The 1963 Bat Car. Image: Heritage Auctions

FlashBat… Er, Flashback: The 1963 Batmobile!

Three years before the Batman arrived on US TV in 1966, DC Comics approved construction of a custom made Bat Car that toured America.

The 1963 Bat Car. Image: Heritage Auctions
The 1963 Bat Car. Image: Heritage Auctions

Heritage Auctions sold it at auction back in 2014, opening bidding at $90,000.

The first touring Batmobile started life as a 1956 Oldsmobile 88, with the famous 324 Rocket engine – the predecessor to the muscle cars of the early 1960s – but languished in a New Hampshire field for decades before being rescued and restored,

“This is a great piece of lost Pop Culture and Americana,” said Margaret Barrett, Director of Entertainment and Music at Heritage Auctions, before the car was auctioned.

“After it was removed from the field, it went through a few owners before the most recent owner, Toy Car Exchange, put the car through a painstaking frame up restoration with the original engine and other original parts lovingly restored and rebuilt.”

The 1963 Bat Car. Image: Heritage Auctions

The 1963 Bat Car. Image: Heritage Auctions

The 1963 Bat Car. Image: Heritage Auctions

The earliest DC-licensed Batmobile known to exist, work on the original touring Batmobile was finished in 1963, two years before the George Barris-designed TV Batmobile had begun in December 1965.

The car, which measures 17 feet by 83 inches, took three years to build. It was stripped and given a newly created body, replete with the large fin, front end and pocket sliding doors. The high-concept design was, ultimately, highly-reminiscent of the DC comic book cars.

When Batmania started in earnest in the early 1960s, ALL STAR Dairies, a DC Comic Book licensee, approached the owner of the car about renting it, repainting it and rebadging it in official Batman colors and labels and then touring it as the Batmobile.

The car was toured in small towns in the Eastern US as “Batman’s Batmobile” according to a 1966 Keene Sentinel newspaper clipping.

Batmobile visits Keene

“This is from before replicas of the Barris TV Batmobile were made and available for touring,” noted Barrett. “Those were known as ‘ABC TV Batmobiles,’ and later on as the Barris Batmobile or 1966 Batmobile.”

The original 1963 Batmobile was returned to the owner in late 1966 and subsequently retired, eventually being sold for less than $200. Within a few years, it would lie in a New Hampshire field and, for several decades, would remain a long forgotten piece of American Pop Culture history.

The car, or what was left of it, was re-discovered in 2008 and dug out of the dirt by Bobby Smith of Swanzey, New Hampshire. It was sold online to a Chicago Car rare auto dealer, who sold it to auto historian George Albright, who meticulously researched and tracked down the original builders of the car, retired DC Comics executives, as well as former ALL STAR Dairies executives, all of whom had very distinct memories of the car.

Albright supplemented the research with other ALL STAR Batman memorabilia, such as milk cartons and ice cream containers with the National Periodic Publications copyright (then owner of DC Comics).

The 1963 Bat Car. Image: Heritage Auctions

The 1963 Bat Car. Image: Heritage Auctions

 

In February 2013 the car was purchased by Toy Car Exchange LLC and transported to Borbon Fabrications in Sacramento, California, a company that specialises in vintage car restorations.

Restoration was beautifully and accurately completed more than a year later and the car made its debut at the renowned Sacramento Autorama, America’s longest running indoor car show, where it won first place in the hand built sports car class, ahead of such legendary classics as the Shelby Cobra.

In December 2014, it was auctioned for the very first time by Heritage, and sold for $137,000.

• There is much more about the car and its restoration on this dedicated website – www.1963batmobile.com

All photographs featured courtesy Heritage Auctions, supplied by the Toy Car Exchange

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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