Na na na na na na na… Batman! Fans could argue for days about which onscreen Batman they prefer, from Adam West's cheery sleuth to the growling Christian Bale.
One thing all fans of the Caped Crusader can agree on — the 1966 Batmobile is perfection. Today, the Dark Knight of movies rumbles around in a tank. The two-seater that was seen in the Batman television series, on the other hand, had the curves of a classic sports car. Adam West's Batmobile evoked the finned cruisers of the '50s, the hot-rods of the '60s and the potential Jetsons-like future of automobiles. It still had all the nifty gadgets, too, of course.
There is a reason this remains the most immediately recognizable Batmobile. But some things might surprise you about its history. To the Bat-poles!
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It was not the first Batmobile — not even the first made in the Sixties.
Batman's Hollywood history dates back to the theatrical serials of the 1940s. In his big-screen debut in 1943, Batman motored around in a black 1939 Cadillac Series 75 convertible. A 1949 Mercury served as the Dynamic Duo's mode of transport in 1948's Batman and Robin. Those were regular automobiles, not a "Batmobile." However, there was a true "Batmobile" in the Sixties — three years before Batman premiered. Forrest Robinson of New Hampshire built a fantastic touring version of "Batman's Batmobile" from a 1956 Oldsmobile Rocket 88. All Star Dairy Products used it to promote its line of Batman ice cream treats.
It was nearly a 1959 Caddy.
Batman creator William Dozier and 20th Century Fox initially commissioned famed customizer Dean Jeffries, the man who made the Monkeemobile, to build a Batmobile. Jefferies set to work converting a 1959 Cadillac (akin to the one seen in the ad here) into the Batmobile. However, a rushed deadline meant that Dozier's Greenway Productions needed something in a rush. They turned to customizer George Barris for a quick replacement.
It is made from a Lincoln concept car hand-crafted in Italy.
With little time for a build, Barris instead looked to a fantastic concept car called the Futura. Unveiled by Lincoln in 1955, the Futura featured a bubbled glass cockpit, jet-age fins, and a grille that resembled a whale shark. While it was a product of the Ford Motor Company, the Carrozzeria Ghia automaking firm of Turin, Italy, hand-crafted the Futura. The Italians hammered out the metal body over logs. It was originally painted a pearlescent "Frost Blue" white.
Image: The Everett Collection
Debbie Reynolds rode shotgun in it before Robin.
The Lincoln concept car obviously never made it to production and American highways. It was too futuristic, perhaps. It did, however, have its moment on the big screen. The 1959 romantic comedy It Started with a Kiss, starring Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds, had the car as a key plot point. Reynolds' character wins it in a raffle. Because the original white color did not film well, the production painted the car a bright red.
Image: The Everett Collection
George Barris bought it from Ford for a buck.
So, Barris needed a quick Batmobile. He had about three weeks to make the thing. He purchased the Futura from Ford. He paid $1.00. The thing originally cost $250,000 to make. The car sold at auction in 2013 for $4.2 million.
It was rather unreliable at first during filming.
The decade-old ride sputtered into action before the camera. The engine overheated, the battery died, and the tires went pfft. Thus, it received a new engine and transmission transplant from a Ford Galaxie.
Batman registered his car with the DMV.
So much for that secret identity, huh? The Batmobile has license plates! The one most commonly seen read "2F-3567," on a black "Gotham 1966" plate. The registration number has no discernable meaning. (Although, some fans have pointed out that as a hex color code, #2F3567 is a sort of Batman blue.) Other plates were seen in the show, including TP-6597 and BAT 1. Which begs the question — did Batman go to the DMV?
George Barris got a patent for the car.
Barris secured patent no. 205,998 from the U.S. Patent Office for his Batmobile design. The patent was issued in October of 1966. For what it's worth, Catwoman actress Julie Newmar holds a patent on a form-flattering pantyhose that will "delineate the wearer's derriere in cheeky relief."