Holy History, Batman! All About the Batmobile
Just like we trade our cars in or purchase a new one every few years, superheroes need to upgrade their rides, too. Possibly the most iconic supercar in television and movie history, the Batmobile has gone through more incarnations than the Caped Crusader himself.
For close to 80 years, the Batmobile has intrigued car enthusiasts worldwide. From its humble beginnings in the 1940s to the wild ride it’s morphed into today, it is a car that everyone wants to, at the very least, take a spin in. Regardless of who is behind the wheel or what design it’s sporting at the time, one thing will always remain the same: the freakin’ Batmobile is cool!
Holy Normal Car, Batman! The Batmobile of the 40s
In its first television appearance, the Batmobile rode onto the small screen in 1943 during the weekly Batman movies. In a HUGE coincidence, both Bruce Wayne and Batman tooled around Gotham city in a very normal-looking 1939 Cadillac Series 75 convertible.
Taking the “normal” factor one step further, this vehicle was the same model made available for the average consumer. My, how things change.
A few years later, a 1949 Mercury Convertible replaced the Caddy. Again, it was a stock car that anyone could own, including both Mr. Wayne and the Batman. Notorious for poor handling, the car had to be replaced around six times during filming because it was involved in multiple wrecks.
This would mark the last time anyone in the universe (either Marvel or DC) would call the Batmobile “normal.”
Holy Iconic Car, Batman! The Adam West Era
To many Batmobile purists, the first REAL Batmobile is featured in the 60s TV series starring Adam West. Some speculate West’s superstar standing required a vehicle to live up to his status.
The car’s development gig was given to Hollywood car innovator George Barris. Barris was given an impossible three weeks to develop a design. Who knew that an icon could be conceived and created in such a short amount of time?
Like most cars of the era, this car looked like it was headed for the moon. Barris’s concept started with a Ford Futura base, a concept car never released to the public. An extra fin here, a cool windshield there, pops of red paint in all the right places, throw in the bat emblem, and there you have it! The Batmobile was born.
Not only was this the first Batmobile worthy of a superhero due to its physical modifications, but it was also the first one to be equipped with all of Batman’s kick-ass gadgets. Complete with parachutes, a computer, Batman’s beacon, a telephone, and a myriad of other fun toys, the Batmobile became a superhero in its own right.
Holy Darker Look, Batman! The Keaton Era
It would be almost 30 years down the road before the Batmobile would take to the big screen. This time, it would take a spin in Tim Burton’s much darker vision of the life and times of Batman with Michael Keaton playing our favorite hero.
This version of the Batmobile was a Frankenstein-like concoction, with Julian Caldow taking charge of the design for the new vision. Two Impala chassis were fused to form the base, and a Chevy V8 engine powered it. The red splashes of color were a thing of the past, as this Batmobile was all black. Gone were the days of the emblem on the car, as well.
The fans were left with a sleek dragster design that looked like it was ready to go from 0 to kicking-ass in 2.5 seconds.
This version of the Batmobile was lighter on the “corny” gadgets but heavy on the firepower. Machine guns, bombs, retractable shielding, and capable of driving itself, this Batmobile was ready to rock and roll at a moment’s notice.
The Keaton era Batmobile made it through Batman in 1989 and Batman Returns in 1992 before being “retired” as a new man would soon be behind the mask.
Holy Bat Wings, Batman! Kilmer’s Car
1995’s Batman Forever brought out a brand new look for the Batmobile. The film’s director, Joel Schumacher, put Barbara Ling in charge of the design. Ling’s vision was to bring back several of the previous elements fans revered while still giving the car a complete overhaul.
Under the hood, the Batmobile was fitted with an impressive Chevy 350 ZZ3 high-performance engine.
A new lighting configuration gave the car a blue hue underneath. The wheels featured the batman emblem, but uniquely, the emblem did not spin with the wheels. Instead, it remained upright. There was prominent ribbing along the car’s sides, and probably most notably, there were actual bat wings on the vehicle’s back.
Most Batmobile aficionados like this car specifically because it actually does have a bat-like aesthetic. Others did not care for this particular version due to its phallic-like shape.
Holy Single-Seater, Batman! Clooney’s Car
Even though Ling was still in charge of the design, this version of the Batmobile changed to meet her new vision. Much like West in the 60s, Ling believed that the Batmobile should be fit for a star, and at the time, no one shined brighter than the new Batman, George Clooney.
Drawing her inspiration from classy roadsters like the Jaguar D Type, Ling designed a longer, faster, one-seater. She also removed the ribs, made its fins sharper-looking, changed the emblem design on the wheels, and scaled back on the cool gadgets.
While most diehard fans preferred this version of the Batmobile to its direct predecessor because Clooney’s Batman and Robin was considered such a bust, the car probably didn’t receive the credit it was due.
Holy Reboot, Batman! Bales’ Tumbler
Taking close to a decade for the franchise to recover from the Clooney disaster, director Christopher Nolan came back with a vengeance. His take on Batman was the darkest, most gritty adaptation yet, and the Batmobile directly reflected Nolen’s vision.
Nicknamed the Tumbler, this incarnation was said to be a crossbreed of a Lambo and a tank. Over 15’ long, 9’ wide, and weighing in at around 2 tons, the car looked like it wouldn’t be able to perform. But looks can be deceiving.
This camouflaged bat could fly from 0 to 60 in a break-neck 5.6 seconds and catch over 30 feet of air when jumped. This power was thanks to a 500 HP V8 manufactured by Chevy.