Friday, January 25, 2013

Batmobile Sold for $4.62 Million

George Barris and the Batmobile.
For all you Batman fans, this one's for you. Not sure if you were watching the recent Barrett Jackson auto auction, but my wife does. She's a tom boy and watches the auction like a religion. I have to admit that while I do not share her passion for four-wheel vehicles and couldn't tell the difference between a red car and a blue except for the color, the antiques formerly owned by Hollywood celebrities. This year I watched an auto formerly owned by Fatty Arbuckle and another formerly owned by Clark Gable went for large figures. But the highlight of the past auction was the iconic Batmobile from the 1960s television show which sold for $4.62 million ($4.2 with a ten percent buyer's premium added) at the Barrett-Jackson classic car auction in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Saturday night sale thrilled famed car customizer George Barris, who first bought the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car for one dollar from Ford. He then transformed it into the Batmobile in 15 days with a budget of $15,000, according to auction notes from Barrett-Jackson. 

Batmobile on the auction block.
There had been some question as to whether the car would fetch a large sum. Craig Jackson, chief executive of the auction firm, said he expected the car to sell for millions. One speculator theorized that the price wouldn't fetch more than $200,000. Others pointed out, though, that many imitation Batmobiles had been built over the years, a good number of them virtually indistinguishable from the original. That raised the question of whether collectors would be willing to pay a huge sum for this Batmobile simply because it was the first.

In this case, the TV Batmobile really is a singular creation. While there have been many imitations, this is the only original.

The heavily modified car, known around the world, was built at Barris Kustom Industries auto shop on Riverside Drive in North Hollywood. It has been on display there in a gallery since the television show ended in 1968.
The Batmobile makes it's way to the auction.
The Futura concept was originally created by a design team at Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln styling department. The 19-foot-long, two-seat, bubble-topped grand touring car prototype was entirely hand-built in 1954 by Ghia Body Works in Turin, Italy, and unveiled in its original pearlescent "frost-blue" white paint finish in 1955 at the Chicago Auto Show.

In late 1965, 20th Century Fox Television and William Dozier's Greenway Productions tapped Barris to come up with a car to foil Batman's enemies. Barris, who also made the Munster Koach and "Beverly Hillbillies" jalopy from the 1960s TV shows, turned out a monster.

The car features bulletproof Plexiglas bubble windshields and the Bat Ray (dual 450-watt laser beams that blasted obstacles to bits). It also has a Bat-O-Meter, which identified the location of the bad guys, as well as oil squirters, fashioned from lawn sprinkler heads, to foil evildoers.

"I saw the script and it said, 'Bang,' 'Pow,' 'Boom,' " Barris, now 87, said in an interview before the auction. "That's exactly what I wanted the car to do. I wanted it to be as big a character as the actors."

My nephews and nieces with a replica.
As for the winner... that's an amusing tale. When the Batmobile came out on stage, the crowd of bidders was so large that security did their best to prevent anyone from touching the pop icon. Hands went up and within 20 seconds, the $100,000 starting bid reached one million. By the time it reached $3 million, the bidding was down to two men and the price crept up $100,000 every minute. Eventually the total reached $4.2 million. Going... going.... sold!

The car's buyer was Rick Champagne, a Phoenix-area logistics company executive. Asked by television interviewers what motivated him to pay such a princely sum, he pointed to the woman accompanying him and said: "Her." He then explained that he'd had his eye on the Batmobile “ever since I was a kid. I had a toy model of it,” according to SPEED TV, which airs the auction "live." Asked whether he'd keep the car in his garage, he said he'd put it in his living room. No joke. "I'm going to tear down a wall and put in my living room," Champagne explained. Smart move when you consider the security issue.

Barris himself was present during the auction and was bigger than life. You could see him getting emotional on Saturday but joined in with the excitement. And he admitted later he was pleased with the price. The Batmobile ties the record for the highest price fetched for a movie car at auction. In 2010, the Aston Martin DB5 driven by Sean Connery in Goldfinger set the record when it went for $4.6 million. In 2011, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car auctioned for $805,000, shy of the $1 million it was expected to fetch.

In case you never heard of the Barrett Jackson Collector Car Auction, this event has a 42 year history and was established in 1971. Headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, the auction provides products and services to classic and collector car owners, collectors and automotive enthusiasts. The company produces the “World’s Greatest Collector Car Events” in Scottsdale, Arizona, Palm Beach, Florida, Orange County, California and Las Vegas, Nevada. According to my wife, the best is always the one held in January in Scottsdale, Arizona. Although it is billed as an automobile auction, other items are also sold, including trucks, motorcycles, airplanes, engines, boats and other memorabilia. The auction has also became a place for American car manufacturers to sell the first production vehicles of a given model and generation combination, in charity format. The Saturday auction is commonly known as 'Shatterday', referring to the frequent record breaking sales that occur that day. And the highlights of the weekend are held on Shatterday.

George Barris and the Batmobile
For the record, the Batmobile was the third highest grossing auction in the history of Barrett Jackson. The second was a 1950 General Motors Futurliner tour bus, fetching $4.32 million The fully restored Parade of Progress display vehicle used in GM’s nationwide events was a surprisingly strong seller at the 2006 Scottsdale auction. The most expensive was the 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake, sold for $5.5 million Carroll Shelby’s own Cobra, a specially built supercharged big-block version of the iconic performance sports car, sold at Scottsdale in 2007. 

A friend of mine who wished he could have had enough money to buy the Batmobile, joked that he only bid $4.1 million and just missed out. Better luck next time... 

Closing thought... If he was a fan of the Batmobile prior and probably would have bid on it anyway, just what did Rick Champagne's woman tell him to convince him to buy the car?

No comments:

Post a Comment