A brief history of the Batmobile

May 16, 2014 | By | In Buying Guides
A brief history of the Batmobile

This week, Hollywood director Zack Snyder, the man behind the as yet untitled Batman vs Superman film, tweeted a duo of teaser images giving a glimpse of the latest Batmobile.

As you can see above, the new car features the same thick-set stance and exposed wheels as the previous Tumbler but displays a narrower profile and lower nose, more akin to its sleek predecessors.

Whatever it looks like, there’s little doubt that it will pack a colossal punch. As any comic-book fan will attest, the Batmobile is an integral part of the caped crusader’s arsenal, and it’s a gizmo so cool it makes the ability to fly and see through walls seem positively boring by comparison.

In celebration of the new Batmobile and the forthcoming film, we took a look back at the car’s screen evolution, from a camp convertible to the hulking armoured warrior it is now.

1966-1968 – The original Batmobile (Batman TV Series)

Looking back today, the original Batmobile from the 60s TV show is the least radical of the lot, sharing its basic shape and proportions with the Lincoln Futura concept car on which it was based. Rewind nearly 50 years and the bubble-screened convertible with its heavy headlamp apertures, vertical exhaust pipes and black and red paintwork, would have been out of this world.

The creation proved to be a nightmare on set due to its constant breakdowns, but was loaded with crime-fighting gadgets such as a smoke screen, Batcomputer, emergency Bat-turn lever (which utilised parachutes to do an instant 180-degree turn), and Bat-photoscope for capturing his foes in action. It also introduced the iconic rear rocket thruster, a gadget that has featured on every Batmobile since.

Designed by Ford stylist Bill Schmidt, the car was built in three weeks at a reported cost of $30,000 (£17,800). Last year it was sold at auction for a whopping $4.2millon (£2.49million).

1989-1992 – Batman & Batman Returns

Batman’s first big-screen adventure at the hands of director Tim Burton saw the Batmobile return in an altogether more sinister form. Reflecting Gotham City’s gothic, art-deco theme, the car was low and long, with an aerodynamic shape – aside from the socking great turbine intake – which forced air into the rocket motor, giving the car a claimed top speed of 330mph.

As Batman was facing rather less weedy criminals than in the TV series, the Batmobile also got an upgrade in the weapons department. Aside from twin Browning machine guns mounted on either side of the car, it had a Batdisc ejector, chassis-mounted shin breakers, an oil slick dispenser and bombs fitted to the wheel nuts, which could be dropped at the flick of a switch. To make good his getaway, Batman could also call on a grappling hook, which reduced the car’s turning circle, as well as fully retractable armour to stop ne’er-do-wells nicking the stereo.

1995 – Batman Forever

For his next movie outing, Batman took to ‘pimping’ his daily driver. The once aggressive Batmobile returned sporting neon lighting, Rolls-Royce-esque static hubcaps and intricate bodywork resembling bondage-wear. Derided by critics for looking somewhat phallic, this Batmobile did at least come with some neat gadgets, including perpendicular wheels for fast sideways manoeuvres and the ability to drive up vertical surfaces. Despite this, it remains amongst the least popular Batmobile designs, which is probably why no one shed a tear when it was destroyed by the Riddler at the end of the film.

2005-2012 – The Dark Knight trilogy

As well as bringing Batman back from the realms of gaudy fantasy and into gritty realism, the Christopher Nolan reboot of the franchise thankfully brought an end to the silly, fantasy image of the Batmobile. What we got instead was the Tumbler. Described by the film’s production designer as a cross between a Lamborghini and a tank, it’s a hulking great bruiser of a car, designed to smash through walls and make jumps without a ramp thanks to its in-built jet propulsion system. Starting life as secretive Wayne Enterprises project before being adopted by Batman, the Tumbler’s armoury grew over the course of the trilogy to include an artillery cannon and missile launcher.

The best thing about the Tumbler, however, is that it’s real. Six working versions were made for filming, and those used in driving scenes are powered by a 500bhp 5.7-litre V8 motor capable of getting it from 0-60mph in a sports car rivalling 5.6 seconds.

Don’t believe it? Check out the video below in which celebrity petrolhead Jay Leno takes it for a spin.

Pictures: Flickr/Twitter – Zack Snyder

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