I remembered, if there was one toy that my son continually carried around with him from the time he was two to four years old, it was his Dukes of Hazzard cars; the 1/24th scale metal orange ?General Lee? car (I think he had three), the sit-on/ride-on, and of course several HotWheels versions. The Dukes of Hazzard, ?General Lee? may very well be a part of why my son has always loved cars and to this day is totally immersed in the automobile industry. The ?General Lee? may have been his first inspiration into the world of automobiles.
This was all reemphasized late Saturday afternoon when Barris’s ?Batmobile? headed for the auction stage. The lights in the fabled quarter mile main auction tent dimmed and the ?Batman? theme began to blare through the massive speakers surrounding the stage. Everyone was on their feet. Thousands of spectators crowded around as it inched to the stage. It was as if the car were the ?pied piper? with thousands of its cheering followers trailing behind. Over 300,000 car enthusiasts attended Barrett-Jackson over the past few days, some came just to see the black and red, four wheeled TV star, and it seemed they were all there at that moment, a part of the procession.
One of the TV commentators said, ?This isn’t a car, it’s a cult!? Then Mike Joy, SpeedTV commentator, reacting to the frenzy taking place on stage around the ?Batmobile? said, ?Before the first bid is lodged, let me confess I have said all week that we are making too big of a deal out of the ?Batmobile? and I was dead wrong.? Joy echoed my exact thoughts. It occurred to me that thousands of attendees were there either directly or indirectly as a result of the Batmobile. How many of the 300,000 enthusiasts who attended Barrett-Jackson last week had been at one time influenced by Barris’s creation? How many had been drawn to the car culture because of it?
So it really was no surprise to me when the bidding eclipsed a million dollars, then two, three and four million; finally being hammered down at $4.2 million ($4.6 million with commission). Holy Bank Vault, Batman! Not bad for a less than serious attempt to create a meaningful automobile. Craig Jackson said that not since 2005 and 2006 when the 1954 F88 Oldsmobile Prototype (Sold for $3.2 million in 2005) and the GM Futurliner (sold for $4.3 million in 2006) had there been the energy and excitement permeating the huge auction tent. If ?historically significant? automobiles were judged strictly by the prices paid, quirky, George Barris? ?Batmobile? was by far the most significant automobile at Barrett-Jackson’s 2013 Scottsdale auction. And I say, rightfully so. There was no other single car among the over 1500 auctioned that had thrilled and turned so many on to the magnificence of the automobile, not Clark Gable’s Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing, not the ?winningest? Corvette in history, the Owens-Corning L88 Corvette, not the ?plum crazy? hemi ?cuda, and in all likelihood not even the future impact of the C7. And appropriately the ?Batmobile? will no longer reside in the batcave but rather in the high bidder’s living room, specially remodeled just for the car. When asked why he bought it, Rick Champagne said he grew up in that era, it meant a lot to him, he had been watching it for years and it was important to him. And I think we can safely say that it is important to thousands of other ?enthusiasts? as well. Any automobile that is capable of influencing that many people is ?historically significant? regardless of what I or anyone else may think.