1989 Batmobile Listed for $1.5 Million

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

The Batmobile from the Tim Burton era of films (Batman and Batman Returns) is on sale, though you’ll still need access to Bruce Wayne’s fortune if you’re interested in buying. This particular movie car is being priced at $1.5 million – likely due to it being one of the more influential designs.

While there were real-world examples of the Batmobile prior to the 1950s, they were all ordinary cars that Batman happened to have lying around in his massive garage. This matched what was going on in the original comics, which were more grounded in his work as an investigator and often were interlaced with car chases and Batman shooting people or pushing them out of windows. But things gradually became more fantastical, with the character tossing his gun away for gizmos, gadgets, and the coolest custom cars imaginable.

Batman had become a household name by the middle of the twentieth century, so DC Comics wanted a vehicle to be used for promotional events and brand tie-ins. Based on a 1956 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, the heavily modified car was more representative of the bat-themed vehicles that had started to dominate the comics. But it was immediately eclipsed by the rig commissioned by 20th Century Fox and William Dozier's Greenway Productions to become the Batmobile used in the 1966 TV series (and later movie) starring Adam West.

Based on the Lincoln Futura, this was the first car to incorporate features directly from the hero's adventures in print and established staple items for subsequent Batmobiles – most notably its afterburner. Despite arguably being the most desirable of all Batmobiles (the vehicle fetched $4.2 million at a Barrett-Jackson in 2013) its successor is likely the model that ended up being the most copied. Used in Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992), the Burton-era Batmobile is heavily modeled after cars from the comics in addition to its real-world predecessor. 

Built on a Chevrolet Impala chassis, the overall design was done by conceptual illustrator Julian Caldow to help match the Art Deco and gothic vibes of Gotham City preferred by the film’s director – though the car itself was built by John Evans special effects team at Pinewood Studios. A few different versions of the vehicle were made (with variants between movies) but the overall design remained consistent. It also happened to be incredibly popular and was often seen making appearances in the comics and popular media referencing the Batman franchise through the 2000s.

The 1989 Batmobile likewise served as the template for the vehicle used in Batman: The Animated Series and became the jumping-off point for the undeniably phallic Batmobiles created for the Joel Schumacher films (below).

As for the model that’s currently up for auction, the listing explains it as one of the prop cars incorporated into the Six Flags Great Adventure’s version of Batman: The Ride after its filming duties had been completed. The consigner of the auction reportedly purchased the car directly from the amusement park and already has a vast collection of film vehicles.

Desirable features are said to include authentic Daytona Prototype fender panels, 15-inch custom wheels wrapped in Mickey Thompson rubber, air-ride suspension, and a faux central jet engine turbine. Though the car can still belch real fire from the back using the installed flamethrower ( here’s what that looks like in the movie). Another unique aspect is that the car is actually driven from a third seat that can be hidden for filming purposes. That presumably means the driver-side controls are entirely for show – though the listing doesn’t go into great detail.

Don’t become too disheartened if you don’t have $1.5 million laying around, however. As a prop car that didn’t need to do much fast driving in the movie, this Batmobile isn’t capable of exceeding any speed limits that exist outside of a school zone and isn’t street legal anyway. The powertrain consists of a 48-volt electrical system and is supposed to top out somewhere between 25 and 30 mph. Though even that could be unrealistic because the listing explains that the batteries haven’t been charged since “approximately 1993,” and are assuredly rotten. It’s actually a little surprising that the seller hadn’t replaced the power source considering the high asking price.

It’d be nice to have more information on the powertrain, frankly. But it’s probably safe to assume you’ll need to be doing some work if you want to drive in any parades. Classic Auto Mall simply said that it didn’t mess with it due to how long it had been since the car was charged, adding that the company “didn't want to risk a failure or fire.”

[Images: Classic Auto Mall; SeaRain/Shutterstock]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Nov 29, 2022

    The vehicle pictured is not 'The Batmobile'. Adam West drove the only true Batmobile. To paraphrase what Adam West said on The Big Bang Theory, "I did not have to say I am Batman, when I walked in to a room everyone knew who I was, including Julie Newmar".

  • The Real Batmobile The Real Batmobile on Dec 01, 2022

    Let me help clarify the facts regarding this car. It was never used in either Batman or Batman Returns. It is not being sold by Warner Bros or any one affiliated with them. This car was built as a promotional vehicle by Hollywood Productions (Carl Casper) under license from Warner and DC Comics. Subsequently it was used at Six Flags to promote the Batman ride. The actual hero, screen used car, has been in storage for 30 years and was brought out into public late last year. It is now on display at the Marconi Automotive Museum in Tustin California.

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