The 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car
The Lincoln Futura was built in Italy for Ford by a body-building company called Ghia. Total cost for designing and building this one vehicle was a cool quarter of a million dollars.
A close look at the Lincoln Futura and how it differs from the Batmobile.
This frontal shot shows the most obvious differences between the 'Futura' and the Batmobile (other than the color!):
The large chrome bumpers, as well as the chrome trim that ran down the sides between them, were replaced by body color units that were seamlessly molded into the bodywork.
Notably missing also is the arched roof rail that runs between the two seats supporting the rotating light.
However, the distinctive headlamp enclosures are here in all their glory (these were slightly altered for the Batmobile), as is the hood bulge that appeared on production Ford Thunderbirds, and was extended forward on the Batmobile. Even in white, this front end is ferocious!

In these side views, the 3 pipes that rise from the rear deck are absent, and the side fins don't extend as far forward as those on the Batmobile, and they have 'jet intake' style openings on each leading edge. Some features shown here that were also altered by George Barris when creating the Batmobile are the middle section of glass that sealed the passenger compartment and the wide white wall tires. The reflection of light on the glass would have made filming Adam West and Burt Ward difficult. Also, the wheel wells were 'opened up' to expose the tires more....the 'skirt' look was fading in the 60s and mag wheels with raised white lettered tires helped force the perception of 'muscle' into the young viewer's minds- remember, this was 1966..muscle cars were the rage!
Click here for another 3/4 side view

Here we see a license plate where the Batmobile has the turbine exhaust port.
Also, the funky antenae sits where the three Bat-missle tubes appear later. Note the exhaust pipe ends hidden in the bumper behind grilles that you might have expected would be the tail lights. The tail lights are intergrated into the ends of the fins, and are lit up in this picture.
Notice the horrifically skinny tires under the car!

These top views show off the Futura's best features and wildest lines. Truly a magnificent work of art as well as a functional automobile.

Here's a shot of the dashboard and it's unique steering wheel assembly.
The most obvious feature is the speedometer mounted in the center hub of the wheel. Also on the wheel are push buttons for the turn signals. The dashboard had 'roll-top' compartments to conceal controls and storage areas.
The left picture above is of Benson Ford giving Futura-stylist Bill Schmidt a ride around Manhattan in March, 1955. The next two pics are of the Futura at the 1955 Chicago Auto Show where she got her own special enclosure to keep the overly curious at a safe distance (tho a few VIPs got to sample the seating).
The Futura is seen in the middle picture at the left rear of the display, under the brightest lights.
After the Futura traveled the car show circuit from 1955 thru 1959, it was 'retired' from Ford service. At the urging of George Barris, the car was sent to California, and was used in the film, 'It Started With A Kiss'. For the film (starring Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds), it was repainted red as the original paint photographed badly- seeming flat.

Cover of Life magazine, March 30, 1959.
It was then stored on the studio lot for some time, then OUTSIDE, in the yard at Barris' Kustoms shop where it languished, all but forgotten. The paint faded, the wheel covers began to vanish....! Then, in mid-1965, Mr. Barris was contacted to build a car for a new TV series inspired by the Batman comic books. The Futura would soon become BATMOBILE #1.

Without the Lincoln design team's attempt to show us the future of automobiles, who knows what Batman might have been forced to drive back in the sixties!

And in case you think all this work went to waste at Lincoln, check out the Futura alongside the production 1956 Lincoln. Notice any similarities near the headlamps? Or the Futura's rear exhaust vents on the front as turn signals?
And a note on an opinion I've heard a lot of since starting my Batmobile website:
Several people have contacted me to give thanks for my recognition of the Futura as an American dream and historical automobile. But mixed with this praise came a real disdain for the Batmobile- and it's maker, George Barris. In a nutshell, these folks feel the car was taken from a thing of beauty to a rolling joke. That it lost all dignity when it became a campy superhero's car.
And I can agree, that given control over the Futura's life from day 1, I would have liked it to be preserved in it's original state as a rolling testimony to technological and styling ingenuity.
But, real life intrudes on fantasy, and the fact of the matter is, most of the concept cars are rarely functional, and those that run at all, do so for short periods of time, and poorly. Hence, after they are shown for a while and the world sees all it cares to of the design, it becomes old news and expendable. And the Futura, like many, many other dream cars of major manufacturers, would have been destroyed had it not been acquired by Barris. Sure, Barris had no real 'love' of the car. He bought many concept cars from Ford for use in TV and Film projects where producers wanted something 'different'. And when a Batmobile was needed, the hottest car on hand that fit the bill was the Futura.
To some folks, the car's metamophosis is an insult. To me, it was her salvation. Given the choice of the Futura wearing a garish paint job or being crushed, I'll take the Bat-Cave over the junkyard any day. Another point to consider is this- the first I ever saw of this car was the Batmobile version on TV. For many, many years, I assumed it was a completely original creation of Barris Kustoms. Only this year did I discover that it was derived from the Futura. And I've heard similar stories from people equally suprised to learn of the Futura. So it's possible, that had there never been a Futura Batmobile, almost no one would remember the Futura at all. She'd just be a percentage of molten metal in the bumper of a 1960-something Chevrolet.
And who knows.....just as Barris has sold the 4 copies of the car, perhaps, someday, he'll tire of the original car, and sell it off. And it just may land in the hands of someone that remembers and loves the Futura. And maybe..just maybe....that person will undertake what would likely be, the toughest restoration ever!
Much of the information and photos of the Futura were sourced, without permission, from a wonderful 14-page article in 'Collectible Automobile' magazine, December 1996.
In fact, several photos in the article weren't used here, so to see it all, you need the magazine!
If you can't find a copy, contact:
Collectible Automobile
7373 N. Cicero Ave.
Lincolnwood, IL 60646-1613

Top of page