From years spent as one of America’s most famous custom cars — touring prolifically around the country and drawing big crowds and media attention wherever it appears — to a sudden disappearance into the garage of its owner, the “Golden Sahara” is legendary. Now the George Barris custom will be up for bids at Mecum Auctions’ May 15-19 Indianapolis Auction.
Barris and friend Jim “Street” Skonzakes turned a ‘49 Chevy into a spectacular custom with glittering gold paint, a custom half-bubble top, a gold bullet bumper and countless other custom touches.
Barris dubbed the final product “The Golden Sahara,” and it made its public debut in 1954 at the Petersen Motorama held at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles. In 1956, Street commissioned the Delphos Machine and Tool shop out of Dayton, Ohio, to take the car to the next level. Bob Metz took the lead on the rework, altering the windshield, hood and roof, and adding stacked quad headlights with frosted covers. Further gold plating was added to the sides of the fenders, and the car was fitted with new twin-V tail fins and new bumperettes. Jim Rote was brought into the mix to design an electronic control system for the car that would allow for a plethora of steering options, including manual or standard. An electronic control system also included voice control and a remote that could open the doors as well as start and kill the engine; the same remote could even control the car’s acceleration and braking.
The car became even more famous after appearing in movies and on TV, but as the 1960s drew to a close, Street withdrew it from the show circuit. Without explanation, the car simply vanished from the public’s view. Until recently, the car’s whereabouts and condition remained a mystery. This May, the Golden Sahara will emerge still untouched from “Street” Skonzakes’ Ohio home, where it has been hidden.
For more information on the car and the Mecum Indy sale, visit