T he unique Batmobile, made famous in comics, on TV and in movies has left its Batcave and is in downtown Reno at the National Automobile Museum, the Harrah’s Collection, on display through July 28.
While it’s fairly certain you won’t encounter a “Bam!” “Pow!” “Zap!” fight at the National Automobile Museum at 10 S. Lake Street, you could see a caped crusader or his faithful sidekick Robin since costumes are encouraged.
The original Batmobile was designed exclusively for the 1966 hit TV series Batman, staring Adam West and Burt Ward.
ABC wanted to try something different in 1966. Since Superman had been a fairly popular show, producers decided to try another comic character to the TV lineup. Batman was selected. They added a campy feel to the Batman show so it would appeal to kids and adults and it was an instant hit.
George Barris was hired to build the Batmobile for the TV show because of his previous success with the “Munster Koach” for the hit TV show “The Musters.”
The creative staff working on Batman wanted something more futuristic and dynamic than the Batmobile of comic book fame. They wanted it to have plenty of spy gadgets, based on the popularity of the James Bond movies and TV spy shoes such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Producers wanted the Batmobile to be equipped with a “Bat Ray,” radar, a nail spreader, a chain cutting buzz saw that extended out of the front, a flame throwing turbine in the back and a whole lot more.
Since Barris only had a few weeks to create and deliver this specially equipped car, he used one of the Ford concept and experimental car models he bought for $250,000 and got to work. He selected a 1955 Lincoln-Mercury Futura, which had debuted in the New York Auto Show, and it became the foundation for the Batmobile. That car was transformed into one of the world’s most famous cars today.
Following directions from the TV art department, Barris integrated several features into the design. Since this was years before computer generated special effects, many of the special features had to be functional.
The Batmobile weighed 5,500 pounds and had a completely hand-formed steel body, with a wheelbase of 129 inches. Its overall length is 206 inches and the top is 48 inches high.
A 429 Ford Full Race engine powered the Batmobile with Moon equipped, NitroOxide Thrust. The front-end design characteristic is the face of a bat with the hood scope extending down into the frontal area accentuating the nose. Right and left eyes extend into the ears with dual 450-watt laser beams installed in amber reflective lenses. A hood scoop follows the front area with a hydraulically operated steel chain and cable cutter blade.
Hidden behind the ears were functional headlights for every-day street driving. The grille cavity was the mouth of the bat with internal mounted rockets. Dual 84-inch rear bat fins were in line with bulletproof steel as added protection for Batman and Robin. Operable red reflective taillights were mounted in the rear of the bat fins. Four 6-inch flared eyebrow bulletproof wheel wells were formed and used as tire protectors. Ten-inch wide Rader wheels made of steel and power thrust alloy used traction grip Oval Firestone tires.
The rear upper panel had triple rocket tubes and an automatic theft control system. The Batmobile boasts a 360-degree turning radius.
The Batmobile dash was equipped with many different Batman innovations, such as the Batscope that was hooked up with a revolving closed circuit antenna to bring the Batman full vision plus the Bateye switch for anti-theft control. The antenna was for an information radio wave pickup of messages and computerized information from the Batcave with an electronic unit installed in the truck.
The Batmobile is on loan to the National Automobile Museum courtesy of the Joe Kaminkow family of Reno. The museum is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mon. Sat and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for seniors and $3 for children 6 to 18 years. Children age 5 and younger are free when accompanied by an adult. Family memberships are available for $70 per year, which includes parents, their children and grandchildren under the age of 19.
For more information about the show, go to www.automuseum.org.