Ford concept converted to Batmobile

Riley Riley

There’s been plenty of Batmobiles over the years, but the one most people remember is the car from the 1960s TV series.

Like most kids we were huge fans of the show and of course the very cool Batmobile that he and Boy Wonder Robin used to drive.

Did anyone else have one of the yellow plastic utility belts that you could buy to go with your Batman costume, complete with ‘Batarang’ and other Bat essentials?

Reportedly, one of these belts changed hands for many thousands of dollars not long ago when it was purchased by a Japanese collector.

Batman first appeared in comics way back in May, 1939.

But the first true Batmobile did not appear until two years after this.

Probably the best known is the one from the television series which starred Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin.

Watchers of the show will remember the famous words that preceded any jaunt in the car: ‘‘Atomic batteries to power . . . turbines to speed.’’

Benson Ford and Bill Schmidt with the 1955 Lincoln Futura show car
Benson Ford and Bill Schmidt with the 1955 Lincoln Futura show car.


It’s a little known fact that the Batmobile actually began life as the 1955 Ford Futura concept car.

Commissioned by the producers to create a car for the show in just three weeks, Kustom Kar King George Barris turned instinctively to the 1955 Futura concept car as the basis for his iconic design.

Brainchild of Lincoln Mercury’s postwar chief stylist Bill Schmidt, the Futura was considered just a little too ‘futuristic’ for public taste.

But, unlike most concept cars of this or any era, it survived and was actually a working model.

Legend has it that the design of the Lincoln was inspired by an encounter Schmidt had with a shark while scuba diving.

The Futura sat long, low and wide, and flat with a predatory full-width grille, ominously hooded headlights and killer tail fins.

The job of building the Batmobile was offered originally to Dean Jefferies who’d built the car for the Green Hornet series, but apparently he couldn’t fit it into his busy schedule.

With no time to spare, Barris turned to the Futura which, legend has it, he had acquired from Ford for a token $1 and had intended to use for a sci-fi movie.

He realised it would be relatively easy to build on the chassis and basic shape of the car, overhauling the nose and tail with numerous bat-like shapes and references.

In all, Barris is credited with building four Batmobiles but only one of them – the original Futura-based car – actually appeared in the TV show.

This was the first ‘‘real’’ Batmobile and surprisingly nearly all of the bat gadgets worked.

Features included a telephone, radar, smokescreen, chain cutter, ‘‘Batterring’’ ram, rocket launchers, drag chutes and an atomic power plant engine.

It is still considered by many to be the quintessential Batmobile and its influence can be found in more recent designs.

Weighing in at almost 2.5 tonnes and measuring 5.2m long and 1.2 high, the car has a handcrafted steel body.

The original experimental Ford engine was replaced for the series with a blue-printed 427 Ford engine that had dual Paxton blowers and nitrous injection.

The car is finished in 40 coats of super gloss black and trimmed in an outline of fluorescent cerise.

Most of the Batman series was shot in four studios.

Taking the car out of the backlots for location shoots was problematic because the car could not be driven on public roads.

Permits were obtained to shoot a few scenes at the Redondo Beach pier and a short stretch of private oceanfront road.

These became stock footage and were used over and over during the three years the show ran as well as in the 1966 feature film.

Scenes of the Batmobile roaring from the Batcave were shot at famous Bronson Canyon in the Hollywood Hills, with the footage sped up to make the real cave look deeper than it actually was.

It was the end of an era when West died in 2017 after a short battle with cancer.

The series ran for a total of 120 episodes between from 1966 to 1968, with a couple of feature length movies.

The Batmobile was auctioned by Barris for $4.2 million in 2013. Batgirls’s mysterious bike was reportedly returned to Yamaha to use for promotional purposes.


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