Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The 1955 Futura

Twice a week, I teach a class in Detroit at the College For Creative Studies, which I graduated from some years back. Tonight, I had the students sketch Batmobiles as their in-class midtern assignment. As inspiration I brought in a bunch of pictures of existing movie cars. Of course, when you google Batmobile, you cant help but come across the Barris built original, which made me wonder about the car and it's roots. I knew that car was a ford of some type or another, but I always just figured the body was a Barris design, based on a late 50's underbelly. It's never been one of my favorite cars, so I've never really paid it much attention. But the thought nagged at me, so I started hunting to verify what that car started life as.
Now perhaps being a self proclaimed "car guy", this should have been common knowledge. I mean, it probably goes with the territory of knowing what each character of "American Graffiti" drove, or knowing how many times the black Charger looses it's hub caps during the chase scene in "Bullitt" (5... and yes I'm a dork.) But I never realized that the car had such a cool history!

The 1955 Lincoln Futura Concept: (pictures taken from various internet souces)

Some info taken from ConceptCarz.com:

"The original Batmobile,...was originally a concept dubbed the Lincoln Futura. Designed by the Lincoln division of Ford Motor Company, the Futura was constructed entirely by hand in Turin, Italy for an extreme $250,000. Much like many other concepts, the Futura was never actually put into production. The Lincoln Futura made its official debut on the auto show circuit in 1955.
Even in comparison to other eccentric and exotic vehicles in the 1950's, the Futura's design style was considered extreme and even impractical. Unlike other concepts of the day though, the Futura was fully operable and featured a complete powertrain. The concept featured double, clear-plastic canopy top, huge outward-canted tailfins on both ends of the car and exaggerated hooded headlight pods. With a chassis that came directly from a Lincoln Mark II, the Futura was powered by a 368 cubic inch Lincoln engine and powertrain.
As a show vehicle, the Futura was a tremendous success and was well received by an excited public that loved the futuristic machine. The Futura's headlights and tailfin motifs were used on production Lincolns for the 1956 and 1957 models, though in a much less ‘loud' way.
Pearlescent, frost-blue white was the brand new color painted on the Futura, in Schmidt's attempts to capture the iridescence of the fish he had viewed in the Caribbean. This brilliant color was created by Ghia who ground and pulverized the scales of thousands of fish to mix into the paint color.
George Barris purchased the Futura concept and since the car had never been titled and could not be insured, it remained parked behind its owners shop for several years. The Futura was allowed to fall into disrepair and many would have assumed that the story ended here.

Not so for the Lincoln Futura.
Barris was asked to design a theme vehicle in 1966 for what became the Batman TV series and he contracted styling Dean Jeffries to actually build the vehicle for the show. Starting with a 1959 Cadillac, Jeffries started on the design and the original fabrication for the Batmobile. The studio demanded something faster than that, and it was more than Jeffries could deliver, so he sent the project back to Barris. Barris used Jeffries initial vehicle, but he also had a feeling about the Futura due to its unique winged shape that made it a great beginning for the creation of the Batmobile. Bill Cushenberry was responsible for all metal modifications of the Batmobile."

Despite how over the top the original car was, I find it strangely elegant and I really like it! ....which makes me dislike the Batmobile that much more.

Anyway. I'll post the students versions of what a Batmobile should look like on my class blog later. Feel free to check it out if you'd like!

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