If you were a kid in the early ‘70s, chances are you were a big fan of the Batman TV series starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. When the Dynamic Duo needed to stop a crime or catch their nemesis, Batman would always say to Robin, “To the Batmobile!”
In the late summer of 1965, Dean Jeffries was hired to build a Batmobile for the Batman TV show. When the show’s production schedule was moved up, Jeffries declined and custom car builder George Barris was hired to build the car. But with only three weeks to build the Batmobile, Barris wisely decided to take a shortcut.
From Concept Car to Crime Fighter
Barris used the Ford Motor Company’s abandoned 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, which worked perfectly as the Batmobile since it already had many bat-themed features built into the design, such as the long fins and bubble canopies. Barris further enhanced the bat theme by converting the nose into an integrated bat mask, opened the wheel wells and modified the Futura’s fins into subtle bat wings by extending their leading edges into the doors and scalloping the trailing edges. Once the bodywork was complete, the car was painted gloss black with red trim to accentuate the various lines of the car.
The Batmobile was presented to the viewers as propelled by an “atomic turbine engine” but was actually powered by a blueprinted 390-cubic-inch Ford V8. It featured an array of bat-gadgets like a nose-mounted chain slicer, lasers, rockets, an on-board telephone (a marvel at the time), radar, dash monitor, onboard computer (ditto), and police beacon. It can do a quick 180° “bat-turn” thanks to two rear-mounted 10-foot parachutes and was equipped with a smoke emitter and a nail spreader to disable pursuing vehicles.
A Good, Long Run
During the run of the TV series, some changes were made including different license plates, a change in steering wheel, and the addition of extra gadgets such as the rear-facing camera and battering ram. In 1979, the Batmobile briefly returned to the screen for the “Legends of the Superheroes” show and then underwent several more changes after the “Batman” series ended.
Although many of the extra gadgets still remain in place, the original Batmobile from the 60’s TV series has been thoroughly restored and set a world record on January 19, 2013 when it sold at the Barrett-Jackson auction for US$4.2 Million. Along with the recognition, its influence continues in the designs of the modern Hollywood versions of Batman’s crime-fighting ride. However, the 1966 Barris-built Futura-based vehicle is still being considered by many today as the quintessential Batmobile.