December 13, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
THERE’S Herbie the Love Bug, the General Lee, Kit, the Mystery Machine and the Partridge Family bus, but one Hollywood vehicle stands above the rest — the Batmobile.
To kids who grew up watching television in the ’60s and ’70s, the black and red gadget-filled super car — based on Ford Motor Co.’s abandoned "Futura" concept — was the epitome of cool.
Every fan of the classic Batman television series from the 1960s remembers the dynamic duo (played by actors Adam West and Burt Ward) hopping in and Robin saying, "Atomic batteries to power. Turbines to speed." To which Batman would reply, "Roger, ready to move out." And then they’d race out of the Batcave at top speed to take on the Riddler, Catwoman and the Penguin.
At the time, I would have given up every hockey card in the spokes of my bike and every nickel in my piggy bank to get a ride in the Batmobile. On Wednesday, my dream came true.
Our video editor, Tyler Walsh, and I met John Paul from Michigan-based TMG, which hauls specialty vehicles around North America for the World of Wheels. It hits the Winnipeg Convention Centre this weekend.
He’s charged with taking care of one of six Batmobiles that were used in the show. The one he’s constantly polishing up was likely one of the prop versions, meaning it was primarily used in stationary shots rather than driven around Gotham City.
Before we pull out for a short spin on the convention centre floor, I ask Paul for some Bat-advice. After all, I didn’t want to inadvertently trigger the rear-mounted parachutes used in making high-speed 180-degree turns.
"It’s just like a normal car. Unless you go into super mode with the jet engine," he deadpanned.
"Um, can we go into super mode?" I asked.
"Not inside the building," he replied.
Curse you, never-ending winter.
I take in my surroundings — the Bat-fire extinguisher, the Bat-turn lever, the Bat-light, the Bat-starter switch (no keys!) and the Remote Batcomputer button. Strangely enough, there are no Bat-seatbelts. I start it up and the engine — reportedly from a Ford Galaxie — roared to life. As I slipped it into drive, I quickly realize the Batmobile idles at around 35 km/h.
As it’s made of fibreglass, the Batmobile is incredibly light so I’m hyper-conscious of hitting the gas and running through a wall. So I ride the brake virtually the whole time.
The Batmobile, perhaps not surprisingly, sounds like a race car and it handles extremely well. (It’s on a Ford chassis and the steering wheel is from an Edsel.) For a few fleeting moments, I feel like Batman.
I check the Bat-phone to my right just in case Commissioner Gordon is on the line. He’s not. The Bat-phone is made of wood.