Above: Here is George Barris sitting astride a new kustom bicycle prototype- exhibited at Barris Kustom City in Hollywood California, June 1968. The first showing of the new
Barris designed bicycles- made for the Stelber Cycle Corporation of New York City. The Barris-designed models were sold under the "Iverson" brand name.
Above: Stelber Cycle Corporation'sPhil Steller and Jack Berkowitz. They hired George Barris as Chief consultant to their design division. They recognized that kustom automotive design was a big driving force behind the popularity of high rise bicycles
Above:Jack Berkowitz and his son Steve showing off the first of the new line of Barris designed bicycles Stelber bicycles. Behind them on the second level display shelf is the new "Mini Indie" and the (slightly hidden) "Kustom Dragger" models, both with the original Barris designed tapered mag wheels.
Below: A trade journal article talking about the premier showing of the new Barris designed kustom bicycle collection. Including bikes with the new 5-spoke tapered mag wheels
Above: Stelber Cycles management showing off the new Barris models at the National Toy Fair - held in New York City in March 1968.
Above: A 1968 trade journal advertisement for the new Barris-esigned "Mini Indie" from Stelber Cycle.
Above: A trade journal announcement of the new Barris/Stelber kustom styled bicycles.
Left: Stelber Cycles "Saf-Tee Products" division sold Barris-designed accessories to bicycle retail outlets. Here we see Dave Goldstein holding a pair of steering wheel handlebars and on the wall in back is a Barris 5-spoke mag wheel.
Below: A color advertisement for the "Kustom Dragger" and "Mini Indie" models. These two bikes are especially rare in the collector market today, as BMX riders in the mid '70s appear to have conveniently used the wheels off these models to race with. And as everyone knows - bikes without wheels tend to get thrown out. Bikes like these were anathema when BMX style bikes took over in the 70's.
Below: Barris designed "Drag Strippers" "Mini Indies" and "Kustom Draggers" were sold throughout the United States under the "Iverson" brand name. From various newspaper advertisements:
Right: George Barris (and celebrity friend) ready to race on two new Stelber bikes. George is riding a "'Kustom Dragger" One of the rarest and most sought after of the Barris-designed Stelber/Iverson bikes.
Apart from the Barris-designed Iverson bicycles were a number of other nifty, Barris-influenced offerings from the Stelber Corporation. The Iverson "Big Wheel" and 5 speed "Gemini" were just two examples.
Right: Click on George to visit the
BR&K Barris Bicycle Archives.
In mid- to late 1967 Barris finally made inroads with a company that seemed interested in what he had to offer. The Stelber Cycle Corporation of New York City was a relatively new company headed by Phil Steller and Jack Berkowitz. Stelber management recognized that high rise bikes were part of an overall trend in the automotive world- one that strongly leaned to performance and youth culture.
The first mags
George's first big plan was to introduce an automotive type "mag" wheel for bicycle use. George felt that a radical change in wheel design was necessary to distinguish his proposed bikes from others already on the market. Giving bike wheels the look of hot rod car wheels would give the Stelber/Iverson line a performance image that was unmatchable.
The initial Iverson bikes designed by Barris in 1968 were the "Mini Indie", the "Dragstripper", the "Kustom Dragger" and the "Mini Miss"- for girls. The "Mini Indie" and the "Kustom" Dragger" both had the first incarnation of the Barris mag wheels - a 5-star tapered design painted black. Both bikes also offered the "Spoon seat" which was essentially a banana seat with a distinct curve and a high back, and a tall sissy bar with a headrest at the top. The "Mini Indie" had tall handlebars with a slightly upturned grip area, while the "Kustom Dragger" had a nearly straight set of handlebars that were similar in appearance to ones used on early drag racing motorcycles.
If only I could find one
These '68 Barris/Iverson mag wheel bikes are extremely rare today as they were made in very limited numbers, and because their mag wheels were taken off in the early to mid- '70s and put to use on BMX racing bikes. As these wheels were not as strong as later purpose-built BMX mag wheels (like the "Motomag") they were often damaged or broken during racing and jumping situations. The remaining carcasses of the Iverson mag bikes (less wheels) eventually disappeared into oblivion. In fact, examples of Iverson "Kustom Draggers" like the earlier Huffy "Penguins" of 1963 seem to have completely vanished from the face of the earth. I know of no examples that have survived in collector hands; which is a tragic shame. Those Barris mag wheels that did survive seem to be almost universally in the hands of old school BMX collectors, and rarely on original Iverson bikes.
By early '68 Barris and his team had prepared a number of prototype models prior to the official factory release. These bikes were essentially one-off kustom jobs; whose basic design elements
We will continue to look at the Barris design influence on Stelber / Iverson bikes, and on later high rise bikes in general, in the next issue of BikeRod&Kustom. For further reading check out BikeRod&Kustom's classic articles archive on George Barris and his influence on the American bike industry.
Below: A four-page magazine write-up exploring the George Barris venture into kustom bicycle design. From these wild prototypes came the production models made and sold under the "Iverson" brand name by the Stelber Cycle Corporation.
wound up in the Barris line of Iverson bikes released in 1968 and 1969. Some aspects of the Barris design influence came out in later Iverson high risers, but the machines produced in '68 through to 1970 are considered the classics. George Barris had a special showing of his Stelber/Iverson prototypes in June of 1968; at his "Barris Kustom City" location in Hollywood California.
Right: Description of the newly available "Mini Indie" bike from a period trade journal.
R E T U R N T O
Hail to the Chief
Steller and Berkowitz met with Barris to hear his proposal, which amounted to his assessment that high rise bicycle design was essentially kustom culture-driven, and that he (as the most well known automotive kustomizer) could bring a new dimension and outlook to their bikes' design potential. Barris outlined the growth of the new bike style from its early beginnings and influences, and pointed out to the men that "high-riser" styling had been (to that point) fairly rudimentary and tame. Barris then proposed some of the ideas that he believed would propel a willing Stelber Corp. into one of the front runners in forward-thinking bike design. Steller and Berkowitz studied George's proposal and investigated related market trends. and they came to the conclusion that the Barris plan seemed to make good corporate sense. They contacted Barris and offered him the position of Chief Consultant to the Stelber Bicycle Design Division - which Barris duly accepted.
Below: The Stelber Cycle Corporation teamed up with the Waterbury, Conn. Company- Mattatuck Mfg. to produce the first incarnation of the Barris-designed mag wheels. The first mag wheels were a one-piece design with a five star tapered spoke pattern. Later on Stelber developed another design, which looked more like the kind of mag wheel you would find on a muscle car. The early 5-star mags (and the bikes they came on) are now extremely rare. Relatively limited numbers were produced compared to the 1969 and '70 models - which are also impossibly rare in their own right. Both designs of the Barris mags wound up on the first BMX bikes in the early- to mid- '70s- dooming both the survival of the wheels and the bikes they originally came on.
K U S T O M A C C E P T E D H E R E : B A R R I S M E E T S S T E L B E R
K U S T O M A C C E P T E D H E R E : B A R R I S M E E T S S T E L B E R