Ageless George Barris customized his first car before World War II. He gained fame with the Batmobile and other customs for TV and film, and he's still looking for new automotive frontiers. NBCLA's Patrick Healy visited with Barris at his landmark North Hollywood shop.
The legendary automobile that started out as a Lincoln Futura concept before famed Southern California car customizer George Barris -- the "King of the Kustomizers" -- got his skilled hands on it and turned it into a TV star will be up for auction in January.
Batmobile No. 1 is listed as Lot 5037 for the Jan. 13-20 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale, Ariz., auction -- an event that attracts some of the world's most enthusiastic and financially well-equipped car collectors.
The reserve price for the 1966 Batmobile is not public, but expect bids in the millions for a piece of automotive and Hollywood history that still looks like something from the future. The auction listing describes the Barris creation as the icon that "defied the odds of making a car become the star."
The car -- Barris visited the LA Auto Show with it this week during press days -- is scheduled to cross the auction block Jan. 19 between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
"It has become a true icon that has been carried from generation to generation of Batmobiles to follow," said Craig Jackson, Chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson. "It revolutionized an entire industry that followed in its footsteps."
The original Batmobile was a bubble-topped concept car unveiled at the 1955 Chicago Auto Show. Barris, whose Barris Kustom Ind. shop is at 10811 Riverside Drive, bought the light blue Lincoln Futura concept to add to his personal collection.
He kept the car in his garage for several years before a meeting with the producer of the "Batman" TV series, who gave him a budget of $15,000 and a 15-day timeline to build a screen-ready automobile fit for the Caped Crusader's Batcave.
"Pow, it would have rocket tubes go up. Bang, we had chain slicers, oil squirters and nail throwers and everything else," Barris told NBC4's Patrick Healy in 2011. "The car became a star."
The car has a 1956 Lincoln V-8 engine and loads of Bat-gadgets, courtesy of Barris' imagination. Bat Ray Projector, Batscope, Bat Eye Switch, Remote Batcomputer, Batphone, Emergency Bat Turn Lever and Bat Smoke came standard on the Barris model.
Barris can still be found at his business on Riverside Drive, where an historic marker on the light pole marks the location. The Batmobile, other Barris originals and walls covered with pictures of stars and their cars are inside the building.
Barris also created the Munsters' Coach, Dragula, KITT from "Knight Rider" and the "Beverly Hillbillies" jalopy.