George Barris and his brother, Sam, were car designers from an early age. Their company, based in Los Angeles, attracted the television and movie industry for automobiles that would be featured in a wide variety of productions. They made the truck that Granny drove in the Beverly Hillbillies and the dragster for Herman Munster. The Barris vehicles were used in “The Time Machine” as props for the not so distant future and even provided a souped up station wagon with gadgets for the Bond parody,” The Silencers,” starring Dean Martin. George was in demand to produce “kustom” cars for Elvis and John Wayne while many celebrities were content to own a Barris golf cart. Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Elton John all had their own signature wheels.
Barris loved to collect others peoples work and that’s why he owned a 1955 Lincoln Futura which was a concept car built by the famous Ghia carrige makers of Italy. They made a Volkswagen look sexy with the Karman Ghia and did a lot of design work for the Ford-Lincoln Motor company. This Futura was a one of a kind test of extreme art production that took a $250,000 investment to create. The car was featured in “It Started with a Kiss,” starring Glen Ford and Debbie Reynolds (1959). The auto was destined for the scrap heap when George bought the car from Ford for a dollar and other considerations. When Barris and his company were contracted to create the Batmobile for the iconic Adam West Batman series, Barris dragged the Futura out of mothballs. An earlier attempt at the TV prop started from the ground up, but because of time considerations, the Futura was tarted up to become the most recognizable car in the world. It was a shame to paint it black because the origional white was made with real ground up pearls!
The Batmobile has been interpreted through the years much like the Batman character himself. There were hefty versions from the 1930’s and 40’s. When Batman was remade with Michael Keaton , the Batmobile was an important part of the movie. It spawned a coin operated version similar to the one Penguin rode in the movie.That car was recently being sold on e-bay and has been shopped around looking for a good home. It’s not exactly a good car for a date since you must board by leaping through the roof canopy.
Val Kilmer got his new ride in the over glamorous Joel Schumacher helmed “Batman and Robin” as did George Clooney in the light hearted disaster called ” Batman Forever.”
Things really got interesting again when Christian Bale took up the mantle for the down and dirty vision of the Dark Knight in “Batman Begins” That leftover military hardware had no fins or frills, but the Tumbler did convey a more muscular presence for the hero. Fans of the movie were knocked out when Joker destroyed the Batmobile only to have it split apart to reveal a Bat Pod motorcycle!
The various Batmobiles have mostly found their way into private collections or like the George Barris 1966 car, into a museum. Barris produced some knock offs which can still be found today.
Only the Aston -Martin car from the 007 movies enjoys a status and notoriety to challenge the Batmobile, but taken as a concept car , Batman holds the keys for number one.
Here’s a link to another article I wrote about him and about another muscle car from that era.