Batman and Robinson
On December 6, 2014, this 1963 "Batmobile" was auctioned off in Dallas, Texas. Unless you are a automotive news junkie you probably have never seen or heard of a pre TV series Batmobile. There are two good reasons for not knowing about this car. One, it was lost for decades. And two, it didn't start off as a Batmobile.
In the late 1950s, a young man named Forest Robinson was fascinated by what could be done with fiberglass and ached to create something. He decided to design his own car, something inspired by the DC Comics Batman comic book series.
It appears that he already had a 1956 Oldsmobile 88 and that was used as the foundation for the new car.
He and a friend completed the car in 1963. Note, this was is three years before the Batman TV series debuted and of course, before the George Barris Batmobile.
The car was painted silver and was Forest's daily driver. Although it was rare to see a custom car like this on the streets at the time (or even today) it is certainly more understated than the Batmobile of the TV series.
In my research for this article I found all the accounts I read of how it became a licensed Batmobile a bit sketchy. However, after reading many articles I believe I understand how it all came about. The car was never built to be a licensed version of the Batmobile. It was built to be a personal car and a daily driver. However, after the TV series came out, bat mania began. Forest saw an opportunity to make a little money and struck a deal with a local dairy company that already licensed the Batman images from DC Comics. It was at this point, the car was painted black similar to the TV series Batmobile and some Batman branding was added to the body. The car was used as a promotion for the dairy company for a year and then returned back to forest. About a year later, forest was in need of some cash and decided to sell the car. It changed hands a few times and then like all classic stories go, it was lost for several decades.
Astonishingly, it was uncovered only a few years ago and underwent a major restoration.
There's a bit more to the story and I will leave it up to you to research on your own. Forest Robinson pretty much forgot about the car after he sold it. And as of this writing he has never seen the restored award-winning car in person. Forrest is currently 76 years old and he says he doesn't travel well. But if it ever shows up near his hometown he would definitely love to see it. I highly doubt he ever imagined this car would come back at this point in his life. As a machinist he probably built a lot of good things in his life, but sometimes our day-to-day efforts just don't get recognized.
So, what does this have to do with Texas? Well, the Batmobile was auctioned off in Dallas Texas on December 6, 2014 by Heritage Auctions. They predicted the car would sell for at least $180,000. Unfortunately, according to Reuters news it sold for $137,000. That's not much more than modern day replicas would sell for. But the good news is that this car will probably not get lost again.
The story is not over yet.
My fellow Texans there's just one more thing I want to make sure you know, one more cool fact about Texas.
A year after the Batman TV series debuted a movie was created. This movie featured a batmobile, a bat cycle and a bat boat. Well, it turns out that the bat boat was completely designed by Glasstron in Austin Texas. The moviemakers got the boat for free, but part of the deal was the movie had to open in Austin, Texas. And there was agreement.
The Batman movie premiered at the Paramount theater in Austin Texas on July 30, 1966. It also served as the kick off event for the 1966 Austin Aqua Fest. As you might remember, or might be surprised to know, at the time there was drag boat racing on Townlake as part of the festival. I have to believe that this was a big year for Glasstron boat sales!
But wait, who is the president of the Austin Aqua Fest in 1966? None other than Rod Kennedy, founder of the Kerrville folk Festival and winner of three straight amateur Sports Car Club of America national championships. I'm holding back on this one for future historical articles.
And there you have it my friends, the connection between the first officially licensed Batmobile, lost and rediscovered, auctioned in Dallas Texas in December 2014, linked by subject to the Batman movie premiere in Austin Texas in 1966, and connected to Glasstron boats, headquartered in Austin, builder of the first bat boat, and linked to the kick off of the 1966 Austin Aqua festival, which was managed by Rod Kennedy, the founder of the Kerrville Folk Festival and amateur winning race car driver (there are more connections, but I'm holding back).
I threw in this post card to show that the background in the parade photo above was P. K. Williams Motors, located at Congress and 2nd (at the time (thanks Andrew).
Drag Boat Races at Aqua Fest
Batboat Photo Credit
P.K. Williams Photo Credit
Batman Parade Photo Credit