The George Barris-designed Batmobile - image: Barrett-JacksonEnlarge Photo
Despite the success of the Batman movie franchise, the original television Batmobile remains the most iconic vehicle of its kind. Radical styling aside, the original Batmobile also gave us a glimpse into the future of crime fighting, as well as the future of the automobile.
Beneath its seductively-finned exterior, the Batmobile came packing a “remote Batcomputer,” at a time when computer systems filled entire rooms. It had a Batphone, too, which predated in-car cellular phones by about a decade, and used self-inflating tires (now under development) as well as Batscope radar (now employed in adaptive cruise control systems).
The original Batmobile was so iconic that it’s become among the most copied vehicles in history, with versions ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. There can be only one original, and that Lincoln-Futura-concept-based car has been the property of designer George Barris since its creation.
On January 19, at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale, Arizona auction, the Batmobile will change owners for the first time in its storied history. Under its gloss-black with red striping exterior lies a 390 cubic-inch Lincoln V-8 mated to a B&M Hydro Automatic transmission; sadly, the car’s nuclear reactors were the stuff of fiction.
So were many of the car’s gadgets, but they still inspired generations of engineers and designers, and the Batmobile will likely continue to be one of the world’s most recognized cars for decades to come.
In the words of Barrett-Jackson president, Steve Davis, “There are only a few things in life that are able to capture the soul of an era and the Batmobile by George Barris did exactly that.”
How can you put a price on that much history? Barrett-Jackson isn’t giving a pre-auction estimate, but less significant Batmobiles (and Batmobile copies) have hit the market priced above $500,000. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the car break a million dollars, and the sky’s the limit if enough serious collectors get in on the action.
Not bad, considering that Barris originally paid just $1 for the Lincoln Futura concept, and it cost a mere $15,000 to build the Batmobile from that car.