of cars they owned and of the classic car they’ve always wanted to own but maybe can’t afford.

I think this would be a perfect thing to sell on a website and/or eBay. The challenge for the people shopping at the car show is they had to search through dozens and dozens of cars to find a particular model. A website with a search function would make this much simpler. Plus they wouldn’t have to wait for the next car show.

This market is also ripe for information products. Ebooks, audios and videos could be made on car customization, detailing, repair, maintenance, how to buy cars and parts, classic car restoration, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Also, membership sites and forums are popular among users of a particular make or sometimes model, if it’s a popular car. You could collect articles from directories, write a few yourself and add a forum using Google Adsense and affiliate commissions to monetize the site.

If you’re a car buff, this is something you should seriously consider. And if you’re thinking that you love cars but aren’t an expert, you can always interview an expert to create an info product.

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