The Great Sacrifice – Lincoln Futura Morphs Into Barris Batmobile

Rod Authority visited George Barris’ garage sale a few weeks ago and took a tour of the legendary car maker’s brick and motor store in Toluca Lake on the outskirts of Los Angeles, California.

Barris is famous for many kustom kars, but none are more notorious, or have made more of an indelible mark on pop culture, than the Batmobile built for the mid-sixties television show, Batman, starring Adam West and Burt Ward.

According to 66BatmanToys, “Before it became one of the most famous vehicles in the world, the Batmobile was actually a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car built by Ford Motor Company. This vehicle was built in Turin, Italy and cost $250,000 but was never put into production.

Here is the Futura in all it’s glory back in the Fifties. You can see the double bubble top was an element of the original design and retained by Barris.

In 1959, a red Lincoln Futura appeared in the MGM movie, It Started With a Kiss starring Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds. Many years later, the Lincoln Futura was sold to car customizer George Barris who was affiliated with Ford at the time. Despite the original cost of $250,000, Ford Motor Company sold the Lincoln Futura to Barris for one dollar.

This is the way the Futura looked when it showed up in Los Angeles. Barrris bought it for $1.00.

Producer, William Dozier approached George Barris about building a Batmobile for the upcoming TV series. Barris had only 3 weeks to complete the project. Barris knew he had the perfect vehicle for Dozier, the 1955 Lincoln Futura.

The major changes to the Futura were radiusing the wheel wells and bringing the fin all the way up to the windshield. Of course all the chrome was ditched, bat-themed details added and then painted signature black with orange trim.

The Batmobile was completed and delivered to 20th Century Fox in October, 1965. It was considered very valuable and was insured for $125,000. The original Batmobile made its television debut on January 12, 1966 in the episode Hi Diddle Diddle.

After the series was cancelled, Barris retained ownership of the vehicle. In addition to auto shows, the Batmobile went on to appear in movies such as the TV movie and roast, Legends of the Superheroes.

Along with the original Batmobile (#1), George Barris also built 3 replicas out of fiberglass which were used for car shows and appearances around the country. The only replica ever featured in a Batman episode (The Contaminated Cowl) was the #4 Batmobile which was also used in drag racing competitions. A 5th replica was built by Jim Sermersheim using the TV show and photos as a reference. George Barris eventually acquired this Batmobile and it became known as the #5 Batmobile.

In 2013, Barris decided to sell the Batmobile at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction. The original 1966 Batmobile sold for $4.62 million to Batman fan, Rick Champagne and set a record for TV and movie cars.”

To many fans of mid-century design, the loss of Futura is extremely sad. Although it’s hard to imagine the world with out the Batmobile, we lost the Lincoln Futura in the process. Some folks have even whispered the Batmobile should be restored back to the Futura.

Say it ain’t so!

We all know that will never happen in a million years, we get it, so the next best thing is a re-creation of the Futura and they’ve  popped up over the last few years.

Dig this replica of the Futura in red as it appeared in “It Started With A Kiss..”

One such example is built by Mark Towle–of Gotham Garage now famous for Car Masters – Rust To Riches on Netflix,  Towle is famous for Speed Racer Mach 5 replicas and all sorts of cool, cartoon-y cars and the Futura was perfect for his crew at Gotham Garage.

We saw his Futura up at the Pomona Fairplex earlier this year and really dug the mint green replica. We’d wager that Towle started with a Fiberglass Freaks body and then modified it by closing up the wheel wells, truncating the fins per original and then adding a healthy dollop of the period correct FoMoCo custom touches.

If so, it would be an ironic reversal of a Batmobile morphing back into a Futura. But who knows? Towle is so darn good with his builds, he might have built the thing from scratch.

After seeing this minty fresh Futura around Temecula, we don’t feel so bad about losing the Futura as it lives on with Towles re-creation. So, if you’re in the Inland Empire in Southern California and see an atomic, mint green sled streak by, now you know the story.

The only thing missing is Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds.

About the author

Dave Cruikshank

Dave Cruikshank is a lifelong car enthusiast and an Editor at Power Automedia. A zealous car geek since birth, he digs lead sleds, curvy fiberglass, kustoms and street rods. He currently owns a '95 Corvette, '76 Cadillac Seville, '99 LS1 Trans Am and big old Ford Van.
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