Lincoln Futura/Batmobile—Interview with George Barris (Part III of III)
By Jim and Cheryl Farrell
To the old car hobbyist, George Barris is not a very popular person. In 1965, he converted the Lincoln Futura concept car into TV’s Batmobile. Even though we have not been able to confirm everything he told us. We thought it only fair to let Mr. Barris speak for himself. We have been able to confirm that during the 1960s he built at least one Lincoln concept car and several Ford and Mercury concept cars. Also during the 1960s, Mr. Barris was a part of the Lincoln-Mercury Caravan of Cars. What follows is a portion of our 1995 interview with him. Mr. Barris sold the Batmobile at auction in 2013 for $4.6 million. On November 5, 2015, Mr. Barris passed away. RIP.
Farrell: Mr. Barris, did you have anything to do with the Futura getting into Hollywood and the 1959 movie, “It Started With A Kiss?”
Barris: Yes. I got the Futura and a half-dozen other concept cars from the different Ford divisions. I asked to have them all brought out here because in those days they were chopping them up, and I said “no, lets keep them here,” because we do films with nondescript cars, cars that don’t look like regular production models.
Farrell: Besides the Futura, what other concept cars did you get from Ford?
Barris: I got the Futura and a Cougar and half a dozen cars from the different divisions. We did the Mercury Delgato, the Mercury Maurauder, a Comet—I can’t remember the name of, and the Ford Magic Cruiser. We also restored the Mercury Beldoni, which was a sedan, a Ford Bronco—I’ve forgotten the name they used, several more Mercurys, and at least one other Lincoln. We also did the Lincoln-Mercury Cavalcade of Cars, and in the ‘60s, we also did (Lee) Iacocca’s Custom Car Cavalcade for about five years, because Iacocca wanted to obtain the youth market.
Farrell: Who at the Design Center where you dealing with?
Barris: Gene Bordinat and Dave Ash—and lots of others from the Ford divisions, but I can’t remember their names.
Farrell: A story we’ve heard is that you obtained ownership of the Futura through a lien foreclosure.
Barris: No, we didn’t have a lien foreclosure. We made a request to obtain title for those vehicles. Ford wanted to have the vehicles chopped and squashed and I kept saying “no;” it’s ridiculous to destroy these things that can be used. To eliminate the hassles of the liability and all that, I said ”then give me title, we’ll give you $1.00.” That’s when we started paying $1.00 for each of the cars, and that’s how we obtained ownership.
Farrell: Is the Batmobile titled?
Farrell: Do you recall when Ford signed over the Futura to you?
Barris: It had to be in 1964-65.
Farrell: Did Ford ever file suit against you over the Futura?
Farrell: Is it true that sometime during the filming of the Batman series, the frame on the Futura broke?
Barris: No. That’s not true. There were stress cracks. It was old and the stuff that was originally used wouldn’t hold up. We were also having transmission problems. The car was not made to be a driven car; that wasn’t supposed to be what it had to do. So we put a late model Ford Galaxy chassis under it, and when we built the duplicates, we just extended the frames and suspension eleven inches to handle the vehicle. Except for one, the engines were Ford 390s. On one we used a big 429.
Farrell: Do you recall what the original frame and engine underneath the Futura were?
Barris: They were Lincoln.
Farrell: Do you know if it was Mark II?
Barris: I couldn’t tell you.
Farrell: Why were the duplicates built?
Barris: Demand for the shows.
Farrell: They weren’t built for the TV series?
Barris: Well, we used them on and off in the TV series. We aways had a second car at the studio. The reason was in case we had problems. Like the first problem was when we finished the car and rushed up there. It was in primer and they were shooting the scenes coming out of the bat cave up at Griffith Park, and I didn’t want to take a chance of getting a flat tire or anything like that. So I called Mickey Thompson and asked to use some of his Indy tires to put on the car. I did not want to have a bad problem, so he sent me some Indy tires, and of course we come out of the bat cave and ”pow!” we blew a tire. That’s because we had a 4,000 or 5,000 pound car on an Indy tire that’s supposed to be for a 1,500 pound race car.
Farrell: The other story we’ve heard is that originally the Batmobile was flocked or painted a flat color.
Barris: That’s not entirely correct. There was a scene where the Batmobile was supposed to be camouflaged, so we had to put bat fuzz on it. We did a couple of the cars like that, and from there it went right out on exhibition. The exhibition tour was so successful that if I had 20 cars it would not have been enough. In fact, I had one driver who went out with the car that I never saw for three years. It never came back to home base for three years.
Farrell: Have the Batman movies helped rekindle and interest in the original Batmobile?
Barris: Well, I’ll tell you what happened. Even though the new Batman movies brought a lot of interest, people still love the character of the original TV car. It’s got a certain charisma about it that is different than “Batman Returns” and “Batman Forever,” the new movies. I think it’s the humor and enjoyment. The original Batmobile has a cartoon character. It wasn’t evil looking and it wasn’t outlandish looking. It was an enjoyable, fun car, and that’s why it became such a popular item.
Farrell: What happened to the parts that came off the Futura. Like the frame and the engine?
Barris: Some of them were thrown away, and collectors started wanting pieces, but that was afterwards. They are all gone, all the parts, I still have guys calling me wanting parts.
Books by Jim and Cheryl Farrell
Ford Design Department—
Concepts & Showcars
1999, 10×13, 400 pages, Fully indexed
900 photos. Includes 150+ designers and sculptors, and highlights 100 concept cars.
Lincoln Design Heritage:
Zephyr to LS (1936-2000)
2021, 10×13, 480 Pages, Fully Indexed
1,600 photos and illustrations
The Ford book is $50 plus $7 S&H (US). The Lincoln book is $85 plus $10 S&H (US). Both books bought together are $110 plus $17 S&H (US). To order, email: firstname.lastname@example.org