RM Auctions is pleased to present the following two, very significant vehicles for auction here at the Cars of Dreams Museum. They are representative of the outstanding quality and uniqueness of the John Staluppi Collection for a myriad of reasons, but perhaps most importantly, they achieve one of the most important aspects of Mr. Staluppi’s museum—to put a smile on a person’s face, especially children. These two outstanding vehicles do just that and more, as the imagination can’t help but run wild!
The Batmobile, built for and used in the 1966–1968 live action television show Batman and the subsequent film version, was a customized vehicle that originated as a one-off 1955 Lincoln Futura. In 1954, the Futura prototype was built entirely by hand by Ghia in Italy, at a reported cost in excess of $250,000. It was debuted at the Chicago Auto Show, and then in 1959, it was used in the film It Started With a Kiss.
In 1965, Greenway Productions contracted renowned Hollywood car customizer Dean Jeffries to design and build a “Batmobile” for their upcoming Batman TV series. He started customizing a 1959 Cadillac, but when the studio wanted the program on the air more quickly than he could provide, Jeffries was paid off. George Barris then promised to get it done utilizing the Futura, which had been sitting idly in his Hollywood shop. With only three weeks to finish the Batmobile, Barris transformed the distinctive Futura into the now world famous, crime-fighting vehicle.
Bill Cushenbery executed the metal modifications to the car, and its conversion into the Batmobile was completed in just three weeks, at a reported cost in excess of $30,000. They used the primer-painted car in late-1965, for a network presentation reel. Shortly afterward, the car was painted gloss black with a fluorescent stripe. Very intelligently, Barris retained ownership of the car and leased it back to 20th Century Fox and Greenway Productions for use in the series. Today, many estimate this car, still owned by Barris himself, to be in excess of $2.5 million. Not bad for a car that was reported to be sold to Barris for a dollar!
When filming for the series began, several problems arose due to the age of the car: it overheated, the battery went dead, and the expensive Mickey Thompson tires kept blowing. By mid season, the engine and transmission were replaced with a Ford Galaxie engine and transmission, while the most frequent visual influence of this car is that later Batmobiles usually have a rear rocket thruster that fires as the car makes a fast start.
The list of gadgets on the Batmobile include a Bat Ray projector; an anti-theft device; a Detect-A-Scope; a Batscope; a Bat Eye switch; an antenna activator; a police band cut-in switch; an automatic tire inflation device; a remote Batcomputer, a radio linked to the main Batcomputer in the Batcave; the Batphone; an emergency Bat-turn lever; an anti-fire activator; Bat smoke; a Bat photoscope; and many other Bat gadgets. If needed, the Batmobile is capable of a quick 180 degree “bat-turn,” thanks to two rear-mounted 10-foot Deist parachutes. (The emergency Bat-turn lever releases the Batmobile's faux parachutes that enable quick turns.)
There is no doubt that the Batmobile was the perfect addition to the Cars of Dreams Museum—the museum name says it all, and when given the opportunity to add it to the collection, Mr. Staluppi did so immediately. It is as one would expect and is an immensely popular attraction that garners the most enthusiastic attention of all the cars.
When the Batmobile arrived at the Cars of Dreams Museum, the mechanics at the museum added turn signals, horns, and most importantly, an electrically operated cooling fan for the engine, so the Batmobile would not overheat given the proclivity for stop and go traffic associated with something as popular as this. The odometer shows approximately 18,900 miles, undoubtedly mostly parade miles, and is equipped with an under-dash temperature, fuel, and oil gauge, which was installed by the team at the Cars of Dreams Museum to ensure trouble-free driving.
As such, it is in outstanding condition, both mechanically and cosmetically. Everything that can be operational is and works as one would hope and expect. The paintwork, a lustrous black, is also outstanding and complements the spotless engine bay, clean chassis and underbody, and tidy custom interior. The condition of this example leaves nothing to be desired, it is simply gorgeous and looks the part in every respect. The build quality is simply outstanding and it shows perfectly.
It is, of course, signed with all the famous signatures, including Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Merriweather, and Julie Newmar, with some of them personalized to the Batmobile’s former owner. Additionally, items that were included in the purchase of the Batmobile when it was bought for the Cars of Dreams Museum are included in its sale as well.
Also included in the lot is the amazing original Batcycle! In the comic book universe, Batman's personal Batcycle is a modified street-bike with a 786 cc liquid-cooled V-4 engine containing a computer-controlled carburetor and bulletproof wind-guard. The Batcycle, in the iteration seen here, made its first appearance in 1966 in the Batman TV series and was actually a 1965 Harley-Davidson with a sidecar, but it was leased only for the first season episode.
Later that year, a new Batcycle was introduced and was produced by Kustomotive, conceived by Dan Dempski, designed by Tom Daniel, and built by Dan and Korky Korkes using a Yamaha Catalina 250. It was leased to 20th Century Fox starting on April 18, 1966 for $50 a week, with an additional $350 up front.
The new Batcycle was first used in the 1966 Batman film and continued to appear in the rest of the TV series. The total amount paid to Kustomotive was $2,500. When the series was cancelled, Kustomotive used the Batcycle in car shows, paying royalties to Greenway, 20th Century Fox, and National Periodical Publications. It is thought that Kustomotive built as many as four replicas of the Batcycle for tours.
In its current condition, the Batcycle is highly impressive. It shows 8,250 original miles on the odometer and retains almost all of its original components. Perhaps most impressive is the removable chase car that can be easily made operational. It is in excellent, time warp condition and is the perfect pairing for the 1966 Batmobile Recreation offered here.
Potential buyers of this lot will have the opportunity for a truly unique ownership experience given the widespread popularity and commercial appeal of the Batman name and franchise. It is truly “the stuff dreams are made of.”
350 cu. in. Chevrolet V-8 with Edelbrock manifold and Weber dual carbs, Turbo 350 automatic GM transmission, four-wheel independent suspension, and four-wheel brakes. Wheelbase: 129 in.
Part of the RM Auctions for John Staluppi in December, 2012.