The director of 1989’s Batman, Tim Burton, once told Cinfex Magazine that, at the time, creating the Batmobile was his toughest challenge. We can see why—but man did he nail it! Tim Burton’s Batmobile is the most popular, best representation of the Batmobile, perhaps ever. Burton worked closely with stylist Anton Furst to produce the fantastical car’s stunning design.
“Even after the drawing was done, though,” Burton said, “we still were not sure how it would go over in the film. It wasn’t until we saw it in rushes that we knew it was right.” As Furst explained, “To me, the Batmobile was a pure piece of expressionism. I tried to give it that ‘knight in armor’ look, taking elements of the speed machines from the Utah Salt Flats, the Corvette Stingrays of the ‘50s, and combining those elements with jet aircraft components to create one cohesive machine.”
Well, Furst ended up winning an Oscar for his design of Gotham City, and we think he did a pretty swell job on Burton’s Batmobile, too. Most fans would agree that this Batmobile was a smashing success. It’s been the most popular Batmobile ever since its release in the 1989 film, introducing us to a darker, edgier Batman that has never really gone away.
If anything, its successors took inspiration from the Burton Batmobile, and you can see glimpses and iterations of it in every Batmobile that has succeeded it.
Here are 24 things that most people don’t know about Tim Burton’s Batmobile.
24 There’s One For Sale!
Around the time Batman V Superman took a plummet at the box office (2016), word came out that the original 1989 Batmobile from Batman was listed for sale in Russia. Auto.ru partner FastBoomPro is offering a striking replica of the 1989 “Keaton Mobile” for $1.1 million! The seller claims that Warner Brothers studio has issued a certificate of the car’s fidelity as one of the best examples in the world. But the vagueness of the car’s provenance suggests it is not actually the one that appeared in the film, so be weary precious buyers.
23 Built On A Chevy Impala Chassis And…
The first thing that might strike you as odd about Tim Burton’s Batmobile is the chassis that it sits upon. The Batmobile was built upon a Chevrolet Impala chassis. Since the sixth generation Impala ended in 1985 and the Impala SS seventh edition wasn’t released until 1994, we’re guessing it was built on a sixth generation chassis. It was also equipped with a Chevy V8 engine. The car was modified from a 1970 Corvette body. Previous development of the Batmobile used a Jaguar and Ford Mustang body, but those both failed. A second Batmobile was built based on an Oldsmobile Cutlass Convertible.
22 It Can Go Unreasonably Fast
Now, we must take into consideration that the Batmobile is a thing of fiction. The speed we’re about to claim is not the real-life speed that the Batmobile could reach. Nonetheless, in the Burton Batman films, the maximum speed of the Batmobile was apparently 530 km/h with its boosters, which is about 329 mph! It could also accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds, which is oddly not very fast for a car that can go faster than any supercar has ever gone, by a long shot. The fact a Tesla can go from 0-60 in 2.4 seconds or so makes this a questionable statistic…
21 Inside The Cockpit
Batman’s cockpit is more like an airplane cockpit than it is a car’s—but then again the Batmobile is unlike any other car ever seen. The cockpit is a two-seater that features aircraft-like instrumentation. It also has a passengers’ side monitor, a self-diagnostics system so it can tell Batman when it’s damaged (autonomous long before autonomous cars even came into the picture!). It also has a CD recorder (would probably be an AUX input in this day and age), and a voice command operation and recognition system. This is to avoid anyone else from using the Batmobile, but as we’ve seen from the movies, it’s not foolproof.
20 About Its Arsenal
Just like the cockpit of Tim Burton’s Batmobile is similar to an airplane, the arsenal on this bad boy is what you might find on a jet fighter or a tank. It comes with side-mounted grappling hook launchers, disc projectile launchers, and bomb dispensers. It has side chassis-mounted shin-breakers (ouch), and a central “foot” underneath the car that is capable of lifting it and rotating it 180 degrees. It has rear oil slick dispensers and smoke emitters, and an exhaust after-burner. It comes with two forward-mounted Browning M1919 .30 caliber machine guns, which must make it difficult for Batman to uphold his oath of never fatally wounding anyone.
19 Facts About The Armor Plating
Tim Burton’s Batmobile is unique in its design from any other Batmobile in existence, though it became the basis for all Batmobiles after it (as we’ll touch on later). One of the primary differences between this Batmobile and, say, the 1966 Batmobile, is its armor plating. While the 1966 Batmobile was basically just a nifty looking car, this thing is more akin to a tank, jet fighter, and military-grade weapon. Hence its armor, which is so heavy it can stop most projectiles from hurting the car. And if things get a little hairy, then Batman has a secret “weapon” at his disposal…
18 The “Cocoon” Mode
The Cocoon armor of the Batmobile is a heavy plated armor capable of being deployed while the vehicle is stationary (dubbed “Cocoon-mode”). This Cocoon is stronger than the regular plating of the Batmobile and can stop even the most destructive weapons. For scenes when the Batmobile deployed its Cocoon armor in the first Batman, a life-size model of the vehicle was built and animation was provided by stop-motion technology. In Batman Returns, the design of the armor was slimmer and the special effects were achieved through computer-generated imagery rather than stop-motion graphics.
17 The “Batmissile” Mode
Tim Burton’s Batmobile seriously has more gadgets than Inspector Gadget. The “Batmissile” set a precedent for successive Batmobiles. “Batmissile mode” is an emergency mode that sheds all material from the outside of the central fuselage and reconfigures the wheels and axles to fit through narrow openings. One employed, the mode essentially destroyed the car’s exterior, and the Batmobile required rebuilding afterward. The concept of the “Batmissile” to shed its shell and reveal a smaller escape vehicle was later used in The Dark Knight after the Tumbler was damaged and it folded and jettisoned parts around into the escape vehicle known as the Batpod.
16 All Gadgets Were Fully Functional
This is a pretty crazy stat, but it’s true: in both Tim Burton Batman films, all of the gadgets on his Batmobile were fully functional, aside from the “Cocoon” mode, which we’ve already touched on how that was achieved. The exhaust after-burner, however, could only run for 15 seconds at a time due to the amount of fuel that it consumed, but that’s a small price to pay for the rest of the gadgets working on this machine. It truly was a marvel of auto engineering, especially for movies, which is partly why Tim Burton’s Batmobile is so iconic and remembered so fondly.
15 They Had To Modify The Batsuit
For the sake of the Batmobile, Batman’s Batsuit actually had to be modified, rather than the other way around! That just shows how important the car is. According to production notes, and explained in the documentary “Building the Batmobile” from Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology, Batman’s ears were initially too big to clear the roof of the car when he entered the Batmobile. So a modified cowl with shorter ears had to be made so he could fit. This took a lot of hours to create, obviously, but it was worth it (Batman looks better with shorter ears anyway).
14 The Creator Studied War Machines And Jet Aircraft
Ah, so the truth comes out as to why the Batmobile is so similar to tanks and jet fighters and other military weapons. It’s because Anton Furst, the production designer who built the Batmobile and won an Academy Award for designing the gothic version of Gotham City in Tim Burton’s film, looked at jet aircraft components, war machines, and other vehicles in his search to produce a car for an edgier, darker Batman. Furst wanted to create a Batman that people had never seen before, and that same design style was repeated in Batman Begins, and the darkness seemed to prevail in every Batman film since.
13 Took Design Cues From The Salt Flat Racers Of The 1930s
In the end, the production crew opted for pure expressionism, which was a bit outside of Anton Furst’s original vision. One of the designs that the Batmobile was based on was the Salt Flat Racers of the 1930s. These were elongated racecars that sped across Utah’s Salt Flats, across the Bonneville Speedway. The Bonneville Speedway was opened in 1911 and was a milestone in motorsports. It is particularly noted as the venue for numerous land speed records (of which Tim Burton’s Batmobile would have set if it were given the chance!).
12 Not Everything Was Filmed With The Actual Car
Though almost everything on the Batmobile actually worked, save for the stop-motion technology used to film the Cocoon mode scenes, there was another particular scene in Batman where the actual car wasn’t used. The scene in the film when the Batmobile is making its way to the Batcave was partially filmed using a remote-controlled Batmobile model, which was then driven through a miniaturized forest set. In this day, the real car probably could have been used, but it wasn’t worth getting their laboriously-designed Batmobile in a wreck to film one simple scene. We can’t tell the difference between the Batmobile and a miniature version anyway.
11 Narrower Batmobile
We’ve already mentioned that the Batmobile’s armor was narrower during its Cocoon mode in Batman Returns than it was in Batman. But there was another time when the Batmobile was narrowed. When Jay Ohrberg built the Six Flags version of the Batmobile, he also narrowed the rear quarters by about 4 inches on each side to allow the car to be transported easier. Originally, the width of the Batmobile’s hindquarters caused the wheels to hang over the side of a typical transport truck.
10 It Was Dubbed The “Keaton Mobile”
The production crew on Batman and Batman Returns dubbed the Batmobile the “Keaton Mobile,” after the actor who played Batman in those films, Michael Keaton. The car’s popularity as the “Keaton Mobile” established a strong following for the early ‘90s Batman. The “Keaton Mobile” also appeared in over 14 video games that were associated with Batman and Batman Returns, further cementing its legacy in the annals of film, media, and video games. There’s a reason we’re still talking about the “Keaton Mobile” to this day, because Keaton was a good Batman, and the car he drove was awesome.
9 It Was An Inspiration For Others
We’ve already touched on how the “Batmissile” mode was an inspiration for the Batpod from the Tumbler in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Well, Tim Burton’s Batmobile also inspired more. The car was used as a basis for several comic book cars, as well as making various cameos in the comics. It was also an inspiration for the Batman: The Animated Series Batmobile. The Batmobile in the animated series had a little less flair, and was a bit sleeker, but it was also a cartoon—it didn’t actually need the real-life parts that a car needs.
8 It Is One Of The Most Popular Batmobiles Of All Time
There have been tons of Batmobiles created for various mediums, including video games, comics, TV shows, cartoons, and films. But Tim Burton’s Batmobile has always been one of the most popular, for its dark, aggressive appearance. In all, there have been over 20 Batmobiles through the years, but this one always come out as the favorite (with the 1966 Batmobile often in second place). WhatCulture put it at #1 on their Top 10 Batmobiles of All Time list. So did Ranker.com, and Den of Geek. It’s because Tim Burton’s Batmobile set the precedent for what a Batmobile should look like, and that mold has still not broken.
7 It Was The Spokesmodel For A TV Ad
That’s right, back in the ‘90s, rather than paying a big-time actor to be their spokesmodel, OnStar actually chose Tim Burton’s Batmobile to represent in their TV commercials. It was a good move: OnStar became huge, and the Batmobile was hugely popular. The series of OnStar TV ads featured this particular Batmobile equipped with the system. It allowed Batman to call various Gotham characters, summon the GCPD, remotely unlock the vehicle’s doors, and find the nearest jet fuel station. If Batman used OnStar, who else would? Well, practically everyone, as it turned out. At least for a time.
6 It’s Shown In A Lois & Clark Episode
OnStar wasn’t the only company to use the Batmobile’s fame to their benefit, and TV commercials weren’t the only medium. This version of the Batmobile also made an appearance in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, in an episode called “Don’t Tug on Superman’s Cape.” In the episode, some collectors are seen stealing the Batmobile. Since both Batman and Superman belong in the DC universe, this crossover makes sense—and it was looong before we had Batman Vs. Superman or any of that nonsense (Lois & Clark ran from 1993 to 1997).
5 It Was In Animaniacs
Remember the Animaniacs? If you were a kid growing up in the ‘90s, you certainly do. Running from 1993 to 1998, it was a hugely popular cartoon. In the series, the Batmobile appears on three separate occasions! First at the Warner Bros studios front gates, where the guard at the door greets the driver with, “Good afternoon Mr. Keaton.” Then featured in a parody of the poem Twas the Night Before Christmas, where it leaves the WB studios and the guard says, “Goodnight, Mr. Keaton, that’s a lovely sedan.” Finally, in an interpretation of a soliloquy from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which mentions Robin, who drives up in the car and steals the Animaniacs trio.
4 It Appeared In Tiny Toons
We’re not done with the cameo appearances of Tim Burton’s Batmobile. Through the ‘90s, it was just about as popular as the man driving the car. In the Tiny Toons cartoon, an episode called “The Return of Batduck,” Hamton J. Pig, a parking attendant, tries to park the Batmobile while Batman (Michael Keaton) visits a restaurant. In that episode, the Batmobile possessed a “Bat-Warp” drive and flew up to, and through, the moon. Leave it to cartoons to one-up the real thing!
3 It Was Sabotaged In Batman And The Animated Series
There was practically a mirroring effect that happened in both Tim Burton’s Batman Returns and Batman: The Animated Series. In the live-action film, the Penguin sabotaged and took control of the car and caused havoc in Gotham, with the aim of making the people think Batman was behind the chaos. In the Animated Series, the Penguin does the same thing, taking control of the Batmobile in a similar fashion. In another episode, while on a heist together, Poison Ivy orders Harley Quinn to “Get in the car,” to which Harley says, “Which car?” This was an allusion to a similar exchange between Batman and Vicki in Tim Burton’s Batman.
2 It’s One Of the Most Frequently Replicated Batmobiles
Only the 1966 Batmobile might be more frequently replicated, and that’s only because it is arguably easier to build, because it’s based on the design and styling of real cars. There’s actually a company that specializes in replicating the 1966 Batmobile: Fiberglass Freaks. But other than that, Tim Burton’s Batmobile is the most replicated. For instance, Batman fanatic Zac Mihajlovic from Australia has hand-built an identical, street-legal version of the Batmobile, and it took him two years to do it. He takes such pride in the car that he’s turned down six-figure offers to sell his home-made Batmobile.
1 Another Famous Person Owns One Of The Actual Batmobiles
Comedian Jeff Dunham is known for his entertaining ventriloquist acts. But did you know he’s an avid car collector? The prize of his collection is the actual Batmobile from Batman Returns. Dunham wound up building onto the car and making it even more awesome than it was originally. According to The Wall Street Journal’s aptly titled “How a Joker Revived a Batmobile,” Dunham purchased it in 2011, then went on to do half-a-million dollars worth of upgrades to it! “I put a Corvette engine in it and re-engineered things so it’s driveable and safe. It has blinkers, taillights, and five cameras in it so you can see everything around you.”
Sources: wsj.com, denofgeek.com, batman.wikia.com, cinemablend.com