The evolution of the Batmobile
Yesterday’s release of the final film in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, “The Dark Knight Rises,” got us thinking about the caped crusader’s iconic wheels, as featured in film. The Batmobile has evolved quite a bit over the years, from a Kevlar-bodied stealth machine, to an LED-lit ride fit for a comic book, to its latest military-inspired design. We break them down for you below.
“Batman” (1989) and “Batman Returns” (1992): Director Tim Burton had the first stab at a cinematic take on the comic book hero in 1989’s “Batman,” starring Michael Keaton. Burton reportedly viewed the Batmobile as a centerpiece for the film.
Body: Burton’s team scrounged up two 1974 Chevy Impala chassis, and each was lengthened and then fitted with a new suspension and extra-wide tires. Working from a 23-foot-long model, the team applied custom-molded Kevlar and a six-layer paint job.
Interior: The car’s interior features fighter plane gadgets, giving it the distinct feel of an airplane’s cockpit.
Coolest Feature: Side-mounted grappling hook and dual machine guns.
“Batman Forever” (1995): Burton passed the reins to director Joel Schumacher for “Batman Forever,” featuring Val Kilmer as the caped crusader. A new Batmobile, designed by Barbara Ling, was conceived to reflect the film’s colorful comic book tone.
Body: The car features a custom chassis and fiberglass exterior, and is illuminated from the inside, with glowing hubcaps and grated side ribs that shine blue.
Performance: It boasts speeds of almost 140 mph thanks to its Chevy 350 engine, and it features independent rear suspension.
Coolest Feature: A grappling hook that allows Batman to drive up walls.
“Batman & Robin” (1997): 1997 brought a new film and a new Batman, portrayed by George Clooney, though it was still helmed by director Joel Schumacher. Barbara Ling returned as the Batmobile’s designer and reportedly was inspired by vintage racing roadsters such as the Jaguar D-Type and Delahaye 135.
Body: Like the “Batman Forever” version, the “Batman & Robin” Batmobile glows, though more intensely than its predecessor due to its multi-colored LED lights.
Interior: This Batmobile only has room for one, and its cockpit features a high-tech video conferencing screen and catapult ejection seat.
Coolest Feature: An exhaust port capable of shooting out a 25-foot flame with the aid of propane tanks.
“Batman Begins” (2005), “The Dark Knight” (2008) and “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012): 2005 spawned a darker era for the Batman franchise as director Christopher Nolan took over for a new trilogy starring Christian Bale. The new theme required a car to match, and Nolan’s initial inspiration was a Hummer crossed with a Lamborghini Countach.
Body: The Tumbler, as the newest Batmobile would come to be known, has a distinctly military feel, and the design team was inspired by fighter jets.
Performance: The RWD vehicle features a 1,500 hp jet turbine engine fueled by a high-performance gasoline/nitromethane mixture.
Coolest Features: Stealth armor, thermal-imaging DVE (driver’s vision enhancer) air-cooled machine guns and an exhaust port that shoots out blue flame. And if that’s not cool enough, the Tumbler contains the Bat-Pod, a motorcycle-esque two-wheeler that Batman can use to escape if the Tumbler is compromised.
For more about the history of the Batmobile, check out “Batmobile: The Complete History” by Mark Cotta Vaz.