Category Archives: TV Cars

Batmobile TV car from thr 60's

Batmobile TV

In late 1965 20th Century Fox Television and William Dozier’s Greenway Productions contracted renowned Hollywood car customizer Dean Jeffries to design and build a “Batmobile” for their upcoming Batman TV series. He started customizing a 1959 Cadillac, but when the studio wanted the program on the air in January 1966, and therefore filming sooner than he could provide the car, Jeffries was paid off, and the project went to George Barris.[10]

What became the iconic Batmobile used in the 1966–1968 live action television show and its film adaptation was a customized vehicle that originated as a one-off 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car,[11] created by Ford Motor Company lead stylists Bill Schmidt, Doug Poole Sr., and John Najjar[12][13] and their design team at the Lincoln Styling Department.

In 1954, the Futura prototype was built entirely by hand by the Ghia Body Works in Turin, Italy, at a reported cost ofUS$250,000—the equivalent of approximately US$2 million in 2009.[14] It made its debut in pearlescent Frost-Blue white paint on 8 January 1955 at the Chicago Auto Show.[15] In 1959, sporting a fresh red paint job, the Futura was featured in the film It Started with a Kiss, starring Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford.

Barris was trying to get Hollywood’s attention with the Futura, which he had purchased from Ford for the nominal sum of $1.00 and “other valuable consideration”,[16] but aside from its film appearance, the Futura had been languishing in his Hollywood shop for several years. With only three weeks to finish the Batmobile (although in recent years Jeffries says that his car was dropped because he was told it was needed in “a week and a half”,[17] he was quoted in 1988 as saying “three weeks”[18] as well), Barris decided that, rather than building a car from scratch, it would be relatively easy to transform the distinctive Futura into the famous crime-fighting vehicle. Design work was conducted by Herb Grasse, working as an associate designer for Barris.

Barris hired Bill Cushenbery to do the metal modifications to the car and its conversion into the Batmobile was completed in just three weeks, at a reported cost of US$30,000. They used the primer-painted, white-striped car in October, 1965, for a network presentation reel. Shortly afterward, the car was painted gloss black with “fluorescent cerise” stripes. Barris retained ownership of the car, estimated to be worth $125,000 in 1966 dollars,[19] leasing it to 20th Century Fox and Greenway Productions for use in the series.

When filming for the series began, several problems arose due to the car’s age: it overheated, the battery went dead, and the expensive Mickey Thompson tires kept blowing. By mid season, the engine and transmission were replaced with those of a Ford Galaxie. The most frequent visual influence of this car is that later Batmobiles usually have a rear rocket thruster that fires as the car makes a fast start.

In November 2012 Barris Kustom and George Barris announced the sale of the Batmobile at the Barrett-Jackson car show and auction held in Scottsdale, Arizona. The vehicle fetched $4.2 million on January 19, 2013.[20]

The live action television series was so popular that its campy humor and its Batmobile (a superficially modified concept car, the decade-old Lincoln Futura, owned by George Barris whose shop did the work)[2] were quickly introduced into the Batman comic books. But the high camp and general silliness of the television show did not sit well with long-time Batman comic book fans. So, when the series was canceled in 1968, the comic books reacted by becoming darker and more serious, including having Batman abandon that Batmobile. Its replacement for a number of years was a much simpler model with a stylized bat’s head silhouette decal on the hood being the only decoration of note. The 1960s TV style Batmobile still appears from time to time in the comic books, most recently in Detective Comics #850 and the issues of Batman Confidential. In the Bronze Age of Comic Books, the source of the cars was explained in The Untold Legend of the Batman as the work of stunt driver Jack Edison who volunteered to personally construct Batmobiles for Batman after being rescued from a burning wreck.

Monkeemobile, a customized pPontian GTO for the TV rock band, the Monkees


The Monkeemobile’s origins began in 1966 when Dean Jeffries was asked to design and build a car for a new TV show called “The Monkees”. Jeffries, under contract with Model Products Corporation (MPC) at the time, told CEO George Toteff about the project. A make of vehicle had not yet been chosen for the project. Mr. Toteff then told his friend Jim Wangers of these developments. Mr. Wangers was working with Pontiac promotion and advertising at the time and saw the show as a huge promotional opportunity for Pontiac. After making the deal, Jim Wangers supplied two base 389 4-barrel 1966 GTO convertibles with automatic-transmissions to be converted into Monkeemobiles. MPC was in turn given exclusive rights to market a model kit of the Monkeemobile. They would end up selling over 7 million copies of these kits.[2
After the television show ended, both cars were offered back to Dean Jeffries for $1,000 each, who had right of first refusal. He declined to purchase the cars because he felt he could build new ones cheaper.[1]

The “TV car” (aka car # 1) followed the Monkees on tour only to be left in Australia in 1968. It later resurfaced in Puerto Rico as a hotel courtesy car. To this day, there is still no hard information on how the car made its way to Puerto Rico, and it was sold at government auction in 1992 for $5,000 when the hotel went out of business. Though basically as it was built, the car did get some restoration work done when bought, and it was used as the example for the Ertl Company 1:18 scale die-cast toy, The Monkees 1997 TV reunion show, “Hey, Hey, It’s the Monkees” and the 2001 “Cars & Guitars Of Rock N Roll” display at the Petersen Automotive Museum . It is now in the hands of a private collector in Northern New Jersey.[3]

The “show car” (aka car #2) was purchased by custom car designer, George Barris. This car would be the most visible during the years. Barris later went on to use and display the car for promotions at many large and small events. In 2006 the car went through a major restoration. Even though it became a 100 point show car, many changes and upgrades were made. In January 2008, Barris, through Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale, Arizona, auctioned the car for $360,000. It now resides in the hands of a private collector in southeastern Michigan.[4][5]

Barris also had Dick Dean, who had helped Jeffries build the two originals, make a copy, identified by yellow trim on the headlight bezels, tan seats (instead of the original white upholstery), and other variations. A second copy or tribute car was recently built by a longtime associate of Dean Jeffries this car contains many parts removed from the #2 car during its restoration and belongs to a private collector in Florida. Another repica was built for the Monkees 45th Anniversary Tour.[6] The tour, which took place from May 12, 2011 to July 23, 2011, was the fourth and final reunion tour to feature band members Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork together, before Jones’s death from a heart attack on February 29, 2012.[7] There are numerous replicas created over the years with distinctive visual differences unique to each car. None of these copies were made by the original cars’ creator, Dean Jeffries.

Dragula race car for Munsters TV show


On The Munsters TV series, DRAG-U-LA, the car, was created by Grandpa Munster so he could win back The Munster Koach, which Herman had lost in a drag race in the episode Hot Rod Herman.

DRAG-U-LA, along with The Munster Koach, was one of two cars designed by Tom Daniel while working
for George Barris and Barris Kustom Industries for the TV show The Munsters.
The fiberglass body of DRAG-U-LA was built from a real fiberglass coffin that Richard “Korky” Korkes was able to purchase out the back door of a funeral home in North Hollywood. Per a conversation with Korky Korkes himself in 2013, it was illegal to sell a coffin without a death certificate. Korky made a deal with the funeral director, paid in cash, and it was a agreed the coffin would be left outside the rear door of the funeral parlor where the Barris crew would “lift” the coffin, during dark, from the rear of the facility to complete the transaction.

It featured a 350HP, 289CI Ford Mustang V-8 engine, with a four-speed stick shift. It had two four-barrel carburetors mounted on a Mickey Thompson Ram-Thrust manifold.

The rear tires were 10.50-inch Firestone racing slicks, mounted on custom 10-inch Rader aluminum & steel wheels. Each hubcap was decorated with a large silver spider. The front tires were 4-inch Italian tires on Speedsport English buggy wire wheels. To extend the Gothic motif further, Barris installed four Zoomie style organ pipes on each side of the car in lieu of standard exhaust pipe, and mounted antique lamps on the front and rear.[citation needed]

The front of the vehicle sported a marble gravestone with the inscription: “Born 1367, Died ?”. A “hidden” radiator was topped with a small golden casket. The driver sat in the rear of the vehicle behind the engine, under a plastic bubble.[1]

There were some subtle changes or variations made to the automobile, such as tires etc., generally for different aspects of filming for the movie Munster, Go Home! or for the TV Series.

This car was sold at the closeout auction of the Chicago Historical Antique Automobile Museum in Highland Park, Il. in 1985.

The original 1966 car was housed in Planet Hollywood in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where it hung from the ceiling.[citation needed] This Planet Hollywood location is now closed according to Planet Hollywood’s website. The car is now housed at the Volo Auto Museum in the town of Volo, Illinois. The museum had the car completely restored in 2011.[citation needed]

While the car came from George Barris’ shop, the car was constructed by Richard “Korky” Korkes and others who worked under Korky’s direction while he managed the Barris facility.

Black Beauty TV Car

Green Hornet’s Black Beauty

The TV series featured the Green Hornet’s car, The Black Beauty, a 1966 Imperial Crown sedan customized by Dean Jeffries at a cost of US$50,000. Two cars were built for the show and both exist today. Black Beauty 1 is located in the Petersen Museum collection and Black Beauty 2 is fully restored to TV series correct and is located in a private collection in South Carolina.

Black Beauty TV Car
HGreen Hornet’s Black Beauty 1965 Chrysler New Yorker
Munster Koach

Munster Koach

The Munster Koach is the family car that was used in the television series, The Munsters. The show’s producers contracted George Barris to provide the Koach. Barris paid Tom Daniel $200.00 to design the car, and had it built at Barris Kustoms, first by Tex Smith, but finished by Dick Dean, his shop foreman at the time. The Munster Koach appeared in over twenty episodes throughout the series’ two-year run, and was also seen in Munster, Go Home! using different wheels. Tom Daniel’s original drawing of the Munster Koach had it blown with a hood scoop and thin round disc lights. George Barris chose the ten carb set up with the ten air horns and lantern lights.
Only one Koach was made for the television series and feature film. It was made from 3 Model T bodies and is 18′ long. The 133″ frame was made by hand, as were the brass radiator and fenders. It has “blood red” interior and Gloss Black Pearl paint. It took 500 hours to hand form the ornate rolled steel scrollworks. The front end had a dropped axle, split radius rods and T springs. Its design featured a custom hearse body.

Amt produced a plastic model kit of the car during the series run. It has been reissued several times since. Johnny Lightning has also produced a 1/64th scale die-cast model of the car.

An unauthorized reproduction Koach was built on speculation and presented to George Barris, but Barris declined to buy it. Tubbs Johnson, Barris’ paint man, purchased the unauthorized Koach and later sold it to Jay Orhbach. Barris auctioned off the original Munster Koach in 1982 with oversized gas lights and different tires and wheels. In 1984, George Barris wanted a Munster Koach for the Hollywood Christmas Parade. He had Dick Dean build a second authorized Munster Koach. Dick Dean’s son, Keith Dean, helped with this build. This Koach was restored in the summer of 2011 with new black pearl paint, pie crust cheater slicks, new brass lantern lights, torque thrust mags, smaller skull radiator cap, and had the dummy crank lever removed and sealed. They did not have Bobby Barr Headers, so there is wide opening where those headers were.Munster Koach