History of the Batmobile
Even though there have been more than 100 versions in its 70-plus year history, it would be difficult to name a more recognizable car than the Batmobile. Although each version combined crime-fighting gadgetry, performance and style, the following four cars have come to define the most famous fictional car in the world.
The First Batmobile
In February of 1941, Detective Comics #48 introduced the first Batmobile: a red Cord 812 convertible with a supercharger and a battering ram. However, just two months later, Batman #5 introduced the first Batmobile we would recognize today, adding a bat head grill and tall wings across the body. These styling motifs have been present on almost every version since.
Holy Bidding War, Batman!
Today, concept cars are highly desirable collector’s items, but back in the early 1960s, customizer George Barris was able to buy the Lincoln Futura concept from Ford for $1. Given a short deadline to complete a Batmobile for the 1966 TV series, he modified the Futura since it already had bat-like tail fins and a camera-friendly bubble canopy.
There were four “original” Batmobiles, but only one was used on the set. When the show was a hit, Barris built three more cars for public appearances by using fiberglass bodies cast from the original. The Futura-based car was sold by Barrett Jackson in 2013 for $4.2 million, the most ever paid for a car used on TV.
Tim Burton Brings the Batmobile to the Silver Screen
Tim Burton’s 1989 film “Batman” brought a more serious Caped Crusader styled after the 1980s comics to the screen. With this portrayal, came a more menacing Batmobile. Production designer Anton Furst combined the long-nosed styling of 1930s performance cars with the venting of contemporary designs to create something that looked like a street-legal jet dragster. Despite being retired after “Batman Returns,” it has remained a perennial favorite, inspiring almost every comic and cartoon design since.
Batman Begins with a Real Batmobile
For his first Batman movie, “Batman Begins,” director Christopher Nolan asked Nathan Crowley to build a fully-functional car that could be filmed in action sequences using minimal CGI. In the movie, the “Tumbler” is a Wayne Enterprises prototype that Batman uses as the first Batmobile. In reality, carbon fiber body panels, a tubular steel frame and a 500 hp Chevy small block were needed to keep the faux-military vehicle within the required performance targets: 0-60 mph in under 5 seconds and a top speed over 100 mph. Along with its film duties, the car paced the “Batman Begins 400” NASCAR race in 2005.