Golden Sahara II Returns, Restored After 50 Years Hidden Away
Fully restored and complete with authentic glowing tires, one of the most famous custom cars ever built has returned to the public eye less than a year after it was sold at auction, having previously been hidden away for nearly 50 years. The amazing self-driving Golden Sahara II started out as a 1953 Lincoln Capri belonging to legendary customizer George Barris, who was commissioned to modify it by Jim Skonzakes, better known as customizer ‘Jim Street’. When it was finished in 1955 it included gold trim and, inside, a built-in TV, reel-to-reel tape player, refrigerator and cocktail bar; Motor Trend magazine headlined it as ‘The $25,000 custom car’.
Five years later Street updated the car, renaming it Golden Sahara II, at a cost of $75,000. Electronic remote driving controls were added, and it was repainted in pearlescent white paint said to be created using crushed fish scales. It won best of show at the 1960 National Championship Custom Car Show, and appeared in the 1962 film “Cinderfella” and in the TV series “I’ve got a Secret”, in which Street walks alongside the car, controlling it remotely. Street continued to use Golden Sahara II for cruise nights and shows, often hiding a remote control up his sleeve so it looked as though the car was responding to verbal commands. But by the end of the 1960s he stored the car away, and it wasn’t seen in public again.
When Street passed away in December 2017, his cars were put up for auction with Mecum. Golden Sahara II was scruffy but complete, right down to the Zenith remote controls, and it sold to Larry Klairmont, founder and owner of Klairmont Kollections, for $350,000 in May 2018. It was restored with the help of Speakeasy Customs and Classics in Chicago. Goodyear stepped in to help recreate the car’s famous glowing translucent tires; they were developed in the 1950s as a safety aid, made from Neothane, a translucent form of synthetic rubber, and fitted with internal lighting. Goodyear created new replacements—and you can see from the pictures how they glowed at the car’s unveiling during the Geneva Motor Show.
Pictures courtesy of Goodyear and Newspress