1955 Lincoln Futura

George Barris

There are many stories about how car customizer George Barris won ownership of the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept, and some of them have even achieved the status of folklore. The most common of them has Barris foreclosing a storage lien against the Futura and buying it for $1, and then being sued by Ford. In these tales, Barris always wins the lawsuit, sometimes after a trip to Dearborn to make his peace with Ford executives.

Barris dismisses such stories as totally untrue, and there are no records of a lien foreclosure or a lawsuit involving Ford and Barris in Los Angeles County, where such records would be if they existed. What really happened is not as exciting as folklore, but it probably makes a lot more sense.

During the Sixties, Ford and Barris worked together on several projects. In 1964-65, Barris was involved in the Lincoln-Mercury Caravan Of Cars, in which corporate show cars and California custom cars were displayed around the country.

It was during this time, Barris says, that he bought the Futura from Ford for $1. (The Futura had never been a titled vehicle, so there are no motor vehicle records to check.) Ford had no further use for the Futura by then, and Barris says that if he had not purchased it, Ford intended to destroy it due to liability concerns.

It is unclear if, at the time the Futura was sold, Ford knew of or Barris already had plans to convert it into the Batmobile. Because of the limited time Barris was given to create a car for the television show, it is doubtful.

Ford did know of and encouraged Barris's efforts to get the Futura on TV and in films, and there is no credible evidence that anyone there objected to conversion of the Futura into the Batmobile. It's much more likely that Ford executives believed any publicity that came from having one of its "special" vehicles used -- in whatever form -- in a TV series was a benefit.

(Between 1965 and 1970, Barris built some of Ford's show cars, including the 1970 Lincoln Mark III Dual Cowl Phaeton. He says he worked closely with Lee Iacocca, Ford's president; Gene Bordinat, who was in charge of the Ford styling studio; and David Ash, one of Ford's leading stylists. The working relationship between Ford and Barris during this time is a fairly strong indication that whatever Barris did to the Futura was with Ford's knowledge and approval.)

To learn more about how the Futura was converted into the Batmobile, keep reading on the next page.

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