Batmobile 1966, a movie story


It was born in Italy as a Ghia-drawn living room prototype based on a Lincoln, it seduced a bullfighter in a movie and, transformed in Hollywood, became the inseparable companion of a comic book hero.

It’s a story about a couple. At the end of the 19th century, the cranks that started moving the cinema machines and those that started the car engines began to rotate almost simultaneously. From that moment on, both film and car have experienced a long love story. And it would be rather stupid to think that the role of the car in the cinema is reduced to a mere prop. In fact, he is a real protagonist in many films.

Americans Bob Kane and Bill Finger, creators of Batman in 1939, integrated their cartoon character into a mechanical universe of vehicles, from airplanes to helicopters to boats and, of course, cars. These “bat vehicles” have been an essential part of the life of the “Bat Man”. And they have changed over the years, but in our history we get behind the wheel of a very special example, the Batmobile, used in the 1966 television series.

And it is that, in reality, the Batmobile as such does not accompany Batman at the beginning of its existence. So he used a red car of unknown brand. The name Batmobile (Batmobile in English) appears later, when he uses a midnight blue car with red trim and a front inspired by the main character’s mask. In the year 1943, a first series of fifteen short films produced by Columbia Pictures, which are shown in theaters, appears in a black Cadillac Series 75 convertible, driven by Alfred Thadeus Crane Pennyworth, butler and driver of Bruce Wayne, the man who hides behind Batman.

In this series’ sequel, “Batman and Robin,” another fifteen episodes shown in 1949, they get behind the wheel of a Mercury Eighth, an unaltered, all-standard convertible.

And there’s even a curious Batmobile, set in the 1960s, three years before the premiere of Batman. New Hampshire’s Forrest Robinson built a fantastic version of a 1956 Oldsmobile Rocket 88. This car never actually appeared on TV or in the movies as it would be used by All Star Dairy Products solely to promote their “Batman” ice cream line .

In 1964, Kane and Finger’s character is not having its best moment, and even between them, the creature’s parents, relations are terrible. His comics are not selling well and Batman is about to disappear. The editor Julius Schwart is responsible for resurrecting the character in search of a different style of storytelling, and for this he hires the cartoonist Carmine Infantino who gives both the character and the Batmobile a different look.

For the year 1966, Twentieth Century Fox launched its project to bring the transformed Batman to the small screen. The production company commissions a famous Hollywood bodybuilder, Dean Jeffries, one of the makers of Carroll Shelby’s Cobra (and some vehicles for movies), to build a Batmobile for the new television series. Jeffries starts with a 1959 Cadillac. But the manufacturers want to raise the bar and the car isn’t ready yet. So they turn to George Barris, a specialist in making cars for movies, known as “The King of Kustom”, with a “K”.

Born in Chicago into a family of Greek immigrants, Barris moved to California to live with his uncle after his mother died when he was a child. From an early age, his love for cars led him to carry out restorations and transformations. Then in 1944 at the age of 18 he moved to Los Angeles and opened his first store in the town of Bell. His brother, Sam, joined him on his return from military service in 1945, and both brothers moved to a larger store on Compton Avenue in Los Angeles a year later. An even larger location, in Bell, remained open from 1949 to 1950, followed by the store in nearby Lynwood. Sam left the company in the late 1950s, and Barris made the final move in 1961. His wife, Shirley, found the location of the store, now called Barris Kustom City, at 10811 Riverside Drive in the San Fernando Valley.

From the outset, Barris’s works have been recognized for their bold and eye-catching designs, and he receives commissions to customize cars for Hollywood movies and high-profile clients including Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley, among others. And he’s also making a big name for himself in the Hot Rod culture.

When Twentieth Century Fox turns to Barris, he accepts the job because he has in mind the solution to the problem. He has a 1955 Lincoln prototype in the garage, a unique one called “Futura”, built by Italian coachbuilder Ghia.

This car had already starred in a 1959 romantic comedy film titled “It Started with a Kiss” starring Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds. Because the original white color did not film well, the car was sprayed bright red. The car was the crux of the plot: Reynolds’ character (Maggie, Joe’s attractive dancer, a Korean War veteran, played by Ford) wins him in a New York lottery. And they take the Lincoln Futura to Spain, the man’s new destination. The car causes a sensation both on and off the military base, even attracting a famous bullfighter (played by Uruguayan Gustavo Rojo), who tries to seduce Maggie. Finally, after a series of troubles ranging from sentimental to financial, the marriage is reconciled and it will be exactly the bullfighter who (in fiction) buys the spectacular prototype. After filming, the car is cornered in a ship.

Barris dusts off the Lincoln Futura he bought from Ford for a dollar. The Ghia prototype had a cabin with a double windshield and an aircraft-inspired rear window, as well as the typical large fins of American cars of the late 1950s that had already been forgotten by the manufacturers by the mid-1960s. The appearance of the car was therefore, despite its name, a bit old-fashioned.

But what Barris was concerned about was that his Batmobile would be ready in three weeks, the deadline he’d been given. It thus removes the red paint, chrome and Plexiglas that make up the roof, but retains the characteristic double domed windshield. Then he widens the wheel arches, changes the tires and extends the rear wings to the doors, taking the shape of bat wings at their ends. The original two-spoke steering wheel has been replaced by a three-spoke steering wheel, taken from a 1958 Ford Edsel, with the cut-off top, but the Futura’s speedometer remained in the center of this steering wheel.

On the back, a large nozzle, like the one on the 1963 Chrysler Turbine Car, appears as if to imply that the Batmobile was powered by a turbine, when in fact it was a Lincoln V8 engine with 335 horsepower. This engine gave problems with the heating during filming and was replaced by one from a Ford Galaxie.

From there, an endless and unimaginable range of accessories was processed, for that time or even for today. The “Emergency Bat-turn Lever, which deployed parachutes; the Mobile Bat computer, a computer with speech recognition, in the trunk; a remote control to open the doors remotely; Bat-ray headlights; the Bat photoscope, able to browse the files of the criminals of Gotham City, through a server installed in the secret Bat garage; an automatic tire inflation device; three rocket launchers on the trunk lid, a cable cutter that came out the front or a hook to lift the Batmobile against the walls…

After the bodywork was finished and the accessories were installed, the Barris team painted the car in black and the ends of the body panels in orange. The upholstery of the two chairs has also been used in this color combination.

By the way, the Batmobile has a multiple number plate or plates. The most viewed license plate was “2F-3567”, on a black number plate “Gotham 1966”. However, the registration number has no special meaning, although some fans have pointed out that it is a hexadecimal color code, “2F3567”, a kind of Batman blue. Other plates were featured on the car, such as “TP-6597” and “BAT 1”.

In October 1966, Barris registered the Batmobile design under patent number 205,998 with the US Patent Office.

George Barris, who also created other famous screen models such as the Monster Koach and Drag-U-La from the 1960s TV series The Munsters, or KITT, the 1980s Fantastic Rider, kept the Batmobile from 1966 until the auction – for 4.2 million euros – three years before his death in 2015. The Lincoln Futura undoubtedly has a film history.

Source: La Verdad


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