Tuesday, November 2, 2010
The Lincoln Futura was a concept car designed by the Lincoln division of Ford Motor Company. It was built by Ghia entirely by hand in Italy at a cost of $250,000 and displayed on the auto show circuit in 1955.
Futura's styling was extravagantly impractical even by the standards of the '50s, with a double, clear-plastic canopy top, exaggerated hooded headlight pods, and very large, outward-canted tailfins at both ends of the vehicle. Nevertheless, the Futura had a complete powertrain and was fully operable in contrast to many show cars then and now. Its original color was white, and was one of the first pearlescent color treatments, using ground pearl to achieve the paint effect. The Futura was powered by a 368 cubic inch Lincoln engine and powertrain; the chassis was that of a Lincoln Mark II.
The Futura was a success as a show car, garnering a great deal of favorable publicity for Ford. It was released as a model kit and a toy, and in a much more subdued form its headlight and tailfin motifs would appear on production Lincolns for 1956 and 1957. It even played a prominent part in a movie, 1959's It Started with a Kiss, starring Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford. For the movie, it was painted red, as the pearlescent finish did not photograph well.
After that, though, the car would logically have been forgotten and perhaps destroyed, as most show cars of that time were. However, it was somehow sold into the hands of George Barris, one of the great auto customizers. As the car was never titled and was therefore uninsurable, it was parked behind Barris' shop where it sat idle for several years and was allowed to deteriorate.
In 1966 Barris was requested to design a theme car for the Batman television series, Barris then contracted stylist Dean Jeffries to build a car for the show. Jeffries worked on the design and initial fabrication for the Batmobile, using a 1959 Cadillac, but when the studio wanted the car faster than he could deliver, he turned it back to George Barris. With the short notice, Barris thought the Futura might work well, and using Jeffries initial car, decided that its unusual winged shape would be an ideal starting point for the Batmobile. Barris hired Bill Cushenberry to do the metal modifications to the car.
Barris went on to build three fiberglass replicas using the frames and running gear from 1966 Ford Galaxie cars for the show circuit, three of which were covered with a felt-like flocking finish in the 1970's. Barris later acquired a fourth replica, a metal car built on a 1958 Thunderbird.
In the 1990's, Bob Butts (under George Barris' consent) made replicas of the Batmobiles. He took one of the Barris-built replica Batmobiles and made a mold of it. Based on pictures from when the Futura was shown in the 1950's, he retrofitted one of his Batmobile replicas into the Futura. He only created one copy and since the original Futura became the Batmobile, this is the only known Futura in existence.
Bob Butts Replica as seen in Ohio November 7th 2009.