The Lincoln Futura is a concept car that was designed by Lincoln. It was originally designed by Ford's lead stylists Bill Schmidt and John Najjar and built by Ghia entirely by hand in Turin, Italy, at a cost of $250,000 (2016 equivalent: $2,200,000) and displayed on the auto show circuit in 1955. In 1966 the car was modified by George Barris into the Batmobile, for the 1966 TV series Batman.
The Futura's styling was original by the standards of the 1950s, with a double, clear-plastic canopy top, exaggerated hooded headlight pods, and very large, outward-canted tailfins. Nevertheless, the Futura had a complete powertrain and was fully operable in contrast to many show cars then and now. Its original color was white, and was one of the first pearlescent color treatments, using ground pearl to achieve the paint effect. The Futura was powered by a 368 cubic inch Lincoln engine and powertrain; the chassis was that of a Continental Mark II.
The Futura was a success as a show car, garnering a great deal of favorable publicity for Ford. It was released as a model kit and a toy, and in a much more subdued form its headlight and tailfin motifs would appear on production Lincolns for 1956 and 1957, such as the Lincoln Premiere and Lincoln Capri. The concave front grille inspired the grille on the 1960 Mercury Monterey and the 1961 Ford Galaxie.
The Futura played a prominent part in the 1959 movie It Started with a Kiss, starring Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford. For the movie, it was painted red, as the white pearlescent finish did not photograph well.
After that, though, the car would have been forgotten and perhaps destroyed, as most show cars of that time were. However, it was sold into the hands of George Barris, an auto customizer. Despite the car's original cost of $250,000, the Lincoln Futura was sold to Barris for $1.00 and "other valuable consideration" by Ford Motor Company. As the car was never titled and was therefore uninsurable, it was parked behind Barris' shop where it sat idle for several years and was allowed to deteriorate.
In 1966 Barris was requested to design a theme car for the Batman television series. Originally the auto stylist Dean Jeffries was contracted to build the car for the show in late 1965, but when the studio wanted the car faster than he could deliver, the project was handed to Barris. With the short notice, Barris thought the Futura might work well, and using Jeffries's initial car, decided that its unusual winged shape would be an ideal starting point for the Batmobile. Barris hired Bill Cushenberry to do the metal modifications to the car. Barris went on to build three fiberglass replicas using the frames and running gear from 1966 Ford Galaxie cars for the show circuit, three of which were covered with a felt-like flocking finish in the 1970s. Barris later acquired a fourth replica, a metal car built on a 1958 Thunderbird.
After its conversion to the Batmobile, Barris continued to retain ownership of the car, leasing it to the TV studio for filming. After production of the TV series ended, Barris continued to own the car, which was displayed in Barris' own museum in California. It has also been displayed in the Cayman Motor Museum on Grand Cayman Island.
In the 1990s, Bob Butts (with George Barris's consent) made replicas of the Batmobiles. He took one of the Barris-built replica Batmobiles and made a mold of it. Based on pictures from when the Futura was shown in the 1950s, he reskinned an existing Batmobile replica back into a Lincoln Futura replica. He only created one copy.
Current toy versions of the Futura Batmobile are being made by Mattel (Hot Wheels) and Polar Lights models, among others. Mr. Barris only recently allowed these toys to be made again.
- Bakken, Douglas A. (1981 and 1984). "Automotive Design Oral History Project: Remembering John Najjar". University of Michigan. Retrieved 22 July 2012. Check date values in:
- Prototypes, Detroit (n.d.). "Detroit's Prototype and Concept Vehicles: 1955 Futura". Bryant & Stratton College. Retrieved 22 July 2012.
- "Lincoln Shows Its Idea Automobile." Popular Mechanics, March 1953, p. 95.
- 1955 Lincoln Futura in It Started with a Kiss, Movie, 1959 at the Internet Movie Car Database
- George Barris, David Fetherston, Barris TV and Movie Cars, pages 20-27 (MBI Publishing Company, 1996) ISBN 0-7603-0198-0
- St. Antoine, Arthur. - "Interview: Dean Jeffries, Hollywood legend". - Motor Trend Magazine
- Couch, Aaron. "JAN 19 21 MINS First Batmobile Fetches $4.6 Million at Auction". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- "Original Batmobile from TV series sells for $4.2M". USA Today. 20 January 2013.
- Designing the Futura
- A very comprehensive Futura page
- It Started with a Kiss at Yahoo movies
- Batmobile page showing model kit
- Futura/Batmobile toys
- George Barris interview
- Original Batmobile at Barris' own website
- Volo Auto Museum Hollywood collection page
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