Jim Street’s self-driving Golden Sahara II sells for $350,000!

Built by George Barris, then updated in 1960 at a cost of $75,000, this legendary car disappeared from view around 1980. Now it's back, and has just sold at Mecum

One of the most famous custom cars of the late 1950s and early '60s, the self-driving Golden Sahara II, has re-emerged after nearly 40 years out of the public eye – and it's just sold for $350,000 before premiums at a Mecum auction.

Golden Sahara II was Immortalised in the Jerry Lewis film Cinderfella, and was widely known as one of the most innovative and futuristic cars of the period. Its revolutionary electronic control system allowed it to be steered and operated in many different ways, including by remote control – which effectively categorised it as autonomous.

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It was often referred to as the most expensive car of its time, and grew crowds of onlookers wherever it went during its tours of the USA.

The car started out as a 1953 Lincoln Capri belonging to legendary customiser George Barris, but when Barris badly damaged the Lincoln while using it to tow a friend's car, it seemed the perfect excuse to radically customise the accident-damaged bodywork.

The customising work by Barris was actually commissioned by Jim Skonzakes, better known as customiser 'Jim Street'. By the time Barris had finished, it featured gold trim and, inside, a built-in TV, reel-to-reel tape player, refrigerator and cocktail bar. When it was completed in 1955, Motor Trend 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. This is when the electronic autonomous driving controls were added, and it was repainted in pearlescent white paint apparently created using crushed fish scales.

In this form it won best of show at the 1960 National Championship Custom Car Show, and appeared in the 1962 film Cinderella and in the series I've got a secret, in which Street walks alongside the car as it self-drives (below).

For the following decade, Jim Street used 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 his verbal commands. By the end of the 1970s he tucked the car away, not to be seen again.

Street passed away in December 2017, and there was initially uncertainty over what would happen to his cars. However, it's now become clear that Mecum auctions will offer it for sale. The paintwork is looking worse for wear, but the car is complete, right down to the Zenith remote controls used to operate its self-driving mode.

It was offered in as-found condition at Dana Mecum’s 31st Original Spring Classic auction on May 19 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, and sold for an impressive $350,000 plus premiums.

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