Original 1966 Batmobile put up for sale by creator George Barris

Justin Hyde

Over the decades, Batman has relied on a fleet of cars, from a plain red convertible to the SWAT-team capable Tumbler of the Dark Knight movies. This car, however, remains "the" Batmobile for many fans -- the first vehicle modified by customizer George Barris for the 1966 TV show. In January, Barris will sell it for the first time at auction after 50 years, and its price will likely hit "holy collector's item!"

Barris didn't start from scratch when 20th Century Fox asked him to build a car for their live-action Batman show in 1965 -- and gave him three weeks to do it. Several years earlier, Barris had spent $1 to buy the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, which Ford had built by Ghia Body Works in Italy as if it knew the future involved two men in tights solving crime, complete with bubble canopy and out-there accessories. Barris quickly added orange piping, extra flares and new crime-stopping gear such as cable-cutter saw, smoke screen and of course the Batphone, Bat Ray and "Bat Turn" device -- two parachutes that in theory could turn it 180 degrees.

After the show became a campy success, Barris and company created fiberglass copies of the Batmobile; they also re-used the original in several later projects, adding up-to-date gadgets and different paint jobs as they went. But unlike many of his TV and hot-rod creations, Barris always held onto the original Batmobile, which has been restored to its original colors.

It's hard to estimate just how much the Batmobile might bring at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., in January. The record for a car from a movie or television show rests with the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 driven by Sean Connery as James Bond in "Goldfinger" at $4.2 million in 2010. That sounds pricey for a bit from a short-lived TV show, and Batfandom has not always translated into chasing collectable cars; an attempt in 2010 to sell one of five Tim Burton-era Batmobiles online garnered a high bid of only $110,000, well short of the $620,000 sought. Spending a million bucks on a Batmobile may sound crazy to most, but this one might get a few jokers to raise their hands.

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