The Batmobile® is hands-down the most famous vehicle on planet Earth. Seeing amazing replicas of three generations of Batman’s car displayed during the Sept. 20-23 Food Lion AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway will make superhero fans think they’ve slipped into the Batcave.

Batmobiles® are such desirable automotive icons that individuals and companies all over the country have been creating replicas since the 1980s. During the Food Lion AutoFair, builders will show off their accurate reproductions of the 1966, 1989 and 2005 Batmobiles®, as well as costumes and other memorabilia that will transport fans back to the fictional world of Gotham City.

Fans can even channel their inner superhero while sitting in the 1966 series car and have their photo made with the iconic machine.

Batman’s first appearance in “Detective Comics” no. 27 in May 1939 makes no mention of a crime-fighting car. It wasn’t until issue no. 48 in February 1941 that the Dark Knight drove a powerful red convertible the narrator refers to as the “Batmobile®.” Over the next 71 years, comic book readers saw more than 100 different versions of Gotham City’s rolling arsenal, each representing cutting-edge technology and styling for the period.

Comic artists were not always designing from scratch. That first Batmobile® looked exactly like a six-year-old Cord 810, and later cars resembled a Studebaker, a few Jaguars, two or three Porsches, several Corvettes, a Mustang Mach 1 and even a Lamborghini.

Its first depiction on the silver screen was not memorable, owing to extremely low budgets of the 1943 and 1949 Columbia movie serials. In the first installment, Alfred the butler ferried Bruce Wayne around Gotham in a factory-stock 1939 Cadillac Series 75 convertible with the top down. When danger threatened, Robin chauffeured Batman around in the same car, but with the top up. The second movie featured the same Batman/Bruce Wayne, top-up/top-down carpool act but with a 1949 Mercury convertible.

The Batmobile® spectacularly came to life with the debut of the 1966-’68 television program starring Adam West as the Caped Crusader. “Batman” producers hired California car customizer George Barris to build a fully functional vehicle on a near-impossible deadline. To meet their request, he transformed a retired Lincoln concept car from the 1950s into the Batmobile®. So popular was the TV series (and 1966 feature-length movie) that Barris made three Batmobile replicas to tour the country while the original stayed on the set.

When Michael Keaton wore the cowl in 1989’s “Batman” and 1992’s “Batman Returns” films, his Batmobile® looked like a combination battering ram and land-speed-record challenger. Like the TV version from two decades earlier, it was powered by a jet turbine; unlike its predecessor, it could jettison its fenders and travel in a narrow “Batmissile” mode. Director Tim Burton wanted the car to represent strength, mystery and the kind of technological prowess a billionaire like Bruce Wayne could muster.

When director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale restarted the entire Batman history in 2005 with “Batman Begins,” production designers imagined a new Batmobile® free of any previous influence. To complement the gritty urban conditions of Gotham City in the 21st century, Nolan suggested the Batmobile® combine the durability and weaponry of a military tank with the agility and silhouette of an exotic sports car. Special effects trickery would give the bat-black car a pair of autocannons, a rocket launcher, downforce flaps and jet propulsion, but Nolan wanted a real vehicle able to race through streets and perform stunts for the cameras. Once the computer-aided engineering plans were approved, a 30-person crew built six functional cars at a cost of a quarter-million dollars apiece.

Batman drove the “Tumbler,” as it was nicknamed, in “Batman Begins” and 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” but the bad guys managed to steal several of the military-grade Tumblers for their own misdeeds in this summer’s blockbuster “The Dark Knight Rises.”

The fall Food Lion AutoFair features more than 50 car club displays and more than 7,000 vendor spaces that offer a plethora of automotive parts and memorabilia. More than 1,500 collectible vehicles of all makes and models will be available for sale in the car corral that rings the 1.5-mile superspeedway. In addition, up to 200 cars will be auctioned by Dealer Auctions Inc., and kids can enjoy face-painting, bounce houses and other games and entertainment in the huge POWERADE Play Zone.

Hours for the Sept. 20-23 Food Lion AutoFair are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday. Ticket prices are $10 per day for adults or $25 for a four-day pass; children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5. For more information on the four-day event, contact the speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.

 

Speedway Motorsports is not affiliated with DC Comics, Warner Communications Inc., E.C. Publications, Inc., or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates.  Batmobile is a registered trademark of DC Comics.