TO those of a certain age, the Batmobile is one of the most recognized and revered cars to have appeared on the small screen. The General Lee Charger, the Munster Koach and KITT from "Knight Rider" pale in comparison to the Batmobile, the prototypical TV hero car.
While there have been countless replicas built (and sold in the $50,000 to $150,000 range), the original is still in the hands of its creator, the 88-year-old pioneering customizer George Barris. It was scheduled to be auctioned this weekend at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The original Batman comics, as well as the big screen versions, were all pretty dark stuff. But the mid-1960s television treatment starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin played it for laughs.
Mr. Barris, by then made famous in Tom Wolfe's "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby," picked up on this when the producer William Dozier handed him a script filled with cartoon violence punctuated with animated "pows," "biffs," "bams" and "socks."
"In designing the Batmobile, I felt that the car had to have the same cartoonlike appeal," Mr. Barris said in an interview in Scottsdale. "The car had to do the same things as Adam and Burt, and the car had to be a star in its own right. It was really the first car of its kind on television."
Few people know that the Batmobile started life as a concept car, the 1955 Lincoln Futura, built by Ghia in Italy for the then staggering sum of $250,000. Unlike most retired concept cars, it wasn't crushed when its days on the auto show circuit were over.
"I bought it directly from Lee Iacocca for one dollar," Mr. Barris said. "It was the only way we could meet the $15,000 budget and do it in the 15 days that Dozier gave us."
UPDATE The Batmobile sold for $4.62 million, including buyer's reserve.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.