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

1941-pre-batmobileIn 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!

1960s_Batmobile_oldToday, 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

1989 batmobileTim 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

batman_beginsFor 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.