The Shadowy Origin of TV's Batmobile
When my father was learning English in the 1950's, his school provided copies of Scholastic Magazine. I found several issues recently, and while thumbing through the fragile yellow pages, I had to stop when I found this picture of the Lincoln Futura. The Futura was a concept car built by the Italian firm Ghia for auto shows. Unlike many concept cars, this one was actually road-worthy. Many of the Futura's ideas survived in the fins and rocketship stylings of later cars, but other kooky ideas like the bubble canopy made the Futura too radical for the road. It had a starring role in 1959 movie "It Started With A Kiss", and then was pretty much forgotten.
Somehow the quarter million dollar prototype ended up in the hands of George Barris, noted Hollywood car customizer who legend says picked up the car for a buck. The vehicle was uninsurable, so simply rusted away in Barris' lot until 1966 when he got a rush order to build Batman's car for the radical new TV series. With a looming three week deadline, Barris added a few modifications to the Futura, and the Batmobile was born.
The Caped Crusader's cowled conveyance was not without its difficulties. The first year of the TV show put great strain on the aging internals, and brought on tire blowouts. In the second season of the show, the original Lincoln chassis was replaced with one from a Ford Galaxie (hence all the misinformation out there that the Batmobile is a modified Galaxie). Barris also took molds of the car to create a number of duplicates to tour the country, which they still do! You may have seen one covered with deep purple flocking - this was to hide the years of stress fractures on these fiberglass copies.
If you ever hear anything of the Futura now, it is only in reference to its cannibalization for TV. It's interesting to see a photo from 1954 when the hope still was to have the Futura roll off assembly lines to become the car of the future. Now that we're in the future, we've had several vehicles that bear the name "Batmobile", but there will only ever be one for me - and it has dragster parachutes coming out the back (to be tidily picked up by vans marked "Batmobile Parachute Pickup Service"!)