Batmobile is the
automobile of DC Comics superhero Batman. The car has evolved along with the
character from comic books to television and films. Kept in the Batcave,
which it accesses through a hidden entrance, the Batmobile is a gadget-laden
vehicle used by Batman in his crime-fighting activities.
Batman first drove in Detective Comics #27 (May,
1939). A sedan, the vehicle was simply referred to as "his car". It soon
began featuring an increasingly prominent bat motif, typically including
distinctive wing-shaped tailfins. In the early stages of Batman's career, he
modified it with armor and technologically-advanced automotive customization
and turned the Batmobile into a sleek street machine. The Batmobile has gone
through numerous incarnations, and as state-of-the-art technology has
continued to advance, the vehicle has had to change to stay a step ahead of
real-life cutting edge advances.
The Batmobile built for and used in the
1966–1968 live action television show
Batman and its film
adaptation was a customized vehicle that originated as a one-off Ford
concept car of the 1950s.
The TV Batmobile was based on the Lincoln
Futura Show Car, originally created by William M. Schmidt and his design
team at the Lincoln Styling Department; its rakish lines are said to have
been inspired by the mako shark and the manta ray. In 1954 the Futura
prototype was built entirely by hand by the Ghia Body Works in Turin, Italy
at a reported cost of US$250,000; it was unveiled in its original
pearlescent Frost-Blue white paint finish on 8 January 1955 at the Chicago
Auto Show. In 1959, sporting a fresh red paint job, the Futura was featured
in the film It Started with a
Kiss, starring Debbie Reynolds
and Glenn Ford.
In late 1965 20th Century Fox Television and
William Dozier's Greenway Productions contracted renowned Hollywood car
customizer Dean Jeffries to design and build a "Batmobile" for their
upcoming Batman TV series. He started customizing a 1959 Cadillac, but when
the studio wanted the program on the air in January 1966, and therefore
filming sooner than he could provide the car, Jeffries was paid off, and the
project went to Barris. Barris had somehow already come into possession of
the Futura, which had been parked behind his Hollywood shop for several
years. With only three weeks to finish the Batmobile (although in recent
years Jeffries says that his car was dropped because he was told it was
needed in "a week and a half", he was quoted in 1988 as saying "three weeks"
as well), Barris decided that, rather than building a car from scratch, it
would be relatively easy to transform the distinctive Futura into the famous
crime-fighting vehicle. Design work was conducted by Herb Grasse, working as
an associate designer for Barris.
Barris hired Bill Cushenberry to do the metal
modifications to the car and its conversion into the Batmobile was completed
in just three weeks, at a reported cost of US$30,000. Barris retained
ownership of the car and leased it back to 20th Century Fox and Greenway
Productions for use in the series. The estimated 1966 value of the Barris
Batmobile was about $125,000, but today it is estimated to be worth at least
In December 1965 Ford sold the Futura to Barris;
despite its huge original production cost—the equivalent of approximately
US$2 million in 2009 -- Barris was able to purchase the vehicle for the
nominal sum of $1.00 and "other valuable consideration".
When filming for the series began, several
problems arose due to the age of the car: it overheated, the battery went
dead, and the expensive Mickey Thompson tires kept blowing. By mid season,
the engine and transmission were replaced with a Ford Galaxie's. The most
frequent visual influence of this car is that later Batmobiles usually have
a rear rocket thruster that fires as the car makes a fast start. Visit the
reference link to find out more.