The Coolest Wheels (and Wings) in the Batman TV Series
The 1960's were one of the coolest decades in history. The space race dominated the decade, with the grand finale of the American moon landing 1969. The greatest musicians of all time were changing the sound of history, such as The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin, to name a very few. Fashions were loud and expressive with bold colors, floral patterns, short dresses, and go-go boots. A sexual revolution sparked free and wild love.
The cars of a decade also speak volumes about the overall culture and trends. In the 1960's, Ford revolutionized the American brand forever with the release of the Mustang in 1964, and Chevrolet followed two years later with their Camaro. The mid-1960's was the peak of the American muscle car. The Ford GT40 raced to four consecutive victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And who could forget Steve McQueen's iconic dark green Mustang fastback in his 1968 film "Bullitt"?
Across the pond, the character of James Bond drove a treasure trove of iconic cars, surely the Aston Martin DB5 being the supreme. BMW launched their "New Class" series of cars, which made them the front-runner of sporty sedans, a recognition that has stood the test of time. Peugeot even released their 404, and went on to produce nearly three million of them through the decade and into mid-1970's. Perhaps you've even heard of the Jaguar E-Type? You know, the big one of the decade, considered one of the most, if not THE most, beautiful car ever? That's an easy one.
But you can't talk about the 1960's car culture without talking about one of the coolest cars of all time, from one of the coolest, most ground-breaking, and ridiculously campy television shows of all time - the Batmobile from the television series, Batman!
Batmobile - 1955 Lincoln Futura
The 1955 Lincoln Futura is easily the most recognizable Batmobile to date. While Lincoln never put these into real production, one of the concept models was snatched up by Hollywood car designer George Barris in a last minute effort to find a Batmobile for the show (he had three weeks, in fact!). The task was originally in the hands of Dean Jeffries, who was customizing a 1959 Cadillac for the series when 20th Century Fox studios announced they needed something faster. Jeffries and his idea were scrapped, and the Lincoln Future was brought in. It was owned by Barris (who bought it from the Ford Motor Corp. for $1) when he began its transformation into the Batmobile.
Just some of the gadgets included were an on-board Batphone, rear rocket thruster that shot out flames on acceleration, a full Batcomputer, an anti-theft device button disguised as a "Start Button" that would emit a smoke screen, explosive fireworks, and screaming alarms when pressed, the Emergency Bat-Turn Lever that deployed two parachutes to help the car execute a 180 degree turn, and even a self-driving/summoning feature where Batman had a remote control device he could engage and the Batmobile would drive itself to any location. Take that, Tesla.
A replica of the Batmobile is housed at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California which I had the utmost excitement seeing! Take a look at the interior details, and next we will check out some more methods of transport from the series.
Jokermobile - 1966 Mongrel T
The Joker's wheels were developed from a Ford Model T, but after it was fully customized by George Barris, it was renamed by him as the "Mongrel T". It had a Ford FE V8 engine that shrieked almost as loud as it's driver's sinister laugh, seating for all of his gang members, hideous but totally 1960's green shag, and sparkly vinyl seat cushions. It appeared in two episodes of the show, though neither involved an epic chase scene with the Batmobile. This car was also featured in Elvis Presley's 1967 film "Easy Come Easy Go".
The Kitty Car - 1965 Reactor
American car designer Gene Winfield hand built this ultra sleek show car called the Reactor in 1965. Driven by the show's third Catwoman, Eartha Kitt, this car was based on a 1956 Citroën DS and included a Chevrolet Corvair six-cylinder engine. It had an electric, retractable roof and electric opening and closing doors. For the show, it was decorated with furry cat ears, nose, eyes, tongue, whiskers, and a tail! This car can also be seen in other classic TV shows Bewitched, Star Trek, and Mission: Impossible. It also calls the Peterson Auto Museum home.
Get in loser, we're going shopping
Batcycle - 1966 Yamaha Catalina 250
The first Batcycle used on the show was a 1965 Harley Davidson, and only made one appearance. The second was this 1966 Yamaha Catalina 250, and is the one most recognized. It was largely modified, complete with full Batman shield, wings, and even a sidecar for Robin! The sidecar was equipped with it's own 55cc engine and could detach as a go-kart for the Boy Wonder. It was Robin's only personal vehicle. This Yamaha Batcycle first appeared in the 1966 film and continued to be used throughout the rest of the series. This one is also at the Peterson Auto Museum with the other whips. Holy motorcycles!
Batcopter - Bell 47 G3B-1
Batman's helicopter was a Bell 47, model G3B-1 and was the only leased mode of transport for the series. They simply did not have the budget to have it full time. It was used in the movie and additional shots of it were added to later episodes of the show. The Batcopter was adorned with bat wings on the sides and a bat head silhouette on the front. It is said the wings were so heavy that it slowed the helicopter down by nearly half its power! But that never stopped the Dynamic Duo from catching all the baddies. As of July 2019, the Batcopter (minus the wings) is still in flight!
Batboat - Glastron V-174
Lastly is the Batboat. It was based on a Glastron V-174 and was another highly modified machine. The separated windscreens, a gleaming red beacon, a center console, and an aft fin adorned with a glowing Batman logo were some of its added features. The motor was a Merc Cruiser Chevrolet V-6, although we all saw the nuclear powered jets, *wink*. One of two existing Batboats failed to sell at an auction in Surrey, England in 2014. In September 2019, one of them (unclear which one) showed up at a comic book convention in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Today, January 12, is the 54th anniversary of the Batman series premiere. It still stands as one of the most popular and beloved shows of all time. The Dynamic Duo's and super villain's ways of getting around Gotham City in those days stand out among all those that came after them with their expressive exteriors and top of the line tech. The Batmobile is one of the most iconic fictional cars ever, utilizing technology decades ahead of its time. Of course one of the biggest crime fighters has to be equipped with all the fanciest gadgets, and so many of them were right in his car.
One last thing for today, like Batman would remind us - Be good, law-abiding citizens and always buckle your safety Bat Belt!