Evolution of the Batmobile | History of the Batmobile
The history of the Batmobile is a long one. Starting in the 1940s, the Batmobile has been constantly revised. To understand its appeal and rich history, you'll first need to learn about the evolution of the Batmobile in television and film over the past 75 years. Due to its long run, it's hard to know exactly how many Batmobiles there have been.
Through the years, the Batmobile has looked different in each comic series, film and television show. To have a broader understanding of how the Batmobile has evolved, you'll need to have a good idea of the most popular television and film versions, along with the ways they've been redesigned or modified.
Changes to the Batmobile have ranged from simply adding new modifications to an older model to completely redesigning the entire vehicle. A fan's favorite Batmobile is likely from the era in which they were introduced to Batman. However, serious Batman enthusiasts will likely have all the Batmobiles ranked. After reviewing the following iconic Batmobiles, you can develop your own rankings for the legendary vehicles.
The Early Batmobile Models
Before the Batmobile became a worldwide phenomenon, it had humble beginnings in the 1940s with just two versions: the 1943 model and the 1949 model.
Probably the simplest Batmobile ever used, the 1943 model holds a special place in Batmobile history, since it's the vehicle that started it all. The 1943 Batmobile model was first featured in the Columbia serial Batman movies that ran each week. The series chose the 1939 Cadillac Series 75 convertible, originally designed by Harley Earl of General Motors. As it was a car designed for the general public, there were barely any modifications or gadgets included.
Unlike future versions of the Batmobile, the car doubled as both the Batmobile and the personal car of Bruce Wayne. As such, the producers of the movies had to figure out how to differentiate between the vehicle as the Batmobile and as just a regular car. To illustrate the difference, they decided when the top was up, the car was the Batmobile, and when the top was down, the car was Bruce Wayne's.
The next and final serial run for Batman introduced a new Batmobile. Like the previous version, this new Batmobile was a stock automobile that came straight out of a factory. Though the series added the Bat Cave and Wayne Manor to the series to bring the Batman universe to life, it didn't have the budget to trick out the Batmobile.
Ford's 1949 Mercury Convertible was selected to take over for the 1939 Cadillac Series 75. As there weren't any modifications to the vehicle, the convertible top was used again to signal when it was the Batmobile, and when it was Bruce Wayne's personal car. Over the filming of the show, the Mercury was switched out six times due to the car's poor handling when cornering. The combination of power and inadequate handling resulted in the car getting wrecked several times.
1966 Batmobile: The West Mobile
After the 1943 and 1949 Batmobiles, fans had to wait a while before Batman hit the small or big screen again. When fans finally got their wish in 1966, the Batmobile they saw would blow the previous versions out of the water. In fact, many now consider the 1966 Batmobile to be the first real Batmobile.
The first modified Batmobile appeared in the 1966-68 Batman television series and the 1966 Batman movie. Adam West's iconic performance as Batman brought Gotham and the Batmobile to a whole new audience. With the star power of West, the people behind the show knew they had to have a stunning vehicle to compliment him.
As West's Batmobile was the first to sport multiple gadgets and modifications, many consider his to be the prime version of it. The design for the car ultimately fell to George Barris, a legendary American designer of classic Hollywood cars, who was given the job of designing the car within a deadline of three weeks. To come up with the design for the vehicle, Barris drew from Ford's 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, which was never released to the public.
The baseline design of the Futura — with its bubble canopies and long fins — made for a perfect base for the Batmobile. Along with the base design of the Futura, Barris added modifications that would add to the visual theme of Batman. The car was painted black with red trim to really make the car pop on screen. Finally, the red Batman logo on the doors of the vehicle and in the center of the wheels tied the whole design together.
Barris would go onto add other gadgets such as rockets, lasers, a computer, a police beacon and a telephone. The car also had a chain splice placed on the nose and a couple of parachutes installed in the rear. With the parachutes, the car could make a complete 180 degree turn with ease.
When it comes to combat, this Batmobile was ready to take on Gotham's greatest villains. To create coverage and obscure vision, Batman could use the vehicle's smoke emitter. If a villain was chasing after Batman or if he needed to stop a car, the nail spreader was a top gadget. In order to do some serious damage to another vehicle or obstacle, the car featured a battering ram. With all of these modifications, the vehicle was a worthy companion.
1989 Batmobile: The Keaton Mobile
Tim Burton helmed the 1989 Batman film that brought a darker tone to the iconic character — far more than any of the cartoons and films in the past. As such, the 1989 Batmobile was designed with a new take on the series in mind. With the movie's more serious tone, Anton Furst, the Batmobile designer, wanted the vehicle to have a darker feel as well.
He got rid of the red trim and the bright red Batman logo, and the Batmobile went completely black. Instead of an exotic Ferrari or Lamborghini that fans had become accustomed to in the cartoons and comic books, this version of the Batmobile took on the appearance of a car designed for drag racing, with its skinny, sleek design. The long vehicle looked as if it was ready to break the sound barrier.
This Batmobile was not the type that could hide in plain sight, but with its speed, Batman could navigate around with such quickness, that it didn't much matter. Michael Keaton's Batman, already iconic on its own, became even more synonymous with the franchise, due to the vehicle's bold appearance.
Along with its speed and new look, the vehicle had even more modifications — so it was always prepared for a fight. The Batmobile had retractable shielding, self-driving and machine guns all incorporated into the vehicle. Additionally, the Batmobile featured shin breakers on the sides, bombs, disc launchers and an implement that could lift the car and let it turn 180 degrees on a dime.
Batman Returns, the movie following the 1989 Batman, used the same Batmobile. The new movie showed off the vehicle's ability to turn into the "Batmissile," helping Keaton's Batman make a quick escape from the police. Moreover, the animated series that immediately followed the 1989 Batman would go on to largely draw from this Batmobile's design.
Batmobiles From the 1990s
The 1990s would bring several new Batmobiles to the franchise, both in television and film. Though the Batmobile from Batman would retain its role in the 1992 Batman Returns, there would still be four more Batmobiles designed and released to the public in the 90s. The following vehicles were four all-new Batmobiles used through the decade:
1992 Animated Batmobile
Due to its animated nature, the designers of the Batmobile from Batman: The Animated Series had much more freedom in the number of modifications and gadgets they could employ. Shayne Poindexter took the lead in designing this vehicle and tried to utilize past designs from both the movies and comic books. The final look was fairly simple, with it looking like a fairly standard car, other than its long hood. The vehicle also featured slatted grills and a blunt nose.
You shouldn't let the minimal design fool you, though—this Batmobile was dangerous. The Batmobile featured dispensers for smoke, oil and tear gas, along with ejection seats, wheel slasher hubs and a missile rack. For defensive purposes, the body panels and wheels were reinforced with titanium alloy, a shield mode and reversible jet exhausts.
1995 Batmobile: The Kilmer Mobile
The third installment in the Batman and Batman Returns movie series, Batman Forever, took the series in a different direction. The films were directed by someone new, and with the new director came a new designer, Barabara Ling. To put her own vision for the Batmobile front and center, Ling decided to craft a vehicle that had a more organic feel to it.
Ling still incorporated some of the old model's designs, keeping the split cockpit canopy, the long, the skinny design and the separate fenders — but overall, the car was transformed.
Instead of the nondescript design of the 1989 Batmobile that didn't feature any Batman logos on it, the 1995 Batmobile incorporated the bat logo onto each wheel. Instead of turning with the wheels, the logo would stay upright, constantly displaying Batman's symbol. Most noticeable about the new design was the new ribs along the side and the bat-like wings that were attached to the back of the vehicle. Of all of the vehicles in the franchise, this one looked most like a living, breathing bat.
As weaponry and modifications went, this Batmobile was fairly minimalistic. It could lock all four of its wheels, which allowed the vehicle to move from side to side quickly. It also employed a grappling hook and could transform itself, so it could climb up walls and other vertical structures. However, Riddler destroyed this Batmobile by putting explosives in the vehicle's cockpit.
Viewer reception to this Batmobile was fairly lukewarm, with some even considering it ugly. The biggest criticism was that it looked like a car that was designed like a plastic toy, which turns out, it was.
1997 Batmobile: The Clooney Mobile
Batman and Robin, the final installment in the series that began in 1989, attempted to end the series with a bang. To make up for the rather dull response to the 1995 Batmobile, Ling went back to the drawing board and tried to design a Batmobile worthy of a new Batman, played by George Clooney.
While the film's quality is questionable, with some considering it the worst Batman film, Ling's new Batmobile is widely considered an improvement over the previous one. She achieved a more attractive look by taking inspiration from classic roadsters, such as the Jaguar D Type. This Batmobile could go up to 140 mph, had a length of 30 feet long and utilized an open-air cockpit. To really differentiate it from the previous Batmobile, Ling removed the organic-looking ribs from the sides of the vehicle.
New design features included three small exhaust nozzles on both of the rear fenders, separating itself from the sole jet exhaust featured on the previous versions. Though the vehicle had fins on the back like the past version, the fins were changed to look sharper and had their size increased substantially. The wheels on this Batmobile were less flashy, with only a silver Bat design included in the center. The rest of the tires were 22" and featured prototype Good Year tires.
1997 Animated Batmobile
The second animated series to premiere in the 90s put its own spin on the Batmobile. The New Batman Adventures ran from 1997-1999 and featured a Batmobile that was wider than the others of the era. The vehicle had a two-passenger coupe, along with a pair of thin jet thrusters. This new look would prove popular, as it was used in the 2000s in Batman comic books.
2005 Batmobile: The Tumbler
It took some time after the George Clooney-led Batman movie for the Batmobile to return to the big screen. When Christopher Nolan finally got a hold of the series in 2005, he put his directorial stamp on Batman with the Dark Night Trilogy.
At the helm, he completely revolutionized the franchise by restarting the entire universe. Along with crafting a new Batman and Gotham City, Nolan and Nathan Crowley designed an iconic Batmobile, unlike one ever seen in the Batman universe. To design the vehicle, Crowley and Nolan stuck to their vision to make the Batmobile as realistic as possible.
Like the rest of the movie, the new Batmobile was gritty and, like Nolan wanted, realistic, with the production designer going on to describe the vehicle as a combination of a tank and a Lamborghini. The functionality of the vehicle and it's sleek, slightly dangerous look made it a fan favorite.
Nicknamed the Tumbler, this Batmobile was used throughout the trilogy. It's an imposing vehicle, measuring in at 15 feet and 2" long, as well as 9 feet and 2" wide. Due to its size and design, the vehicle weighed over 2 tons.
Despite its weight, the vehicle offers incredible performance — this new version:
- Can complete a 0 to 60 dash in 5.6 seconds.
- Can jump up to 30 feet.
- Uses 44" Super Sawmper TSL Tires.
- Is powered by a 500-HP Chevy 350 V8
- Utilizes a jet engine on its back, with propane tanks fueling it.
Other than its impressive stats, the Batmobile had the ability to eject a custom motorcycle called the Batpod. After ejecting the Batpod, the rest of the Batmobile self destructs, helping Batman in extreme situations, where he needs to get away quickly and cause a distraction. Additionally, The Dark Night Rises also featured a Tumbler in camo rather than the classic black look.
2016 Batmobile: The Batfleck Mobile
Unlike the critically acclaimed Christopher Nolan series, the Batman reboot, starring Ben Affleck as Batman, did not make a huge impression on critics or fans. However, the new Batmobile placed itself in competition with the Tumbler, some fans even preferring it.
Dennis McCarthy and Patrick Tatopoulos, the production designer, designed the new Batmobile, taking inspiration from its predecessor, but slimming it down and making it more visually streamlined in appearance. The vehicle retains its wide look, but takes some weight off, while also utilizing a wheel arrangement that makes more functional sense. Its defined features pair well with its obvious utility, as it still gives a heavily-armored, ready for combat look.
Unlike the Tumbler's high-off-the-ground, plow-through-anything appearance, the Batfleck Mobile sits lower to the ground and has wider wheels to give the vehicle more maneuverable qualities. Even though it's maneuverable, it's still an imposing Batmobile, as it measures 20 feet in length and 12 feet in width, giving it an authority on the road.
When it comes to gadgets, this Batmobile is tricked out. The front of the vehicle is armed with a mounted machine gun. Other modifications and gadgets include sonic repellent, harpoons, chemical devices and spiked coils. The Batmobile also features stealth features, scanning devices for sonar and toxic elements, anti-ballistics systems and night vision. Its suspension system also adjusts to different driving surfaces, meaning it can be taken off-road comfortably.
The future for the Batfleck Mobile is uncertain. It's made its appearances in Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, but whether or not it will appear in future releases is still unknown. What's for certain is that with the Super Hero craze still going strong and the power of the Dark Knight, we'll be seeing more Batmobiles in the future. For now, though, you can update your Batmobile rankings to show which Batmobile you feel is best.
Visit One of the Largest Batmobile Collections in the World
When people name their favorite Batmobiles, the top models are usually the 1989 Batmobile, the 1966 television series Batmobile and the 2005 Tumbler. At Volo Auto Museum, you can see all three of the iconic Batmobiles.
Any Batman enthusiast will love to see the authentic vehicles up close. Adding to their appeal, the 1966 Batmobile is autographed by Adam West and George Barris. Additionally, the Tumbler at the museum was restored from a wrecked stunt car that had been damaged on set. In fact, Volo's Tumbler is the only one used on-screen outside of Warner Bros. We also have a 1966 Batcycle as well as lifelike statues of Batman and the Joker that were custom made for the museum.
The Batmobile Collection at Volo is perfect for the whole family. The museum's Batmobile Kiddie Rides give children the opportunity to feel like Batman while driving one of the Jr. Batmobiles. If you're looking for a fun, family vacation near Chicago, start planning your trip to Volo Auto Museum today. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. One of our friendly staff members will be happy to answer any questions you might have.