The 1966 Batmobile by George Barris is the most recognized car in entertainment history. This vehicle marks a time in television history where the car became the star. Still as beautiful as when it first came out of the paint shop, this former 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car has been a part of George Barris’ personal collection since he bought it from the Ford Motor Company for $1. After a meeting with the producer of the “Batman” TV Show, William Dozier, George was left with the challenge of 15 days to build the Batmobile, and a $15,000 budget. The former Lincoln Futura concept car became the original Batmobile. Adam West and Burt Ward (Batman and Robin) drove this car on many television/movie sets. This is the first time that the original Batmobile has been offered for sale. Included will be historical memorabilia and documentation from George’s personal archive. (Introductory description courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.)

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1966 Batmobile
Years Produced:1955 (Futura), 1966 (Batmobile)
Number Produced:One original (this car), several copies for film and tour use
Original List Price:$250,000 build cost for Lincoln Futura concept, $1 Barris sale price, $15,000 conversion to Batmobile
SCM Valuation:$4m–$5m
Tune Up Cost:$200
Chassis Number Location:N/A
Engine Number Location:N/A
Club Info:You’ll be welcome at any car-club meeting with the original Batmobile
Alternatives:Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, James Bond’s 1964 Aston Martin DB5, John Milner’s ’32 Deuce coupe
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot 5037, sold for $4,620,000, including buyer’s premium, at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale Auction on January 19, 2013.

The original DC Comics Batman character dates to the 1940s. The “Caped Crusader,” as we came to know him, starred in a popular television series in the mid-1960s, long before the infinitely more serious “Dark Knight” films appeared.

Looking back at old “Batman” TV re-runs, the duo of Adam West and Burt Ward remain “camp” characters, but their car was undeniably cool. And the Batmobile, a fantastic-looking twin-cockpit roadster, with its (mostly fake) accessories such as the Batphone, a cable cutter blade, Batsmoke, Emergency Bat Turn Lever, special anti-theft devices, two-way radio, laser gun controls, a remote camera with its own display screen, and assorted escape and evasion tools, was considered incredible in that era.

The Batmobile followed James Bond’s gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5, which debuted in 1964 in “Goldfinger.” While the Aston had twin machine guns, an ejection seat, rotating license plates and extendable knockoff hubs, to name just some of its “Q-inspired” weaponry, it was cleverly disguised, so unless you looked closely, you’d miss those features. There was no mistaking the Batmobile.

Back to the Futura

Long before George Barris built it, the Batmobile was a twin-canopy “dream car” called the Lincoln Futura. Carrozzeria Ghia built it in steel for Ford Motor Company in 1954 at a reported cost of $250,000. Features included a 330-hp Lincoln V8, backed by a push-button “Turbo-Drive” transmission. The low-slung showcar was just 52.8 inches tall, from the ground to the top of its “twin plexiglass contourmatic tops.”

The Futura made numerous auto show appearances, was even driven to the U.N. building, and it appeared on the Ed Sullivan variety TV show (Lincoln-Mercury was Sullivan’s sponsor). Countering the impact of GM’s Motorama “star cars,” the Futura attracted excitement and acclaim in the mid-1950s.

Reportedly, when L-M no longer needed it, George Barris was able to purchase the Futura for just $1, perhaps as an incentive payment when he was involved as a special consultant with Ford Motor Company’s “Custom Car Caravan” — an effort by Ford to better understand the customizing trends that were then sweeping the nation.

Barris leased the Futura to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for the 1959 film “It Started With a Kiss,” starring Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford. Recognizing that the custom-car trend was beginning to wane, Barris had already started creating and modifying cars for the film industry. So he and his shop were ready when script originator and screenwriter Bob Kane was looking for a special car for the Batman TV series.

A rush job, but they made it

In his book, “Barris Kustoms of the 1960s,” written with David Fetherston, Barris said he spent a day refining the design, then sold the concept to ABC and Bob Kane. He had 15 days in which to build the Batmobile, and the wickedly-shaped Futura was the perfect donor.

Barris altered the Futura’s nose, rear and sides. As Fetherston noted, “The bat-theme was already there with hooded headlights, a peaky nose and nostril-like hood scoops. The stock trim was either removed or molded in, and a full-width, stamped mesh grille that matched the front treatment was installed at the rear around the new ‘jet turbine’ exhaust.” The actual engine was a 390-ci Ford Galaxy V8 with a B&M Hydro transmission.

The Futura’s slightly curved original fins were completely reshaped and molded in. The resulting 84-inch rear fins were further altered with Batwing-shaped tips. Radiused wheel openings, a six-inch-wide side molding ledge and other alterations, including a rotating flashing light, all updated the two-seater, and the side ledge gave Batman and Robin an easier way to leap into the cockpit.

Barris finished the Batmobile in jet black with bright red trim, pinstriped it in red and white, hung on a set of five-spoke Radir wheels and Formula 1 tires, then capped the wheels with red bat-shaped knockoffs, and made the deadline. The Batmobile was an instant hit. George built several copies of the car for film use and touring. He kept the original car on display for years. As he recently said, “It’s time for someone else to own it.”

Holy moly, Batman, here it goes!

As you’d expect, George Barris and the Barrett-Jackson organization hyped this Batsale to the nines. The car was slated to appear at prime time on Saturday night, and the atmosphere was electric. The big stage was darkened, and lights flashed as the Batman theme played at high decibels. Surrounded by family, and with still-stunning ex-Hurst model Linda Vaughn dressed in a Batgirl costume, George Barris, Steve Davis and Craig Jackson all made a few excited remarks and the sale was on.

Bidding climbed briskly as a standing-room-only crowd roared with each $500,000 increment. When the bidding reached $4.2m, two bidders decided to flip a coin to determine the winner. The winner of the coin toss was Rick Champagne, a Barrett-Jackson regular, from Ahwatukee, AZ, a nearby Phoenix suburb.

Interviewed immediately on television, a visibly pleased Champagne said, “I really liked Batman growing up, and I came here with the intention of buying the car.”

Barrett-Jackson later announced the $4,620,000 sale, including commission, was the second-highest in their history (Carroll Shelby’s personal Super Snake Cobra brought $5.5 million in 2007 — ACC# 44047), and B-J said the sale narrowly edged out the result for the Bond DB5 that RM sold in London in 2010 for $4,608,500.

Putting a value on the icon

This Batmobile’s history is known and its provenance is unquestionable. But is it worth $4.62 million?

Let’s put one argument to rest. It’s unlikely the original Lincoln Futura would have brought as much. The Futura had to be sacrificed, and although a replica was built years ago by an Ohioan, Bob Butts, the original is “lost” forever.

I think the price, considering the 2010 DB5 Bond Aston Martin sale, is market-correct. During this same January auction weekend, buyers paid more than $8m each for a pair of pristine 250 SWB Berlinetta and LWB Cal Spider Ferraris. You could have a helluva Duesenberg for $4m, and any number of “lesser” Ferraris and Cobras. But for this buyer, who wanted the original Batmobile, $4.62m was the price. Mr. Champagne was lucky his rival agreed to a coin flip — otherwise, who knows how high it would have gone?

For a delighted Barris, who bought the original car for a buck and had probably written off the construction years ago, it’s a windfall.

I’ll call it well sold, and well bought.


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