Here’s how much Adam West’s Batmobile costs
George Barris was responsible for some of television’s most iconic shows classic cars. The designer’s resume includes everything from Riders KITT and Alvin Acorn’s safety car Alvin and the Chipmunks. All his projects come from his workshop now called Barris Kustom. Designer meets engineer doesn’t stop there. His company offers to customize hot rods and almost anything that moves.
His obsession started at an early age when he spent time in a body shop learning their ways while racing hot rods. After World War II, Barris and his brother established their first boutique in Los Angeles. His brother, Sam, would focus primarily on metal work and George would focus on drawings. When Fox Productions started looking for someone to design their Batmobile, Barris was the obvious candidate. The man’s work has created a legacy that successive generations of Batmobiles have continued to repeat. Some of these vehicles are darker and less comical. But at the heart of all these cars is Barris’ ambition for a recognizable and personalized car.
The iconic Batmobile costs less than you might think.
What car was the first Batmobile?
The first Batmobile appeared on screen with Adam West in the 1960s. Unlike later Batmobiles like Nolan’s Tumbler, it was not a fully custom build. Taking the Lincoln Futura, Barris built the iconic car. A concept car for Lincoln, the Futura never entered production, but it showed what the brand was capable of. A futuristic aesthetic signed Ghia in Turin with a 6.0-litre V8 tucked under the bonnet, it stole the show in 1955.
Only one Futura left Lincoln’s production line. Finished in a pearl white paint, the car showed Ford’s space-age ambition. The car does not have a conventional cabin, but rather a glass dome. This design continued a trend that Mercury started the previous year. Originally costing the Ford Motor Company $250,000, it spells out the manufacturer’s intent. John Najjar and Bill Schmidt exaggerated every feature of the car. Notably with a concave grille and wild tailfins that stand out among contemporaries of the concept. The designers had no idea at the time that such a peculiar design was the perfect casting for the Batmobile.
With room for two, the Futura showed the future of the personal luxury car market. Similar in length to the Ford Galaxie, it shared underpinnings with the Lincoln Continental. Batman doesn’t necessarily need a fancy car. Jay Leno drove Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy Tumbler, and that car is far from luxurious. What the superhero needs are two seats. Unlike successive vehicles, Batman does not ride alone. In the passenger seat, Burt Ward proudly played Robin.
How was the Batmobile different from the Futura?
Once Barris got hold of the vehicle, he began to create “a fantasy”. The Caped Crusader’s first car was born. At first his team tried the gray primer, but it didn’t look right. Covering the vehicle with a coat of glossy black and bright red highlights, every futuristic line of the modified Futura stood out. Barris’ team installed all the tools for the Batmobile, such as a computer and rockets. All of this makes Barris’ other KITT vehicle seem rather under-equipped. With a modest budget, the team looked to save money where they could. A paint can be used as a rear mounted jet. Batchutes are simply regular parachutes used by drag cars to slow down.
This Batmobile matched the less than serious tone of Adam West’s Batman Film and Television show. With the comic and cartoon trying to emulate the series’ success, they reiterated the Futura’s design, retaining the bubble-shaped cockpit. This style of design led to the gritty, dark era of Batman, which onscreen began with Micheal Keaton. To match this new tone, a darker design saw the light. As a result, the optimistic Futura-based Batmobile has become a thing of the past.
How much did the Batmobile cost to make?
When approached with his brief for the Batmobile, Barris had 15 days and $15,000. In today’s money, that’s about $140,000. At first it sounds like a lot of money, after all, who could buy a lot of fancy cars like a Porsche 911. However, the most recent Batmobile, The Tumbler, cost a “small mortgage”, and potentially more than one million dollars. Barris’ relatively modest budget continued to accessorize the car. These allow Batman to escape the situation he found himself in that week.
Barris proudly claims that he bought the Lincoln Futura concept car for $1. With such a cheap base to build from, they saved a lot of money. However, this presented another problem later down the line. With only one car, the producers didn’t have a stunt car to begin with, which meant the original hero’s car was frequently damaged. Eventually, five examples made their way to the set. Two others used the Ford Galaxie chassis with fiberglass bodywork that replicated the look of the Batmobile. These two cars made the rounds in publicity events and turned the car into an icon the same size as Batman.
While the focus is on heroes, Marvel movies aren’t without their fair share of cool real-world cameos.
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