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A History of the Batmobile
"The Dark Knight Rises," the final entry in Christopher Nolan's epic Batman trilogy, debuted at midnight on July 20, providing nearly three hours of action, suspense and an ending to one of the more successful franchise reboots in recent memory.
Since then, however, the movie has captured the attention of the country, both for the political overtones of its storyline as well as the implications of the saddening events that followed in Colorado. But, while both heavy topics are likely to be continually debated, the movie got us thinking about a lighter subject, the history of one of Batman's most famous accessories, the Batmobile.
Like many of the heroes of U.S. popular culture, Batman has always been about high-performance vehicles. (Over the course of the caped crusaders many incarnations, he's owned a Batjet, Batcopter and the Batwing, to name a few). But, Bruce Wayne's alter ego always really had two modes of getting around Gotham: swinging from building to building with his grappling hook and evading cops and criminals in the streets with the Batmobile.
Still, while the newest Hollywood movies have relied on custom creations to capture the grandeur of the Batmobile, the most recent taking an almost tank-like design, the original incarnations of the Batmobile were far more modest:
The Batmobile in the First Comics
In addition, commentators have noted that since the engine was in the rear, the car could take frontal damage without much risk, giving Batman obvious advantages when it came to crime fighting. The car wasn't much of a success with buyers, however. (Though, this issue seems to dog the many cars associated with the Batmobile).
1943 – Columbia Pictures' Batman serial
And while the Batmobile was present, no attempts were made to produce a version as outlandish as the one depicted in comic books. Instead of racing through the streets on a custom motorcycle and tank, both Batman and Robin were chauffeured by Alfred in a simple black Cadillac.
1949 – Batman and Robin
According to reports, the car's poor handling wasn't quite able to hold up to the chase scenes. Johnny Duncan, the actor who played Robin in this version, estimates that the studio went through six Mercurys over the course of the shooting.
1966 – The first Batman film
The Lincoln Futura, a concept car that was made by hand in Italy, was used in the filming. MGM acquired the car in the late '50s and had used it in movies previously. For example, an unmodified version was originally used in the film "It Started With a Kiss," before it was painted and updated for Batman.
But, it was likely called into action again by filmmakers due to its $250,000 price tag and original style, which was reportedly inspired by the manta ray and mako shark. As a result, the Futura had exaggerated designs such as headlight pods, outward-facing tailfins and a clear canopy top, giving it a unique look that could separate it from real-life in the minds of viewers.
1989 – Tim Burton's Batman
Tim Burton's Batmobile was created with the frame of a '67 Chevrolet Impala that was taken from a London junkyard. The car was then enhanced with a sleek profile and a 327ci V-8 engine to finally put some muscle under the hood. Rolls-Royce jet engine components were also used in the design, most notable in the car's hood-mounted intake, which resembled that of a jet's.
Whatever the design, the Batmobile remains iconic. And in my opinion, one of the top 3 movie cars, due to its unique ability to adapt to the imaginations of whoever tries to recreate it.
About PeteRizzoA versatile journalist and car buff whose work has been published nationally and in the New England area! View all posts by PeteRizzo →
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