We are counting down the Top 50 hot rods and street cars of all time that have made an appearance in a television series, or a memorable television episode. Starting from #50, and counting down to our #1 pick, follow along with our memories, and see where your favorite show lands.
1. Batman: The Batmobile
The most famous Batmobile in all the land may have started out as a 1955 Ford-Lincoln Futura concept car when “Batman” aired on television, and it still reigns as the most famous car in the world, recognizable around the globe. There was no question it would be our No. 1 pick for this countdown!
Showcased on the action-crime series between 1966-1968, the Batmobile was conceived by master fabricator and builder George Barris. Although he created countless other fantasy vehicles for television, movies, celebrities, and collectors, the Batmobile, out of all the others, is his lasting legacy.
The story of such a car has kept the Batman franchise alive as it evolves on the movie screen, morphing into outlandish representations of the original Batmobile many of us know and love from the ‘60s.
Provided with just three weeks to morph the $250,000 Ford-Lincoln concept into a one-of-a-kind inspiration that would live up to the Marvel Comics hero, Barris was tasked with not only creating the vehicle but also numerous gadgets used to help fight crime, including self-inflating tire equipment, mobile tracking device, Bat-ray, and the mobile Bat-phone – all ahead of their time for the era – and all innovations straight out of Barris’ shop.
The Batmobile is a wondrous machine and more than just a showboat. Weighing 5,500 pounds it needed heft to move the hand-formed all-steel body and 129-inch wheelbase at high speeds during action sequences. A 429 Ford full race engine was dropped in the front cavity and extensive mods were sculpted to resemble that of a bat in flight, and 40 coats of super gloss black paint set off with fluorescent cerise pinstriping and trim. For the full build details, visit the official Barris Kustoms website.
In January 2013, Barris’ original Batmobile sold at auction for more than $4 million. Holy mackerel, Batman! That is a fist full of kapow cash!
Gotham City Garage
The Batmobile was not the only over-the-top vehicle featured alongside production and factory cars. Barris Kustoms also designed and fabricated the Joker’s Mongrel T in season two – a hopped up and modified Ford T-Bucket that would only suite a madman behind the wheel – which was precisely the point.
Several motorbikes were used on the series as well. In season one, the Batcycle was introduced. This 1965 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide, complete with an attached side car for Robin, was a perfect complement to the Batmobile and featured the same black paint with red pinstriped and bat decals.
Batman also made his way on a heavily modified 1966 Yamaha Catalina (YDS-3) 250 built by Dan Dempski and customizer Bob Butts. It was powered by a 55cc three-speed engine with a white and black with a red bat on the side front fender shield. But the coolest aspect of this bike was that Robin could break free of the platform connected to the Yamaha and drive off in an independently-operated go-kart.
Another famous custom appearing on Batman’s season three belonged to Catwoman as her Catmobile — the Reactor Mach II built by another industry legend, Gene Winfield. Based on the full independent and self-leveling suspension of a 1956 Citroen and powered by a flat six-cylinder engine, and electronic door and roof operation. Another unique feature … it also appeared on “Star Trek,” “Bewitched,” and “Mission Impossible.” Numerous other vehicles, including Batgirl’s frilly purple Batcycle made appearances as well.
It seems every episode had the same theme pitting the good guys against super villains, so what was it about the Caped Crusader and Robin that kept us tuning in to watch? Perhaps it was because we were rooting for the underdogs who represented truth and justice, and their passionate fight to protect citizens from thugs, thieves, and evil maniacs such as the Penguin, Riddler, or Joker. Whatever the reason, the cultural impact of such characters and the cars they drove made a lasting impression on audiences and fans around the world.
Instead of us retelling the impact this car made in our lives, we would like to ask our readers to share a favorite memory or episode that you recall about Batman or the Batmobile. Feel free to make comments in the section below.
(Editor’s note: Thanks for following along on our countdown the top 50 TV hot rods. It’s been a blast to the past and back again remembering shows from long ago, and we hope they brought you fond memories, too.)