The Batmobile built for and used in the 1966–1968 live action television show Batman (and its film adaptation) was a customized vehicle that originated as a one-off 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, originally created by Ford Motor Company lead stylists Bill Schmidt, Doug Poole Sr. a Senior design specialist for the Ford Motor Company and John Najjar and their design team at the Lincoln Styling Department.
In 1954, the Futura prototype was built entirely by hand by the Ghia Body Works in Turin, Italy, at a reported cost of US$250,000. It was unveiled in its original pearlescent Frost-Blue white paint finish on 8 January 1955 at the Chicago Auto Show. In 1959, sporting a fresh red paint job, the Futura was featured in the film It Started with a Kiss, starring Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford.
In late 1965 20th Century Fox Television and William Dozier's Greenway Productions contracted renowned Hollywood car customizer Dean Jeffries to design and build a "Batmobile" for their upcoming Batman TV series. He started customizing a 1959 Cadillac, but when the studio wanted the program on the air in January 1966, and therefore filming sooner than he could provide the car, Jeffries was paid off, and the project went to George Barris. Barris was trying to get Hollywood's attention with the Futura, but aside from "It Started With a Kiss" in 1959, the Futura had been languishing in his Hollywood shop for several years. With only three weeks to finish the Batmobile (although in recent years Jeffries says that his car was dropped because he was told it was needed in "a week and a half", he was quoted in 1988 as saying "three weeks" as well), Barris decided that, rather than building a car from scratch, it would be relatively easy to transform the distinctive Futura into the famous crime-fighting vehicle. Design work was conducted by Herb Grasse, working as an associate designer for Barris.
Barris hired Bill Cushenbery to do the metal modifications to the car and its conversion into the Batmobile was completed in just three weeks, at a reported cost of US$30,000. They used the primer-painted, white-striped car in October, 1965, for a network presentation reel. Shortly afterward, the car was painted gloss black with "fluorescent cerise" stripes. Barris retained ownership of the car and leased it back to 20th Century Fox and Greenway Productions for use in the series. The estimated 1966 value of the Barris Batmobile was about $125,000, but today it is estimated to be worth at least US$2 million.
In December 1965 Ford sold the Futura to Barris; despite its huge original production cost—the equivalent of approximately US$2 million in 2009—Barris was able to buy the vehicle for the nominal sum of $1.00 and "other valuable consideration".
When filming for the series began, several problems arose due to the age of the car: it overheated, the battery went dead, and the expensive Mickey Thompson tires kept blowing. By mid season, the engine and transmission were replaced with those of a Ford Galaxie. The most frequent visual influence of this car is that later Batmobiles usually have a rear rocket thruster that fires as the car makes a fast start.
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