As Batman moved from the pages of the comic books to the small and silver screens, producers had a problem on their hands—what to do about the Batmobile, his famously tricked-out car? For both the 1966 television show and the 1989 film, car aficionados and artists set about designing real-life Batmobiles. Today, we’ll compare the differences between the 1966 and 1989 Batmobiles. Which comes out ahead? That’s up to you.
Starting Points: 1966
Designers didn’t start from scratch in creating the ’66 Batmobile. The Caped Crusader’s ride is an evolution and elevation of the Lincoln Futura, a 1955 concept car from Ford that stood out for its long body, hooded headlights, and extremely flared tailfins. Hollywood car customizer George Barris worked with these blueprints to create the first Batmobile to take to the streets in real life, doing so in all its ‘50s glory—imagine a Ford Thunderbird with an attitude.
A Fresh Start for 1989
The ’89 Batmobile, however, was a much more bespoke design. While it looked to the same mid-century fundamentals as its ’66 counterpart, working off a Chevy Impala chassis, this design was less the work of gearheads than Hollywood special-effects mavens. Set designers synchronized the Batmobile with the extremely stylized presentation of Tim Burton’s Gotham City. The result was a crime-fighting car that looked nothing like anything Detroit could have envisioned. Custom car enthusiasts have worked to design a 1989 Batmobile that’s a little less fantastic, a little more down-to-earth, but much more possible to own for yourself.
Flip the Burners On
In purely storyline terms, the ’89 Batmobile gets a jet-powered boost over its predecessor. In Tim Burton’s Batman and its sequel Batman Returns, afterburners could thrust the Batmobile to a top speed of 350 mph. The ’66 original, being much closer to street-legal, had a more familiar speedometer. The “rocket power” was only a special effect, the result of igniting some kerosene for show. Of course, modern replicas of both models don’t feature technology better suited for jet engines, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t have some fun behind the wheel.
As we go over the differences between the 1966 and 1989 Batmobiles, it wouldn’t be the Batmobile in any year without the goofy gadgets, right? The 1989 Batmobile featured ceramic shielding, hidden machine guns, a “batdisc” launcher, and a grappling hook, all of which was more movie magic than anything else. Just as Adam West’s Batman was a much more human interpretation of the Dark Knight, so too was the 1966 Batmobile, which had some more humorous gizmos such as “bat smoke” and a “Batcomputer.”