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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Original Batmobile up for auction - Packed full of gadgets

The Original Batmobile (Warner Bros. )
The Original Batmobile (Warner Bros. )

Many a weirdo has built a replica of the Batmobile, some for personal use and others to be sold for a hefty sum to passionate Batman nerds.  George Barris is their king having served as the sole owner of the one and only original Batmobile ever produced.  More impressive yet, he built it himself in 1966.  This year he’s banking on the hope it will make him a small fortune when it’s sold at the Barrett Jackson car auction in January.

Unlike most other TV show cars that are built by the dozen to be abused and destroyed the Barris’ Batmobile was the only original ever made.  Barrett, who’s anonymously famous for creating the Munster Koach for The Munsters and the Beverly Hillbillies’ car, was tasked with creating the Batmobile in a matter of weeks.

Without adequate time to design the caped crusader’s ride from the ground up Barrett decided to build upon Ford’s 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, which was based on a Lincoln Mark II.  Looking at the two cars side by side shows Garrett really didn’t change the Futura all that much.  Nonetheless the Batmobile was a hit, in large part for packing an option list of gadgets that made James Bond’s 1964 Aston Martin DB5 appear tame by comparison:

The Bat Turn 

Batman didn’t believe in emergency brakes.  Instead he would pull a handle to release the parachutes and spin the car 180 degrees.  When the turn was completed the parachutes would detach and be left in the street.  In later episodes, after fans of the show questioned why Batman would litter in such a fashion, Alfred would show up in a maintenance van to retrieve the parachutes. 

The Bat Ray

When activated in a chase the Bat Ray will render a ne'er do well’s car stone dead.  If they tried to start up again the ignition wouldn’t work leaving them to flee on foot or face Batman to exchange ‘Blams’!  Most modern day monster trucks are now equipped with a Bat Ray that can be activated from the pits, although they’re now referred to as kill switches to avoid copyright infringement.

Automatic Fire Extinguisher

When the Batmobile caught fire as it frequently would, the car would set off an automatic fire extinguisher to keep Batman’s spandex suit from permanently fusing to his body.  This was a critical gadget as appearing in pedestrian attire for periods of time were a necessary part of Batman’s double life.

The Mobile Bat Computer

Batman invented the fax machine.  If he needed to retrieve official crime-fighting documents from the Bat Cave he could download them to the Batmobile with the Bat Computer. He may have also invented the computer.

The Bat Beam

Perhaps the most violent gadget, the Bat Beam was the thing looked like a fly swatter on the antenna.  When activated the Bat Beam could destroy anything in its path:  Buildings, roadblocks or whatever it happened to be pointing at when Batman would slap Robin’s hand away from changing the radio station.  

Emergency Tire Inflator

Batman doesn’t get flats.  He denies them with the flip of a switch.

Bat Smoke Screen

Although smoke screens are old hat by now in the world of crime fighting super cars this classic gadget was an effective evasive tool Batman had in his arsenal. It also blinded innocent motorists, but along with property damage and streets littered with errant parachutes the people of Gotham understood its necessity. 

The Battering Ram

A classic double entendre used to bash through doors to warehouses where hostages were being held.  It was a tactical alternative to the Bat Ray as well as the most dangerous gadget when Batman was drunk.

Police Band Cut-In Switch

Batman commandeered what he wanted when he wanted.  That included barging his way onto the police radio band and disrupting other emergency calls to speak directly with the force on the Bat Phone. 

Bat Phone

Talking on the phone while driving was legal in those days.

Voice Control Batmobile Relay Unit

Gotham weirdoes loved the Batmobile and would steal it more often than was normal in other shows.  Little did they know Batman usually had the Batmobile Relay Unit – (a next-level Bat Ray) tucked into his utili-belt fanny pack.  The gadget allowed him to give voice commands that operated the car remotely.  

When the original Batmobile goes up for auction in January bidders will have the chance to take advantage of all these gadgets and probably a few more we’ve never heard of – A masked man always has another trick up his sleeve.

Regardless of is rarity, Jonathan Klinger, of the collector car insurance firm Hagerty Insurance, thinks the Batmobile will probably only sell for a few hundred thousand dollars, which isn’t much considering a 1964 Aston Martin DB5 used in James Bond films sold for $4.6 million in 2010. (1)

The problem Klinger believes is that too many people have already built top-notch Batmobile replicas, the best of which sell for under $100,000.

"I could be wrong," said Klinger. "I'll bet George Barris hopes I'm dead wrong." (1)

If gadgets are taken into consideration he just might be.


(1)    CNN Money


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