Action/adventure movies and TV shows, Two black-and-white movie serials, fifteen episodes each in 1943 and 1949. Television series ran from 1964-66; William Dozier, producer; ABC. Full-length movie in 1966. TV series starred: Adam West as Batman, Burt Ward as Robin, Cesar Romero as the Joker and Frank Gorshin as the Riddler.
For imaginative children glued to their television screens during the mid-sixties, nothing captured their imaginations more than the Batmobile. When kids played with their Matchbox cars, they dreamed of this speeding black beauty as it exited the Batcave at top speed-complete with flames shooting from its exhaust nozzle and the turbine whine of its jet engine.
When the "caped-crusader" and his loyal sidekick, Robin, invaded the airwaves in 1964 [correction, early 1966], Batman became an instant success. Using a three- dimensional comic book style with tongue always in cheek, it was a high-camp hit that soon had kids all across the country strapping on utility belts and sliding down banisters. ABC Television arranged international distribution to Australia and England, and then licensed it for translation into Japanese, French, German, Italian, and other languages. In 1966, the first Batman motion picture was produced as a direct spin-off of the television show. It featured the Barris Batmobile.
The history of the Batmobile is a fun-filled and interesting story. Batman evolved from the forties' DC comic book cartoon character into a real life action TV hit of the sixties. In the comic book, Batman drove various automobiles--but mostly they were comically shaped and did not represent a production automobile. A befitting Batmobile was needed and Bob Kane, the originator and script writer of the TV show, had a big problem: time. ABC was starting production within twenty-one days! Bob called George Barris and presented him with the problem.
As the story goes, Barris had recently purchased the 1955 Lincoln Futura dream car from the Ford Motor Company after it had been used in the 1959 Glenn Ford, Debbie Reynolds movie 'It Started With a Kiss'. Designed by Lincoln-Mercury and built in Italy by the coachbuilder Ghia, the Futura was a great hit on the Ford show car circuit during the fifties. Barris came up with a concept using the Futura as the basis for the new Batmobile.
Unfortunately, Barris had less than three weeks to get the Batmobile designed, built and delivered. He spent an entire day at the drawing board refining his ideas and the following morning called Bob Kane to show him the sketches. Kane took the drawings to ABC Television and they gave the project the "thumbs up." With barely two weeks work time, Barris and his loyal crew of Bud Kunz and Les Tompkins began burning the midnight oil.
To create the Batmobile, the basic shape of the Futura was left as it was. However, the rest of the car received radical modifications. The nose and tail were completely reworked and the sides were changed so much that the original Futura was unrecognizable [to a blind person, maybe]. The nose was restyled with a bat theme: hooded headlights, a peaked nose, and nostril-like hood scoops. The hood was bubbled up as it pulled back from the twin nostril scoops. The "bat look" was continued in the design of the headlights, with "eyes" that pulled back into what appeared to be a pair of ears- bat ears! Following this theme, the twin-meshed grilles were crafted with round openings at the edges and a peaked tip in the center, joining to the lower edge of the opening like some kind of menacing animal's snout.
The radical refinements continued on the rear end: stock trim was either removed or molded in and a full-width, stamped mesh grille that matched the front treatment was installed. The fins were reshaped further and molded in for a cleaner look. On their leading edges, the upside down V-shaped air vents were closed off and the tips of the huge, 84in fins re- shaped with batwing tips. At the center an impressive exhaust nozzle for the turbine engine was mounted. Beside the gaping vent, a pair of 10ft diameter Deist "Batchutes" were mounted. When released, they shot back 25ft, popped open, and revealed a bold representation of the "bat signal" logo at their centers.
The fanciful features didn't end there: the Batmobile was designed to have an emergency turbine engine that exited in the middle of the rear bumper. This engine was supposed to give the Batmobile super powers, affording the ability to leap across chasms that might suddenly appear in the road while in hot pursuit of villains. In reality, Barris had installed a large, jet-styled exhaust that was more suitable for stunt work. The hollow tube allowed studio effects wizards to add sound effects and smoke bringing the jet turbine instantly to life.
The sides of the Lincoln were extensively reworked, too. The original featured semi- enclosed wheel wells with a broad molded panel running along the sides, Barris took a "gas ax" to the wheel openings and instantly changed the car's styling. He radiused each wheel and built in a flared 6in wide opening with a full-length side molding that gave the Batmobile a crisp straight edge. This edge was more of a ledge, providing a step for Batman and Robin to enter the car if they needed to leap in. The Plexiglas bubble top was retained but the center roof section was removed and replaced with an arched rollbar that carried a flashing light and twin antennae "for secure communications." Behind the cockpit were three rocket launchers that could fire smoking, explosive weapons at all villains in pursuit.
The interior was reconfigured with Batphones, antitheft devices, radios, a Batscope, escape tools, a Detect-a-scope, laser gun controls, and a remote camera with display screen. A pair of black Bat seats were installed along with Impact safety belts and a variety of flashing lights, as well as laser lights and weapons were installed and accessorized up front, in the rear, and on the interior of the vehicle. Finally, the exterior was painted a basic Bat black and trimmed with white and red pinstriping. To complete the look, a set of Rader cast-alloy five-spoke wheels capped with bright red bats were bolted on.
Ready for the premiere of the show and true to his word, Barris delivered the black beauty to ABC on time. The company was delighted with the results and production started immediately at Twentieth Century Fox studios in Burbank, California. Within a week of the vehicle's first appearance on the program, fan mail began pouring in and both ABC and Barris knew they had an immense hit on their hands. The Batmobile quickly rose to prominence to become the world's most famous and versatile custom car.
Over the next few years, the demand for exhibitions of the Batmobile dictated that Barris build five copies [actually three copies were made by Barris]. He drew a mold from the first car and built five [three] touring versions that have been seen by over ten million viewers throughout the years. Later, Barris created special finishes for the Batmobile for its cross- country tours. One car was completely flocked in black velvet and exhibited at the Petersen Publishing-sponsored "Motorama Cars of the Stars Museum" on Hollywood Boulevard.
In 1973, former Batman star Adam West toured the country with the Batmobile that became the centerpiece for a special showing at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Since then, Batmobiles have traveled the world with exhibitions across Europe, Asia, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. The original Barris Batmobile still shines like the super car hero it really is. Every time it is shown, the crowds of fans eager to take a look at the most recognized car in history are proof alone that the Barris magic is timeless.
PHOTOS and CAPTIONS:
The Lincoln Futura was built in 1955 by Ghia in Italy to a design created by Lincoln-Mercury stylists in Dearborn, Michigan. The futuristic bubble-topped concept car was a big hit on the showcar circuit for several years after its release in 1955. Toward the latter part of the fifties, the car was used in the movie 'It Started with a Kiss', which was about an Air Force sergeant (Glenn Ford), his new bride (Debbie Reynolds), and a fabulous car, the Lincoln Futura.
The Batmobile was everything the TV show producers wanted. Gotham City would never be the same again! The Batmobile had all the working wiz-bang gizmos the producers had begged for. It looked like the car that Batman would drive, and had enough pep, with its Lincoln V-8 engine, to make it faster than a flying bat. The Batmobile was also an instant hit with viewers of the new show and over the next thirty years it was made into dozens of different toy and model kits for kids worldwide to enjoy. George has over fifty different toy Batmobiles in his own collection.
Just before the show was released George was asked by TV GUIDE to do a publicly stunt with the Batmobile for the cover of the magazine. George drove the Batmobile down the Hollywood Freeway with the Batchutes fully opened into the wind behind the car, while the magazine photographer shot the photos from a freeway overpass. These days it would be an impossible task (except perhaps at 7A.M. on a Sunday morning) because of the traffic pressure on this freeway.
The Batmobile was featured In many different scenes in the show and performed a huge variety of stunts; drag racing was among its activities. Here, at the famed old Irwindale Raceway, the Batmobile smokes the track with a full-blown cloud of movie smoke from tires and jet turbine exhaust. Stunts like this were faked with many types of movie tricks as the producers did not want to endanger or break anything on the Batmobile that would stop production [While the tire smoke is fake, this is the actual #4 drag car, which was routinely pounded at drag strips nationwide].
The interior of the Batmobile was filled with crimefighting tools including a rocket launcher, Batphones, antitheft devices, radios, a Bat-scope, escape tools, a Detect- a-scope, laser gun controls, flashing lights, sound and weapon systems, and a remote TV camera and screen. The photo shows the interior of one of the second generation Batmobiles that George built as a back up for the show and to use on the show car circuit [Actually, it's the #4 drag car].
Stored in the Batcave, the Batmobile was always ready for instant use by the Dynamic Duo. Here Batman steps aboard without using the door.
The popularity of the show and the Batmobile necessitated George building a series of replicas to satisfy the growing requests from auto show promoter, museums, and movie events. From the original car he pulled a set of full body molds and made five show car versions. Here the crew works on finishing one of those cars in the back lot at the Barris shop. George can be seen working on the headlight. The remains of George's old X.P.A.K. 400 air car can be seen stacked up behind the Batmobile.
The Batcycle, by Richard Korkes at Korky's Kustom Studios, was built to go with the Batmobile and followed the Batmobile theme, including the graphics and body shapes. Not only did it have a sidecar for Robin, but Robin rode in a go-kart that could be launched from the sidecar.