Those were times of crisis for Ford. At the end of World War II, it was trying to compete with the leading companies in the US automobile market. The bets only left millions in losses. But there were some tokens for Lincoln, its luxury-car subsidiary, which shipped with a bizarre interoceanic design that turned heads at shows but never made it to the production line. The Lincoln Future was called to sleep the sleep of the righteous. It ended up being the most famous Batmobile in history..
The concept car was developed in 1955 by the company it was employed by Ford, when the Detroit company was devastated by the economy and family problems. Henry Ford had delegated the presidency to his son Edsel Bryant Ford, who died early. The founder resumed leadership, but later abdicated in favor of his nephew. Henry Ford II laid the groundwork for the renovation, with a team of WWII veterans including Robert McNamara, the future US Secretary of Defense. While the Lincoln Futura didn’t hit the real streets, it did find its way into the collective unconscious.
The key man in this story is George Barris, an auto customizer who worked closely with Hollywood stars and producers. He was commissioned in 1966, in record time, to shape the car that Batman would drive in the television series. He had forgotten the Futura concept in his garage, which – events of fate – had fallen into his hands. A modest investment, a few extravagant touches on an already eye-catching vehicle… and off to Gotham City!
Lincoln Futura, life before Batman
Ford competed in the midsize segment with Buick and Oldsmobile. On the verge of despair, he launched the Edsel, which paid homage to Don Henry’s son but left a gigantic void in the coffers: a loss of $350 million between 1957 and 1959. At the same time, the Detroit company has deposited in the Lincoln division the mission of earning a place in the high-income segment before Cadillac.
Designers John Najjar and William M. Schmid spearheaded the project to create a great car that ignited the desire of the rich. Although the idea was born in the United States, it was in Italy that it took shape, through Carrozzeria Ghía. From Turin he returned as a specimen called to conquer space, in the midst of the race between the United States and the Soviet Union. There were those who, on the other hand, preferred to compare it to an animal: two bubbles in the cockpit, side fins in the rear sector and pointed finishes in the front part gave it the appearance of a manta ray.
With an investment of 250,000 dollars, the success among insiders and enthusiasts was immediate. Ever since the New York Auto Show, where it was presented in pristine white in 1955, it has received praise and curious glances. It was powered by a 400-horsepower 6-liter V8 engine.. The gearbox was automatic and three-speed. It weighed a ton and a half. Monumental era: 5.76 meters long, 2.19 meters wide and 1.49 meters high.
His screen debut came four years later, painted red in the film “It Started with a Kiss,” starring Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds. He repeated his presence in the modest “The secret door” (1964). By then, the Lincoln Futura was all but forgotten.
This is how the Batmobile became From the production company Fox they went out looking for a car for the series that was about to premiere. The vehicle had already participated in the first chapter, so the production had to be against the clock. They turn to Dean Jeffries, a well-known Californian customizer who had included James Dean among his clients and who had just received an award for a piece that corresponded to the spirit they were looking for: a maserati Known as “The Manta”. They asked him to modify a Cadillac, but deadlines scuppered the attempt. George Barris was the second choice. And he provided them with a car so they don’t forget.
Barris, 40, had settled in Los Angeles as a young man. His creations had given him the reputation of “King of the Custom” (“King of the Kustomizers”). His relationship with Hollywood didn’t boil down to the favoritism with which stars like John Wayne or Elvis Presley treated him, but rather he knew the corridors of the motion picture industry.
It started with a collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock himself for ‘North by Northwest’. His resume features the unmistakable black utility of the A-Team and the Munster Koach of ‘The Munsters’, a parody of ‘Los Locos Addams’. He also built a replica DeLorean from “Back to the Future,” though that creation landed him in a legal dispute with Universal. His most important contribution, however, is the Batmobile.
With Jeffries’ early sketches, Barris rescued the Lincoln Futura he had been keeping at his home. He had bought it for the symbolic value of a dollar and now, eleven years after its creation, he has found the moment he was born to be in the psychedelic sixties. For the retouching he was inspired by the cartoon drawings of 1940. he He kept the bubble cockpit almost intact, changed the arches and lights and added a turbine in the rear sector. If its predecessor summoned a manta, now the reference was the bat. Three weeks and a thousand dollars after the assigned mission, Batman had his car.
It debuted on the small screen on January 12, 1966.in the first installment of the Adam West and Burt Ward series on ABC.
A facelifted Lincoln appears on screen
After five minutes of action Batman AND Robin they get in the black car with red details, leave the Batcave and head to the Gotham City Police Department. The Dynamic Duo must defuse the maneuvers of the villain, who has devised a plan to force Batman to reveal his true identity: Bruce Wayne. After finding a clue, they roll on wheels to a nightclub. Robin, a minor, cannot enter. He remains in the cockpit and monitors the situation with the bathyscope. Through this device he sees his partner succumb to the charm of an assistant of the Riddler: Batman dances and, poisoned, faints. His friend runs to help, but the villain’s minions shoot him down with sleep darts. The Batmobile is the ultimate loot. When they are about to steal and destroy it, it defends itself: it launches fireworks, sounds the alarm. Batman arrives, still dazed, and rejoins his vehicle.
The episode review proves it the car was also the star of the pop series. She had powers: she poured oil and nails on the floor to get out of chases, she had Battelephone and Batsmoke, as well as the Bathyscope that he had already shown off at his premiere. She was so demanding on set (and off) that they built three fiberglass replicas and later purchased a metal one. They have been used for action scenes, for racing and for displays. The latter, meanwhile, served as an emergency escort.
The series ran for three seasons.. In total, 120 chapters. The Lincoln Futura’s legacy, however, is everlasting.. Every new version of Batman proves it: all of his vehicles are reminiscent of the original Batmobile. Barris put it up for auction in 2013, two years before his death. It was bought by a businessman from Phoenix. In exchange for $4.8 million, he made his dream come true: to have in the living room of his mansion the car which already on its first appearance, against adversity and scoundrels, showed itself indestructible in the collective unconscious.
Ben Stock is a journalist working for News Rebeat, where he covers the automobile section. With a passion for cars and the industry, Ben brings insightful and in-depth reporting to his readers.