Yes, the legendary Batmobile No. 1 recently sold at the Barrett Jackson auction in Scottsdale Arizona for an incredible $4.2 million. The car was brought to the Barrett Jackson auction block by an entourage wearing similar clothing that reminded you of a heavyweight fighter coming in to the ring.
It was quite a production by George Barris, the owner and creator of the Batmobile. Linda Vaughn, also known as Miss Hurst Shifter for many years, came onto the stage with the car dressed as Catwoman. The car was immediately surrounded by a throng of people taking pictures with their cell phones and cameras – as Barris later indicated, the car was like a rock star that everyone had maybe not come to bid on, but to definitely see and be near.
Even though I was not in attendance at the event, you could feel the electricity and anticipation in the huge tent that was setup as the auction block and that is saying something in the fact that a lot of the bidders at this event are multi-millionaires and rarely get excited about anything. The Batmobile, after a prolonged bidding process, went to a gentleman by the name of Rick Champagne. He indicated after the auction ended that he grew up with the television show, which ran from 1966 to 1968 and that he knew he was going to buy the car and would have gone up to $10 million if necessary! He also elaborated on TV that he was going to put the car in his living room (must be some house!).
I’m sure the auction house was quite happy too as there was a 10 percent commission on the sale, which brought the total sale price to $4.62 million.
So what kind of car is the Batmobile? It’s actually a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car that Ford produced for around $250,000, but which never made production. George Barris, also known as the “King of Kustomizers,” was active in Hollywood at the time that the new Batman television show was revving up in late 1965 and was approached by the producers of the show about coming up with a themed car for the new show. Barris, according to the Batmobile website ( 1966batmobile.com), immediately thought of the 1955 Futura concept car because of its bat wing type design and he was able to obtain the car for $1 from Ford.
Barris was able to customize the car in the three-week window of time that he was given to get the job done and it debuted on the first episode of the show on Jan. 12, 1966. The car proved to be so popular that three additional replicas were made from the molds of the original in late 1966. These additional replica cars were made to go around the country and promote the TV show, but the original No. 1 Batmobile was only used on the set and was not abused. Barris, in his words, kept the original car as a “member of the family” after the cancellation of the series in 1968.
There are currently up to six replicas of the Batmobile going around the country to various functions, but make no mistake that the original is not one of them. If someone tells you differently, then consider yourself fooled by the “Joker.”
Bill Deaton of Fort Mill is the owner of B&D Business Services in Rock Hill and also a classic car enthusiast.