If you were like most of Westport yesterday — out of town, on spring break — you missed two things:
- The 7th straight day of fantastic, June-like weather, and
- The Batmobile.
I’m not sure whether Batman or Robin was behind the wheel, but somehow it landed at Dragone Classic Motorcars. The showrooom is located in the old Saab dealership on Post Road West. You can find it by GPS, though the Batmobile is way more high-tech than that.
Jim Motavalli — the Staples grad who writes about cars for the New York Times — blogged about the vehicle:
(The) driver’s seat is cozy, with everything from the missile launchers to the Detect-o-Scope within easy reach. Everything has a little red sign, including the squarish “Bat Moniter.” Yes, it’s spelled that way. The Batmobile introduced some technology that actually happened eventually, including a FAX-like machine that could transmit photos.
Among other features: a Bat Turbine Switch (the car was supposedly turbine powered, explaining that macho flaming exhaust), the push-button Bat Phone (30 years before cars actually had phones), the Bat Compass, and bat insignias everywhere—on the wheels, the floor mats, the doors, even the seat belts.
The “Emergency Bat Turn Lever” was for turning the car around in emergencies; it deployed the parachutes, which this car indeed has. Completing the period look is a non-working Pioneer eight-track player.
Gotham City being Hollywood, this Batmobile was actually a stunt double. According to Jim, the Dragone car — with a General Motors chassis and a 327 V-8 — is “said to be Batmobile #5, used for stunt driving and chase scenes.” A 1966 letter that comes with the car said it is serial number #00005, and was “the main stunt car for the Batman TV show.”
Jim said that owner George Dragone estimates the Batmobile will sell for between $500,000 and $750,000.
Holy 1 percent, Batman!
(Bonus “Batman” fun fact: Frank Gorshin — the Riddler on the TV show — lived in Westport for many years. In fact, his house was just few hundred yards from Dragone, where the Batmobile landed today.)
(The Dragone collectibles auction is set for Saturday, May 19, 10 a.m. If the Batmobile is not your style, check out the Duesenberg Model J — it could sell for up to $2 million. Among the more than 50 other vehicles: a Ferrari 250 GT Lusso, and a 1911 Stanley Steamer. Click here for details.)
Click below for Jim Motavalli’s YouTube video of the Batmobile:
It sure is ugly.
A. David Wunsch
Staples High, 1956
Years ago a client of mine was at a party in Darien….and there was a big commotion and crowd going into the garage….. It turned out the guy had a Batmobile…. The story went he knew someone connected to the show who was down on their financial luck and he used the car as collateral for borrowing $$$…. But what a hit it was and all the men taking pictures
Another famous Hollywood automobile in Westport (at least briefly) was the James Bond Aston Martin. Jay Emmett (Steve’s dad) was a pioneer in licensing entertainment brands for consumer products. He had started with Rocky and Bullwinkle lunchboxes and such, but then landed the Bond franchise account. During that period in the early ’60s, Jay once brought home one of the Aston Martins. It was a thrill to sit in it, but I didn’t press the ejection seat button.
You never know what you’ll see next at Dragone’s — they have an amazing array of cars (even without the Batmobile!) — and many of them have some fascinating stories behind them.
In the early 1950’s I would bike over to a remarkable auto repair shop on the Post Road in Westport at the corner of West Parish Road. This was European Motors, They worked on vintage and classic machines. One day I saw one of the largest open cars of the 1920’s that I had ever encountered. The mechanics told me that it had been the car of silent film star Rudolf Valentino who had died young at the height of his fame. The machine was an Isotta Fraschini. I also remember some other fine cars: an Auburn and a Lagonda. I wonder if other Westporters recall European Motors.