A lot of folks who watched the Batmobile sell at Barrett Jackson in Scottsdale were left wondering whether the TV creation is really worth $4.2 million.
As a car, that’s an easy answer: No.
George Barris created the Batmobile using a Lincoln Futura as the foundation. The Futura was built back in 1955 by Ghia in Italy. The futuristic design gave Lincoln a car to use on the auto show circuit. A hit when it was first released, like most show cars it faded into obscurity. After an appearance in the movie It Started With a Kiss, Barris bought the car for $1.
If the Futura were around today it would likely command a good price in the auction world. A successful show car from a top Italian designer funded by a major American automaker gives it all the provenance the car needs. Which means that when Barris started chopping away to make the Batmobile, he was actually destroying a potentially valuable piece of automotive history. That car would always have value.
And then there is the quality of the Batmobile. Barris admits that he had less than three weeks to build something for the show. He used the Futura because it was languishing on his property and was an easy target of opportunity.
Like most movie and TV cars of that era, it’s a 20 footer. From a distance it looks great, but up close it’s a little on the cheesy side. Granted, TV’s Batman was all about campy, but it’s not a show car. In fact, the Batmobile wasn’t restored for the sale. It’s in the same condition it’s been in for years sitting in the Barris showroom. The flourescent red stripes are beginning to fade. The labels are peeling. There are cracks in the fiberglass.
So does that mean it’s not worth $4.2 million? Hardly. First, it’s worth that much because at least two bidders were willing to drive up the price. They didn’t care about the Futura background. They didn’t care about the quality issues. All they knew was that they wanted the first Batmobile. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hardly a rational purchase. Unlike the classics that surrounded it in Barrett Jackson’s showcase pavilion (Mercedes 300SL Gullwing, Delahaye, Talbot Lago, HEMI Cuda) the Batmobile will only maintain its premium value as long as the people who knew and loved the TV show are around. I have no idea what it will bring as an investment in five or ten years, but that’s not the point. The bottom line today is that someone with enough disposable income was willing to pay $4.2 million for the first Batmobile. Enough said.
After all, the Batmobile isn’t a car. It’s an icon. It’s symbol of youth from an aging generation. And it’s hard to put a value on the fountain of youth.