1955 Lincoln Futura

Futura as Batmobile

Even as a clay model, the shape of the future Batmobile is recognizable in the Lincoln Futura.
Even as a clay model, the shape of the future Batmobile is recognizable in the Lincoln Futura.

Contrary to popular belief, customizer George Barris was not solely responsible for designing the Batmobile, which was built on the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept. He made sketches of the Batmobile that were submitted to Twentieth Century Fox Television and Greenway Productions, the show's producers, and studio artists revised the drawings.

Barris's original drawings, the revisions, and a "list of requirements" for the Batmobile were included in a 13-page contract signed September 1, 1965. (Contract language referred to the Futura as the "proto-Lincoln chassis.") The requirements for the Batmobile included a "Bing Bong Warning Bell," a "Batscope," something called a "Bat-Ray Projector Mechanism," and nine other special effects. The deal required that the Batmobile be completed and delivered by October 11, 1965.

The producers paid Barris Kustom City $5,000 to convert the Futura into the Batmobile for use in the Batman pilot, plus a promise of $5,000 to $9,000 more depending on merchandising rights and completion of the pilot. If the series went into production, there was also a provision in the contract guaranteeing the right to rent the Batmobile from Barris during production for $150 a day.

Barris also agreed to build a second Batmobile, if needed, for $10,000-$12,000. In the contract, Barris very wisely retained the design rights and exclusive right to publicly display the Batmobile.

Bill Cushenberry, a talented auto body craftsman noted for his metal work, had a North Hollywood customizing shop several blocks from Kustom City. Barris took the trim off the Futura, then subcontracted the metal work required to convert the Futura into the Batmobile to Cushenberry, who remembers the Futura as he received it as very solid but weathered. (He also says the original metal work on the car was extremely well executed.)

Cushenberry was given no written plans but was told by Barris what he wanted done. The rest was left to Cushenberry's imagination. After the metal work was finished, the Batmobile was returned to Barris's shop, where it was painted the gloss black it is today.

To make the Batmobile, the center section of the top was removed and a new Plexiglas cover was fabricated, leaving what would have been a normal car's window area open on both sides. (The original Plexiglas center section that had been removed from the Futura was later cut into two sections. One half of it was used on a custom rear-engined speedster built for Richard Boone of Paladin TV series fame. The other half was later owned by a collector in Wisconsin.)

When the Futura was converted to the Batmobile, the steering wheel was cut into a U-shape, with handles at the top of each side. Adam West, who played the title role in Batman, disliked the steering wheel configuration so much that Barris removed the modified Futura steering wheel, binnacle and all, and replaced it with a standard Edsel steering wheel. To this day, the Edsel steering wheel remains a part of the Batmobile.

The Batmobile is still around, but there isn't much Futura left in it. Learn the rest of the saga on the next page.

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