In August 1965, the Batman TV show producers approached car customizer Dean Jeffries to build a Batmobile for their new show. Jeffries was going to use a 1959 Cadillac, but ultimately he turned down the project because he felt he wouldn’t have enough time to complete the car.
Producer William Dozier then approached George Barris, of Barris Kustom City, to see if he was interested in building a Batmobile for the upcoming show. The only catch was the car had to be ready in a mere three weeks after the contract was signed.
Seeing the bat-like qualities his 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car already had, George knew it was the perfect answer to the quandary 20th Century Fox had created.
Production artist Eddie Graves at 20th Century Fox helped design the Batmobile and gave the sketches to George Barris. George had a team of approximately 5 people working on the car to meet the tight deadline. Bill Cushenbery was tasked with reworking the hood, opening-up the wheel wells, and modifying and scalloping the rear fins. Gale Black customized the front saw blade, rocket tubes and orange driving lights. Richard “Korky” Korkes customized a 5 gallon paint can into the rear turbine exhaust. The studio was responsible for adding all of the gadgets, such as: Bat-phone, Batscope and Bat-light flashers.
When the pilot started shooting in early-October 1965, the car wasn’t finished and was delivered to the studio with only the primer coat applied. “In the first shots the car was in the black primer, which really didn’t come on so strong,” said Barris. “They wanted to get more of a gloss on it. We then airbrushed white highlights around the outside edges, but that didn’t come out as strong either. That’s when we went into the 3/4 inch red fluorescent glow edges to accentuate the Batface and fins. It made it much more dramatic.”
On October 11, 1965, the Batmobile was completed and delivered to Fox where it made its television debut on January 12, 1966. It was considered so valuable at the time it was insured for $125,000.
The Batmobile was equipped with a roll bar, beacon, side warning lights and a one-of-a kind Emergency Bat-Turn lever which enabled it to turn around almost instantly at top speed.
In March 1966, Barris applied for a patent for his “new design” Batmobile. On October 18, 1966 the U.S. Patent Office granted him patent number 205998.
After the show ended, the Batmobile remained at Barris’ North Hollywood shop unless it was needed for an event or photo shoot. In the mid 1970’s, George Barris decided to cover the #1 car in flocking or “Bat-fuzz.” This velvety, fuzzy finish was used as a trendy addition to accent its features. It was accomplished by first spraying the car with epoxy and then spraying it with nylon fibers that were electro-statically applied. Nylon flocking was resistant to dirt, stains and more durable than paint.
In the late 70’s and mid-80’s, the #1 Batmobile made some cameo appearances. In 1979, it appeared in the TV show, “Legends of the Superheroes.” In the 80’s, it made two movie appearances in “Galaxina” and “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.”
George Barris and his family decided to sell the car in 2013 at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction. With a $3 million dollar reserve, lot #5037 hit the auction block on January 19, 2013. After 13 minutes of bidding, the car sold for $4.2 million (plus the buyer’s premium). It set an auction record for a TV and movie car in 2013.
In June 2015 the owner put the Batmobile up for sale with a $5,000,000 price tag. In August of 2016, the Batmobile changed hands and privately sold for an undisclosed amount.
The #1 Batmobile is owned by Dave Anderson and is privately located in Virginia.