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Batmobile sells for $4.62 million at classic car auction in Arizona

January 19, 2013|By Brian Thevenot

The iconic Batmobile from the 1960s television show sold for $4.62 million at the Barrett-Jackson classic car auction in Scottsdale, Ariz. 

The Saturday night sale thrilled famed car customizer George Barris, who first bought the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car for $1 from Ford. He then transformed it into the Batmobile in 15 days with a budget of $15,000, according to auction notes from Barrett-Jackson. 

The car's buyer was Rick Champagne, a Phoenix-area logistics company executive. Asked by television interviewers what motivated him to pay such a princely sum, he pointed to the woman accompanying him and said: "Her." 

He then explained that he'd had his eye on the Batmobile “ever since I was a kid. I had a toy model of it,” according to SPEED TV. Asked whether he'd keep the car in his garage, he said he'd put it in his living room. 

PHOTOS: Making the Batmobile

Before the auction, Barris never said what price he would take for the midnight-black and fluorescent-red-pinstriped car that Adam West's Batman used to battle villains. The selling price, which includes a buyer's commission, was apparently more than enough and surprised many observers. 

The heavily modified car, known around the world, was built at Barris Kustom Industries auto shop on Riverside Drive in North Hollywood. It has been on display there in a gallery since the television show ended in 1968.

The Futura concept was originally created by a design team at Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln styling department. The 19-foot-long, two-seat, bubble-topped grand touring car prototype was entirely hand-built in 1954 by Ghia Body Works in Turin, Italy, and unveiled in its original pearlescent "frost-blue" white paint finish in 1955 at the Chicago Auto Show.

In late 1965, 20th Century Fox Television and William Dozier's Greenway Productions tapped Barris to come up with a car to foil Batman's enemies. Barris, who also made the Munster Koach and "Beverly Hillbillies" jalopy from the 1960s TV shows, turned out a monster.

The car features bulletproof Plexiglas bubble windshields and the Bat Ray (dual 450-watt laser beams that blasted obstacles to bits). It also has a Bat-O-Meter, which identified the location of the bad guys, as well as oil squirters, fashioned from lawn sprinkler heads, to foil evildoers.

"I saw the script and it said, 'Bang,' 'Pow,' 'Boom,' " Barris, now 87, said in an interview before the auction. "That's exactly what I wanted the car to do. I wanted it to be as big a character as the actors."

brian.thevenot@latimes.com

@LAThevenot on Twitter

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