The evolution of the Batmobile has now, incredibly, spanned over 80 years.
And, in at least the last 50 of those years, millions (billions?) of kids have dreamt of driving one – it is the ultimate dream car! And it’s a dream come true for some people. Some folks have made their own Batmobile, and others have bought themselves one from the movies (more on that later).
It is also Batman’s most important weapon. It has helped him emerge from many a sticky spot and aided him in his toughest battles.
Due to its role as a vital cog in so many of Batman’s stories, the Batmobile has been recognized as a cultural phenomenon on its own merit by some people.
“The Batmobile has become a mythical character in itself!”Adam West
Nevertheless, such an illustrious legacy took time to establish. In fact, it was decades before the Batmobile truly burst onto the scene.
This article will document that journey – and will conclude by explaining how you can realize your childhood dream of acquiring a Batmobile of your own!
This is the Evolution of the Batmobile…
Landmark #1: The First ‘Batmobile’ – 1941 Detective Comics (#48)
Batman drove a few cars prior to this one in the earlier comics.
But this Red Convertible was the first one referred to as a ‘Batmobile’, and therefore is recognized as the first Batmobile.
Like Batman’s previous cars, this vehicle has no semblance of the Batmobiles we know today; but the evolution of the Batmobile is best understood when we start from the beginning! So here it is, as Landmark #1.
The first Batmobile had none of the gadgets we’ve come to expect from Batman’s cars.
What it did have, though, was a supercharged engine that could travel at ridiculously high speeds; and a reinforced bonnet that could crash through large, strong walls without accruing any damage.
Its design was based upon the real-life Cord 812 – a revolutionary car in itself. The Cord 812 was the first ever American-designed front-wheel-drive car with independent front suspension.
See? Even before Batmobiles were considered cool, they still were!
The Evolution of the Batmobile: 1941-1966
There were roughly fifteen Batmobiles between our first two landmarks.
There were also some early live-action movies with Batmobiles, but most of Batman’s cars came from comics during this time period.
Similarly to the First Batmobile, the car designs throughout this era were fairly ordinary.
Some had bat symbols planted on their noses, some had bat wings, and many of them were now being painted black or blue.
Slicker gadgets were gradually being introduced, too.
But the Batmobile didn’t emerge as the behemoth that it is now until 1966…
Landmark #2: The ‘Original’ – 1966 TV Series (Adam West as Batman)
This is probably, all things considered, the most loved Batmobile of all time.
Built by George Barris (on three weeks’ notice!) the car was based upon an old 1955 Lincoln Futura car, and would later become one of the most recognized cars in history.
The Futura already boasted some ‘bat’ features. Its double-bubble canopies and fins, for example.
Barris managed to develop those fins into bat wings and transformed the nose into a bat mask. Thus, the Batmobile many fans still consider to be the G.O.A.T. of all Batmobiles was realized.
The Original Batmobile boasted features that audiences had barely even conceived of in those days.
To name a few:
- “Atomic turbine engine.”
- Chain slicer mounted on its nose.
- Hooked-up telephone.
- Dash monitor.
- Built-in computer.
- Police beacon.
Perhaps modern audiences aren’t so impressed by such features in this day and age, but this car was iconic at the time. And the creative forces that made it possible set the foundations for the Batmobiles that would follow.
Adam West was legendary enough with his deadpan, Bond-like portrayal of The Caped Crusader!
But this Batmobile surely helped elevate him to cult-status.
But aside from giving Batman his bonus cool points, the Original Batmobile was an absolute pioneer.
It’s no exaggeration to say that we might never have seen Nolan’s or Burton’s Batmobiles if not for this one.
In 2013, the car sold in auction for $4,200,000 – such are the levels of adoration for it.
But its greatest achievement, perhaps, is inspiring the wonderful Batmobiles of the future. The Original significantly boosted the evolution of the Batmobile.
The Evolution of the Batmobile: 1966-1989
‘The Original’ shifted expectations of what the Batmobile should be, and it was a clear influence on the comic books afterward.
There were some exceptions, though.
Perhaps the most notable deviation from the Original during these years was this potential precursor to Christopher Nolan’s Tumbler (Landmark #4 on this list).
Frank Miller’s 1986 ‘Bat Tank’
This ‘Bat Tank’ came from the 1986 comic ‘The Dark Knight Returns’.
Although its likeliness to Nolan’s Tumbler is not eerily similar, it doesn’t take too much imagination to suggest that it was an influence.
Aside from that one, though, Batmobiles during these years didn’t deviate radically far from The Original. Nevertheless, their appearances did evolve somewhat.
Illustrators moved away from convertibles, some drew lower and longer cars, and others drew more bat-like designs.
Overall the Batmobile evolved to be more ‘sports car-like’.
These ‘flatmobiles’ are a good example of where the evolution of the Batmobile was heading.
Nevertheless, the 1966 Original remained culture’s archetypal Batmobile.
Landmark #3: The ‘Burtonmobile’ – Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman Movie (Michael Keaton as Batman)
Humanity was ready for a darker, gothic depiction of Batman … enter Tim Burton!
Designed by Julian Caldow, this model was long and stylish. It was powered with a jet turbine on its nose and was unlike any Batmobile that came before. This has surely become the archetypal Batmobile for kids of the 80s and 90s!
In typically Burton fashion, this incarnation was enormously ambitious for the screen. He designed a Batmobile with a wide range of modern-day bells and whistles, smacking the gobs of viewers worldwide.
- Spherical bombs
- A pair of forward-facing Browning machine guns
- Side-mounted disc launchers
- Chassis-mounted ‘shinbreakers’.
Quite the unit, huh?!
- Armor plated body
- Ability to envelop itself in a heavy-armor cocoon
- Side-mounted grappling hook launchers
- Crane under its center to lift the car and quickly rotate it 180°
- Oil slick dispensers and smoke emitters to deter anyone trying to pursue it
As a last resort, it could even de-shell the majority of the car’s frame and reconfigure its wheels to become the ‘Bat Missile’.
While the Bat Missile was impressive– and a potential life-saver in some circumstances – it basically destroyed the entire car, requiring an entire rebuild later.
The ‘Burtonmobile’ has arguably overtaken the 1966 TV Series Batmobile as most iconic (although don’t tell that to some old-time, die-hard Batman fans!). In any case, it has been etched into the history books as another of the most recognized cars ever.
The Evolution of the Batmobile: 1989-2005
Burton changed the Batmobile forever, and comic drawings following his movies reflected that. Later, a great number of Burtonmobile-mimics and Burtonmobile/Original-‘hybrids’ appeared.
But there were several exceptions…
A cool example of that were some ‘walking’ Batmobiles, like the above pictured.
1992 Animated Series
Although it isn’t a landmark, this would be a great miss from a guide to the Batmobile!
The widely-acclaimed 1992 Animated Series took advantage of the creative freedom offered by animation, equipping the Batmobile with an array of gadgets that simply couldn’t fit inside a real car.
The series also introduced the ‘Batwing’ – for when driving around streets in an over-equipped super-car wasn’t convenient enough.
Numerous movies were made during this time period, for which the Burtonmobile was redesigned, built upon, jazzed up, and even given the George Clooney treatment (no pic).
But it wasn’t until 2005 that the paradigm shifted once again on what a Batmobile was expected to be…
Landmark #4: The Tumbler – Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christian Bale as Batman)
Working with Nathan Crowley to design it, Christopher Nolan delivered The Tumbler – which, to casual Batman fans, seemed equally as revolutionary as Burtonmobile.
The Tumbler’s design wasn’t totally original, having its precursors; but Nolan definitely put an impressive creative touch onto the designs! And most commentators agree that he succeeded in creating the most realistic Batmobile yet.
The story and concept behind this incarnation of the Batmobile are as compelling and detailed as the car itself.
Lucius Fox (former Research Head of Wayne Enterprises and friend of Bruce Wayne’s father, Thomas Wayne) originally designed the car as a bridging vehicle for the military. It was capable of making rampless jumps to help lay down the foundations for temporary bridges.
And, naturally, the vehicle included plenty of weaponry! Which Christian Bale’s critically acclaimed Dark Knight made good use of.
These weapons included:
- Twin forward-firing machine guns
- Rocket launcher
- Explosive mines deployed from the rear, to blast anything that rammed into it
The Tumbler had other impressive features, too. One notable moment from Batman Begins was Batman initiating the Tumbler’s “stealth mode” during a high-speed chase. This turned off the car’s lights and cut the engine, making the enormous vehicle incredibly difficult to trace.
Other attributes included:
- Integrated fire-extinguisher
- Integrated safety connection to gasoline control
- Heavy armory to feasibly bash into things as a safe, practical offense
- It could jump off buildings and hop rooves (!)
It could also eject itself when damaged and emerge as the BatPod – sweet!
Best of all, though, is the realness of the car itself. If you have a spare hour, check out this free Warner Bros. Batmobile Documentary on YouTube! It shows you just how much details (and science!) went into the Tumbler’s design, as well as providing some more information about the evolution of the Batmobile.
The Evolution of the Batmobile: 2005-
Discounting the 1941 Batmobile, there are now three distinguished Batmobile designs in popular culture, defining the evolution of the Batmobile over time.
Naturally, then, comic book illustrators have drawn a significant variety A load of hybrid-types between different combinations of those three designs, with creative sport-car twists, wing attachments, and size/shape variations.
There was also this slick flying Batmobile in ‘Batman Reborn: The Domino Effect’:
Ben Affleck’s Batmobile
The Ben Affleck movies offered a very decent Batmobile, which is still cool as hell (are there any Batmobiles that aren’t so cool?!).
But it’d be difficult to label it as an epochal Batmobile on the level of our Four Landmarks. It feels too much like a Burtonmobile-Tumbler hybrid to qualify as a Landmark Batmobile. Sorry, Mr. Affleck!
Landmark #5? Matt Reeves’ The Batman (2022) (with Robert Pattinson as Batman)
When discussing the evolution of the Batmobile, we can’t ignore the future!
Designed by Jeff Frost, we will bear witness to a new Batmobile in 2022 … and, while its shape does seem to have some acknowledgment of the Original 1966 Batmobile, it also seems like it will offer a different kind of Batmobile to movie-goers.
Possessing a bruising yet sci-fi sort of attitude – perhaps even a touch of Back to the Future! – this is definitely a departure from previous landmark Batmobiles.
However, only time will tell whether or not this Batmobile will shift the paradigm once more.
Can I Build My Own Batmobile?
This guide to the Batmobile was always leading to this! And the answer is … of course you can!
If you want an authentic Batmobile, though, you will need a seriously healthy budget and/or access to the right resources (Bruce Wayne didn’t skimp, you know!?).
There have been several attempts at homemade Batmobiles, and some have been much better attempts than others. Check out this article for some examples.
Also, take heart to the fact that the real-life vehicles filmed in many of the movies (yes, including Nolan’s epic and monstrous Tumbler) were almost as breathtaking as the fictional ones. So, despite the fictional nature of the Batmobile, it isn’t an impossible or even implausible vehicle to build.
If you’ve got enough money, you could even buy a genuine model from one of the movies – that’s what comedian-ventriloquist Jeff Dunham did.
What Are You Waiting For?!
If you’re dreaming a life of fighting injustice everywhere, free from the shackles of the law, then there’s wriggle room for you to bring that dream to life.
But do you have the sand and the Batman Factor to realize that dream? (Or the money, ahem!)
In any case, we can all agree that the Batmobile is a great car – and anyone among us who would say ‘no’ to the opportunity to own, or even drive a Batmobile is a liar!