Batmobiles through the ages: a Batrospective

Published: 19 January 2011

CAR Magazine has driven the Batmobile in the new February 2011 issue (click here for a free digital preview). Here Mark Walton looks back at the other Batmobiles over the years. 

The Lincoln Futura: basis of the '60s Batmobile

When the Batman producers at ABC wanted a 'signature car' for their new superhero in 1965, they turned to George Barris, self-styled 'King of the Kustomizers'. Barris had been customizing cars in California since the late 1940s, and his flamboyant style and outrageous colour schemes soon got him noticed by Hollywood.

Over the following decades Barris designed, built or at least claimed credit for a wide range of famous film and TV cars, including The Munsters' ‘Drag-U-La’, a Plymouth Barracuda for Fireball 500, and an updated KITT for the Knight Rider series.

None proved as iconic or as long lasting as the Batmobile though, and none were delivered so fast, either – the Batman producers wanted the car in just three weeks, so rather than build from scratch, Barris looked around for an existing project he could modify. Out in his back yard was an old concept car, the Lincoln Futura, which he'd bought years earlier.

The Futura had been designed by Lincoln's chief stylist Bill Schmidt in 1955 and handbuilt by Ghia during the golden age of the American concept car, when atomic engines, onboard computers and domed cabins seemed just around the corner. The Futura toured the motorshows, appeared in a 1959 movie, It Started With a Kiss, and was even turned onto a model kit. But like all concept cars it’s day was soon done, and Ford sold the redundant concept to Barris – legend has it for $1.

Barris decided the Futura had potential, so he dragged it into the workshop, extended the fins, added a few red flashing lights, and gave it a jet-black paint job – and the Batmobile was born.

The other Batmobiles: a potted history

The Batcopter

Proof that Batman's not a real superhero – just a strange, lonely bachelor with lots of money – the Batcopter was Batman's only way of flying. Shot down in the 1966 Batman movie, Batman survived by crash landing in a foam rubber factory.
Spec secret: Had canvas wings
Range: Two-seater glass bubble
Verdict: Coolest thing since the Batmobile
Rating: *****


The Batboat was also built for the 1966 Batman movie by Glastron. Thanks to the Geekernet, I can inform you it's based on a Dark Jade Crestflite Stern Drive V-174 Super Sport. But you probably already knew that.
Spec secret: Chevy V6 power
Range: Two-seater open-top
Verdict: Fast but a bit wet
Rating: ****


Batman and Robin never looked more gay than when they were riding the Batcycle with sidecar. They looked like a circus act crossed with the Village People. No wonder the Joker laughed so much.
Spec secret: Like Wallace and Gromit's wheels, only worse
Range: One-plus-one seater
Verdict: Humiliation on wheels
Rating: **

Don't Try This:

The Catillac

Villains can have vehicles too – though personally I wouldn't be seen dead in Catwoman's Kitty Car, also known as the Cat-illac. Looks like a home-made kitcar knocked up by a man with a fur fetish.
Spec secret: Fur-lined interior
Range: Two-seater only
Verdict: A dog’s dinner
Rating: *

By Mark Walton

Contributing editor, humorist, incurable enthusiast