Area Firms Beat Gotham, Win Big Batboat Contract

The 5.8-liter engine powering the Caped Crusader’s beefed-up boat in the new movie “Batman Forever” was assembled last summer by Redline Marine, a Lewiston marine engine manufacturer.

The boat itself was built by Joel Shepherd, owner of VIP Marine in Grants Pass, Ore.

“They wanted this boat to be made custom. It was a lot of fun but it is just starting to hit home that actually I have created this thing,” Shepherd said Thursday during a telephone interview from Grants Pass.

“We went into Wal-Mart the other day and here were a bunch of these little boats on the shelf. Here’s what I built in every store in town,” he said. “We went in and bought them out.”

But people who buy a miniature Batboat replica will not get to see the work of Chris Stout, the Redline Marine employee who assembled the engine.

In “Batman Forever,” the Batboat has a Redline dashboard, wiring harness and customized 351 Ford engine with 306 horsepower. The most powerful small-block engine available was needed to fit the design.

“It’s a little, bitty, dinky boat 5 feet wide and 28 feet long including the wing,” Shepherd said.

A simulated turbine engine with a hot-air balloon igniter blows 150-foot-long flames behind the boat, so it appears jet-powered. But the design actually required an engine smaller than most, which is one of the reasons Redline’s Ford model won out over a Chevy.

“It had to be really compact but be able to get up to 60 miles per hour,” Shepherd said. The Chevy 350 engine was a little too large and only had 300 horsepower.

Shepherd said he regularly buys Redline engines for the aluminum boats he assembles.

The Batboat’s engine is heavy-duty but lightweight because it also is mostly aluminum, Redline sales manager Ira Holst said.

It had to be tough. During filming, the Batboat had to vault over an 8-foot ramp 24 times and to jump out of a tunnel 13 feet high and clear a concrete landing 18 feet long.

“We’ve been making these for years for the Snake River, where we go up and beat the crap out of everything,” Holst said.

Redline treated the engine sale like any other, with one exception. Holst said the company chose not to give the normal three-year warranty.

“It’s not guaranteed in the Batboat for three years when they are detonating explosives and blowing things up all the time,” Holst said.

“Batman is just too rough on his equipment,” Redline engine assembler John Davis added.

Tags: boat, movie

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