The Lincoln Futura is a concept car promoted by Ford’s Lincoln brand, designed by Ford’s lead stylists Bill Schmidt and John Najjar, and hand-built by Ghia in Turin, Italy — at a cost of $250,000 (equivalent to $2,200,000 in 2016).
Displayed on the auto show circuit in 1955, the Futura was modified by George Barris into the Batmobile, for the 1966 TV series Batman.
The Futura’s styling was original by 1950s standards — with a double, clear-plastic canopy top, exaggerated hooded headlight pods, and very large, outward-canted tailfins. Nevertheless, the Futura had a complete powertrain and was fully operable, in contrast to many show cars. Its original color was white, and was one of the first pearlescent color treatments, using ground pearl to achieve the paint effect. The Futura was powered by a 368 cubic inch Lincoln engine and powertrain; the chassis derived from a Continental Mark II.
The Futura was a success as a show car, garnering favorable publicity for Ford. It was released as a model kit and a toy, and in a much more subdued form its headlight and tailfin motifs would appear on production Lincolns for 1956 and 1957, such as the Lincoln Premiere and Lincoln Capri. The concave front grille inspired the grille on the 1960 Mercury Monterey and the 1961 Ford Galaxie.
The Futura played a prominent part in the 1959 movie It Started with a Kiss, starring Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford. For the movie, it was painted red, as the white pearlescent finish did not photograph well.
The concept car was subsequently sold to auto customizer George Barris. Having originally cost $250,000, the Futura was sold to Barris for $1.00 and “other valuable consideration” by Ford Motor Company. As the car was never titled and was therefore uninsurable, it was parked behind Barris’ shop, sitting idle and deteriorating for several years.
In 1966 Barris was asked to design a theme car for the Batman television series. Originally the auto stylist Dean Jeffries was contracted to build the car for the show in late 1965, but when the studio wanted the car faster than he could deliver, the project was given to Barris. With the short notice, Barris thought the Futura might work well, and using Jeffries’s initial car, decided that its unusual winged shape would be an ideal starting point for the Batmobile. Barris hired Bill Cushenberry to modify the car’s metalwork. Barris went on to build three fiberglass replicas using the frames and running gear from 1966 Ford Galaxie cars for the show circuit, three of which were covered with a felt-like flocking finish in the 1970s. Barris later acquired a fourth replica, a metal car built on a 1958 Thunderbird.
Barris retained ownership of the car, both after its conversion to the Batmobile, leasing it to the TV studio for filming and after production of the TV series ended, displayed in Barris’ own museum in California. It has also been displayed in the Cayman Motor Museum on Grand Cayman Island.
Barris sold the Batmobile to Rick Champagne at the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction on Saturday, January 19, 2013 in Scottsdale, Arizona for US4.62 million dollars.