the view through the windshield
1955 Lincoln Futura Show Car ... The 'Real' Batmobile (posted 10/12/2007)

car blog

Introduced at the Detroit Auto Show in January, 1955, the Lincoln Futura stole the show. This fully-operational concept car was built by Ghia of Italy at a cost of $250,000. While the powertrain and chassis were pretty-much conventional Lincoln (although horsepower was claimed to be 330), the futuristic style of the car was anything but.

With its twin-bubble Plexiglas cockpit, big fins, 27 exterior and interior lamps and blue-white pearlescent paint, the nineteen foot long Futura provided a breath of fresh air for the Lincoln brand and hinted at styles to come.

The hooded headlight visors appeared in the 1956 Lincoln line; the big fins with triangular taillights were seen in the 1957 Lincoln models.

Joe Sherlock car blog

The car was displayed on the auto show circuit and was later used in the movie 'It Started With A Kiss' which starred Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds. The car was painted a bright red for the movie.

Joe Sherlock blogIn the early 1960s, George 'King of the Kustomizers' Barris purchased the Lincoln Futura from FoMoCo for $1. He later arranged to provide a memorable vehicle for Twentieth Century Fox's upcoming 'Batman' television show (POW! BIFF!) and customized the Futura, turning it into the iconic midnight-black and fluorescent-red-pinstriped Batmobile. Barris reshaped the hood, elongated the tailfins and fluted the ends of the fins to resemble bat wings. And the rest is history.

Five additional cars were replicated in fiberglass for TV stunt scenes and promotional tours. These were later sold to private collectors but George kept the original Futura-based vehicle until January 2013, when it was auctioned by Barrett-Jackson. The original Batmobile was sold for $4.2 million plus fees - $4.62 million total. It was purchased by Arizona car collector Rick Champagne who said he would display it in the living room of his Ahwatukee Foothills house. He is the owner of Champagne Logistics, a trucking company in Tempe.

Ol' George got a remarkable return on his $1 investment - better than any hedge fund. I once saw this Batmobile in person at Barris' shop on Riverside Drive in North Hollywood in the early 1970s.

the view through the windshield blog

As a point of comparison, the first "movie" Batmobile, built in 1989, was a polymer mock-up on a mid-'70s Chevy Impala frame. It was powered by a stock Chevrolet engine and was done on a mere $30,000 budget.

This proves, once again, that the old stuff is the best stuff.

Remember When: 1955
car blogIn 1955, the first McDonalds drive-in opened. Ann Landers' advice column made its debut as did Alfred E. Newman in Mad magazine. The Church Of Scientology was founded.

Nikoli Bulganin became Soviet Premier. Churchill resigns as British Prime Minister. Ousted Argentine dictator, Juan Peron, fled to Paraguay.

Hurricane Diane battered the Eastern Seaboard. Banks increased the prime rate to 3.5% - a 25 year high.

Merchandisers sold over $100 million worth of Davy Crockett merchandise. Disneyland opened; so dis O’Hare Airport. Tony the Tiger becomes the pitchman for Kellog’s.

Automakers produced 7,920,186 cars in 1955 - a new record. Kaiser-Willys stopped auto production after losing $100 million.

In other 1955 auto news, General Motors produced its 50 millionth car - a gold Chevrolet Bel Air hardtop coupe. Chevrolet got its first small-block V-8. It eventually replaced the old flathead Ford V-8 as the hot rodder's engine of choice.

Chevrolet and Pontiac sported all-new bodies. Including trendsetting and legendary stylized hardtop station wagons - the Chevrolet Nomad and the Pontiac Safari. GM introduced four-door pillarless hardtops in 1955. By the following year, most of Detroit followed suit.

Chrysler Corporation set a new styling trend for Detroit with its 'Forward Look', something vastly different from the upright, uninspiring looks of its '54 models. The first production Chrysler 300 was introduced - so named because it had a 300 horsepower Hemi engine under it's hood. The 300 iwas, arguably, the first muscle car.

Wraparound windshields became almost universal in American cars. Straight-eight engines disappeared - replaced by new V-8 engines, even at stodgy Packard.

New, non-auto products included Play-Doh and Special K cereal. New words included demolition derby, fish sticks, junk mail, cleavage and rock-and-roll.

Several new TV shows debuted including 'The Millionaire' and 'The $64,000 Question'. Captain Kangaroo makes his TV debut. Merchandisers sell over $100 million worth of Davy Crockett merchandise.

Disneyland opened in July; the 'Mickey Mouse Club appeared on TV in October; Disney sold 26,000 pairs of mouse ears weekly.

Top songs included 'Rock Around The Clock' and 'The Ballad Of Davy Crockett'.

Deaths included Oscar Meyer, Albert Einstein, Dale Carnegie, James Dean and Bill Vukovich who died in a four-car pile up at the Indianapolis 500. The winner of the 1953 and 1954 Indy races was the first driver killed in a '55 championship auto race.

The Dodgers won the World Series, beating the Yankees.

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copyright 1993-97, 2007-13 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved


Disclaimer

The facts presented in this blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

Spelling, punctuation and syntax errors are cheerfully repaired when I find them; grudgingly fixed when you do.

If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of giving me free cars to try and change my mind.

If I have slandered any people or corporations in this blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal) and try to prove to me that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.

Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.


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