Then there is the ?Batmobile?, a car that was specifically built by car customizer George Barris to support Adam West, Batman, and Burt Ward, Robin in the 1966 to 1968 campy TV series based on the DC Comics hero Batman. The original car started life as a 1959 concept Lincoln Futura, which Barris purchased directly from Ford for $1 and then completely customized it over a three week period. In addition to the original there were three other fiberglass copies made for promotional events.
George Barris built several TV cars throughout the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. All of his TV prop cars were as much a part of the series as the actors, from the broken down jalopy-truck which transported the Clampitt clan around Beverly Hills in the TV Series the Beverly Hillbillies, to the hearse inspired ?Koach? for The Muensters. None of his creations, however, have attained the following of ?Batmobile?.
All of this is amusing, interesting and entertaining even, but ?historically significant?? What automotive significance separates this car from the hundreds of other Hollywood stunt cars? What places the ?Batmobile? in the same category as the Owens-Corning Corvette, or the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing, still reputed as being the finest engineered sports car ever produced? I was still searching for what made the ?Batmobile? historically significant in the category of automotive history, design, or culture?
Frequently throughout the auction, SpeedTV would cut away from the auction stage to show some live shots of the featured cars. The ?Batmobile? was shown several times and every time the bizarre black and red car was surrounded by hundreds of spectators, many of them children. There were several commentators who ventured guesses on what the car would bring but they were all over the board. Prices from $200,000 to a million dollars were predicted. One commentator noted that anyone who was there with children was required to pay homage to the ?Batmobile? before any other car could be inspected. But then I noticed on many of the ?live? shots of the car that it just wasn’t children that were packed around the car, excited to see the car they had watched on TV during their youth. There were as many adults as children that squeezed through the crowds to get a glimpse of Barris’s creation.
I have followed Barrett-Jackson for years and have seen more than a few TV and movie cars cross the block. The ?movie cars? had come a long way since the days of the ?Batmobile?. Some of them were actually performance based such as ?Eleanor? from Gone In 60 Seconds. How many ?Eleanor? replicas have been auctioned, how many Dukes of Hazzard ?General Lee? replicas? And until these more performance based cars made their appearance, I was confused as to just what these cars could offer a real auto enthusiast, they simply left me indifferent. They certainly weren’t ‘serious? cars. But the last time I saw a ?General Lee? replica auctioned (the movie car I considered to be the bridge car between purely prop cars like the Barris? customs and the performance based cars like ?Eleanor?) it occurred to me that maybe I shouldn’t look at the earlier cars with such condescension, perhaps there was more than I realized, perhaps, OMG, I had been wrong.