Bat-mania: The Batmobile Owner’s Manual

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Guest Post

“Batman, should I start the nuclear power for the Batmobile,” asks a husky voiced Robin played anonymously by one of Link Wray’s band members, The Wraymen.

“Right again, Robin,” replies Link with all of the cool confidence of Batman.

After all, he is Link Wray and in addition to writing the 1960’s Batman TV show theme song, he is the progenitor of the power chord which reinivented the rock and roll landscape in the 1960’s. Link favored the method in the late 1950’s all the while on the other side of the pond in England, a man in his 20’s by the name of John Mayall was playing old blues songs note for note and the UK would begin to export such bands as the Who and Cream, who were inspired by both of these great artists, and the rest is something that has been beaten to death by every other special edition issue of Rolling Stone. Hendrix. Zeppelin. The Stones. Etc.

Anyway this is not about how you should go out and buy a Link Wray CD, though you should; it is about the Batmobile, the greatest car in pop culture history. It is better than the General Lee even, something I cannot believe I have actually come to terms with and even blows KITT out of the water. No discussion about Batman is complete without talking about the Batmobile since it is such an important part of his mythology and for someone who spent his second consecutive birthday at a car show, it becomes even more impossible to ignore. Superman flies. Batman has badass wheels. Wonder Woman has an invisible plane. Led Zeppelin had The Starship and so on a so forth.

I was kind of mulling over how to approach talking about the Batmobile since a test drive is impossible, unless you are one of the lucky chaps on Top Gear as I recently read that Warner Bros gave them a Tumbler to wring out. But just yesterday I was at Barnes and Nobles running some errands when I came across a book I could not possibly pass up: The Batmobile Owner’s Manual. Having read about it on Batmobile History dot-com, one of the greatest websites in the history of existence, the more I read about the Batmobile that was created for the book, the more I felt polarized and intrigued and it became an impulse buy, but now that I have had time to read through it I am glad I did purchase it. At $19.99 I could have bought some important graphic novel featuring some great story in the Batman canon but this just looked like fun.

Detailed to Bentley-like levels, the car featured in the book has explanations of how every system on the car works. The book has foldouts, but not near to the level of normal pop-up kiddie books. Featuring scientific explanations, detailed blueprints and “concept” drawings that look upon versions of modern race cars to even the back half of a turbine dragster that probably not-so coincidentally resembles the Tumbler, this is a book that motor-minded adults as myself can enjoy as well. I did have some gripes despite the monumental efforts by McAvennie, but first, a general overlook of the book’s custom car.

Intended to be the Batmobile to end all Batmobiles, the car in the book has such numerous features as Kevlar-gel reinforced run-flat tires with spikes for off-road traction, a portable crime lab, underwater capability, grenades, a five-mode security system, triple rotor vented disc brakes and as they say in the car classifieds, “too much to list” which always seems like a load of bull to me but trust me. This is not a Kia. And no one PM me about how their mom got a Kia and it was actually kind of nice and looked like a real car and was loaded to the hilt with “too much to list”. Let us pretend it is 2001 when they were not so nice.
Also not so nice is the visual look of the featured car. Quite simply, it looks like a Viper with a C4 Corvette front clip. Not surprisingly, like the Viper, the car looks best from the ¾ angle. Attached to the front, there is an ultra-ugly early Batmobile battering ram mask, albeit modified and three large fins on the fastback rear part of the car. I suppose all of this hideousness can be forgiven in the name of the supposed function. As you can tell I am not too keen on the look of this Bat-car. On a similar note, I am going to lob a Jack Napier .50 cal revolver round at the part I disliked next: the engine.

The motor is a fuel injected, turbo and supercharged inline five cylinder internal combustion engine that features dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and nitrous oxide injection. It also has an individual head for each cylinder and runs on E90 which is 90% ethanol and 10% gasoline, making it evident that the book was published this year. It must be of considerable displacement to put out 1700 horsepower on full boost and I am guessing around 700 CID which puts in the league of Ford’s wheezy V6’s that they install in everything. However, as implausible as the water capabilities are of the car, it would never make that much power with an “intake” the size of a pack of Camels.

The car also has the ubiquitous supplementary afterburner which I like, but the part that upsets me the most of all the engine’s specs is that it is an inline five. Has Batman gone the way of the Swedes? Is an American-designed engine made in Mexico not good enough for Mr. Wayne? I am sorry but Batman’s badass car needs to have a V8 somewhere in the mix. The Barris car had one. The Keaton car had one. The Batman: The Animated Series car had one. Just listen. Countless comic cars had V8’s from the 1950’s on up and even in the 1970’s Batman at times just drove a then late model lightly modified Vette, which to remind you, had dropped the six option by 1955. The Tumbler even has one. While not a V8, a more exotic engine configuration such as a V10 on up also would have been acceptable and welcome. But the sheer figure of the Batmobile sporting an inline FIVE is just wrong.

Aside from that minor gripe, I think the book is very entertaining and the attention to detail is remarkable. This is not really a must buy, but be sure to take lots of time read through it next time you are at the bookstore. And I mean LOTS since the book, as I had mentioned earlier is VERY detailed.
So, you are probably dying to know, what is my favorite Bat-car? The Barris Batmobile. Not super practical nor actually fast but it had the muscle car look and even muscle car wheels, Radirs! I like the Batman: The Animated Series version also. I see it as a sleeker, refined version of the Keaton car. The hideous phallic looking turbine intake has been removed and a subtle grille has been installed in place. That said, I still love the Keaton car.

“Right again, Robin!”
Eric Seltzer

Interestingly, I did come across a car on the internet the other day that would make an excellent Batmobile, if only visually: the one off 2005 Maybach Exelero. Take a look at the proportions, add in the fact that has actually been tested at speeds of over 200MPH and mix in some slightly more bat-esque visuals and BAM! The perfect Batmobile.


Batmobile Owner’s Manual

by Mike McAvennie
Illustrated by Richard Chasemore , E.J. Su
DK Kids, 2008