Batman: The Vehicles (A User’s Guide) (2005)


A User’s Guide

(Originally published in Hotdog, July 2005)

Vehicle: The “Classic” Batmobile
(Batman: The Movie (1967))

Sales Pitch: For the lycra-clad crime fighter who has everything… A sleek, atomic-battery-powered super-vehicle, this comes complete with parachute brakes, onboard tracking system and a Bat-phone for taking those all-important calls from Comissioner Gordon.
Special Weapons: Rear-mounted Oil Squirters and Nail Spreaders, a front-mounted Chain-slicer, and a pair of handy ejector seats to dispose of anyone foolish enough to try stealing it.
Bat-Strengths: The combination of Bat-logos and Retro-chic strikes fear (and confusion) into the heart of criminals.
Bat-Weaknesses: The side doors refuse to open, meaning unfit costumed vigilantes need not apply.
Under the Hood: Originally created for the Batman TV series, the original Batmobile was assembled by “Custom Car King” and designer George Barris. Working on a budget of $30,000 dollars, Barris converted an experimental 1954 Lincoln Futura concept car that had already featured in the 1959 movie It Started With A Kiss. He also worked in echoes of Batman creator Bob Kane’s Batmobile designs from the comics, and the end result went on to become probably the most iconic super-vehicle ever created.

Vehicle: The “Movie” Batmobile
(Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), Batman and Robin (1997)

Sales Pitch: Question: What is the stylish, fetish-inclined vigilante-around-town driving this season? Answer: A vehicle with sexy curves, bullet-proof armour, and the traditional “big-ass flaming rear booster”. 100% guaranteed to net you Kim Basinger’s personal number or your money back.
Special Weapons: Grappling hooks for 90 degree turns, a pair of high-powered machine guns, and a large spherical explosive charge that always drops out at the least convenient moment for criminals.
Bat-Strengths: It’s manoeuvrable, remote-controlled, and- as Batman himself later admits- “Chicks dig the car.”
Bat-Weaknesses: The Security System could use an upgrade, with the Penguin hacking the car and giving Bruce Wayne an unexpected road trip in Batman Returns.
Under the Hood: The updated Batmobile was dreamed up by designer Anton Furst, and purpose-built by special effects man John Evans as a fibreglass body wrapped around a chunky jet turbine. A major redesign was threatened when Joel Shumacher came onboard for Batman Forever, with Alien designer and all-round nutcase H.R. Giger submitting a radically organic, X-shaped version of the Batmobile. Instead, all we got was an upgrade of the original design with some incredibly camp spikes, which proceeded to get even camper once Batman and Robin hit in 1997.

Vehicle: The Batboat
(Batman: The Movie (1967), Batman Forever (1995))

Sales Pitch: Soar across the ocean waves in the patented Batboat. Whether you’re tackling sea-based foes, evading torpedoes or simply investigating a mysterious Navigation buoy, the Batboat offers speed, reliability and a very large fin.
Special Weapons: An onboard Bat-Charge Launcher, for firing Bat-Charges at nefarious underwater villains.
Bat-Strengths: It’s the perfect weapon for the Dynamic Duo to foil the evil “United Underworld” and their camp penguin-esque submarine.
Bat-Weaknesses: That rear fin is, to be honest, incredibly silly…
Under the Hood: The original Batboat was a specially constructed speedboat built for the movie by the Glastron boat corporation, in exchange for the film’s World Premiere being held at Glastron’s headquarters in Austin, Texas. The Batboat was briefly resurrected in a toned-down, darker style for Batman Forever, but, as with most Nineties Batman vehicles, got blown up after about two minutes.

Vehicle: The Batwing
(Batman (1989), Batman Forever (1995))

Sales Pitch: Take to the skies in the ultimate in slick and sexy crime-fighting aircraft- the perfect choice for the airborne vigilante, whether you’re out to battle evil or just wreck the local Giant Balloon parade.
Special Weapons: Onboard missile systems with appalling aim, and an exciting combination of grappling hook and scissors for slicing balloon wires.
Bat-Strengths: It’s the funkiest aircraft on Earth, and it’s great for making impromptu Bat-signals against a full moon.
Bat-Weaknesses: Unfortunately, it’s not actually bulletproof…
Under the Hood: Another addition from Anton Furst, the Batwing plane was realised with the help of model-making supremo and Bond movie veteran Derek Meddings. It played a significant role in the brilliantly stylised 1990s Batman Animated series, and was briefly resurrected for Batman Forever in 1995, lasting even less screen time than its first appearance before being unceremoniously shot down.

Vehicle: The Batcycle
(Batman: The Movie (1967))

Sales Pitch: For those with a desire to really impress the local biker chicks, the Batcycle offers speed, mobility, and the ability to send your crime-fighting partner off on the detachable sidecar. Be the envy of Gotham City!
Special Weapons: None, save for it’s truly insane appearance.
Bat-Strengths: It conceals itself magnificently behind clumps of foliage.
Bat-Weaknesses: The detachable sidecar may be cool, but it’s also almost impossible to control.
Under the Hood: The Bat-Cycle originally turned up in the TV series as an everyday Harley Davison with Sidecar for one episode, but received a major upgrade for the movie. Dan Dempski, one of the mechanics working for Batmobile creator George Barris, was the creator of the Batcycle along with designer Tom Daniel, and converted it from a Yamaha Catalina 250 motorcycle.

Vehicle: The Batcopter
(Batman: The Movie (1967))

Sales Pitch: Who hasn’t dreamed of owning a Helicopter that resembles a Bat? Now, your superheroic arsenal of vehicles can be complete with this dashing Bat-Copter that comes complete with handy canisters of Shark Repellant Bat-Spray for tackling hungry sea-creatures.
Special Weapons: None, but it does feature a Bat-Ladder (with handy “Bat-Ladder” sign for easy identification).
Bat-Strengths: It’s great for tracking criminals and attempting to board non-existent boats.
Bat-Weaknesses: Unfortunately, it gets knocked out of the sky by a Polaris missile, and only landing in a nearby foam-rubber convention saves the Dynamic Duo.
Under the Hood: The only onscreen Batman vehicle to not be custom-built or extensively converted, the Bat-Copter was a 1964 model Bell Helicopter painted red for the occasion. The “Bat-wings” were formed from a tubular frame covered in canvas, but they also reduced the helicopter’s power by 40-50%, making it incredibly difficult to fly, and meaning the 1967 movie remained the Bat-Copter’s sole screen flight.

Originally published in Hotdog Magazine
© Highbury Entertainment 2005