Holy Hot Rods! TV's Batmobile May Fetch $5 Million
CNBC Reporter & Editor
Maybe it was the dual bubble windshields, perfectly framing the heads of Adam West and Burt Ward as they raced to the Gotham City crime scene. Or maybe it was the flared bat wings, edged in orange. Or perhaps it was the ultimate jet exhaust, which flamed like a dragon as the caped crusaders raced out of the Bat Cave.
Whatever the reasons, the original Batmobile remains one of the most revered cars in America. And now the Batmobile – yes the very same one used on the 1960s Adam West TV show – is among the more than 1,400 cars expected to be auctioned off at the the 42nd annual Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale event this weekend.
The price: up to $5 million.
Scottsdale is the car-a-palooza of auto-collecting. And this year, auctioneers say the strong economy, growing investor interest in collectibles, and rare offerings like the Batmobile and a Mercedes once owned by Clark Gable, could push sales total to all-time highs.
The collectible car market isn't just back. It might be bigger than ever.
Craig Jackson, the CEO of Barrett-Jackson – the auto-auction company that launched the event in 1971 – said this year's sales total may top the company's all-time record of $108 million set in 2007.
"My goal is to beat it this year," he said. It looks like we have a good chance."
One good sign: the lines of credit available to buyers have topped $700 million. Jackson said that every potential bidder has to submit a letter from a bank or lender guaranteeing that a certain amount of cash is available for purchase. He said the total of $700 million in credit lines is likely to hit $1 billion – meaning buyers have a war-chest of up to $1 billion to spend this weekend.
Scottsdale is mainly a muscle-car scene, with loads of American hot rods and Hemis. But it also has a smattering of Italian exotics, celebrity rides and cars made famous by Hollywood.
The Batmobile is, hands down, the star of the show. There are other Batmobiles out there, of course. But all others were copies of the original, which began life as the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car that made its screen debut in a 1959 film "It Started With a Kiss" with Debbie Reynolds. Then legendary customizer George Barris turned the car into the Batmobile for the TV series. The car was used in the original series as well as the movie adaptation starring Adam West.
Jackson said that all other batmobiles were fiberglass copies made from this original.
"This is the real deal," he said.
Barrett Jackson will be auctioning off the car Saturday. Jackson said that the car is likely to sell for $4 million or more and could easily top $5 million. He said the most likely buyer is "an institution" – perhaps a museum or movie company linked to the Batman franchise.
"It's one of those wild cards, since we really don't know what it could sell for," he said.
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Other headliners at Scottsdale include Clark Gable's 1955 Mercedes Gullwing, which could sell for millions. A 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider being auctioned off by Gooding & Co. could fetch up to $7 million, while a 1960 Ferrari 250GT SWB Berlinetta auctioned off by RM Auctions could bring in $8 million.
Another piece of Hollywood going up for auction is the Dukes of Hazzard stunt car, which was used in the popular 1980s TV series. The "General Lee" – a 1969 Dodge Charger – could fetch more than $60,000 when auctioned off by Bonham's.
Also on the block from Bonhams: the car used in the infamous tollbooth scene in "The Godfather," in which Sonny Corleone gets shot. He didn't survive, but the car did. James Caan pulled up to the tollbooth in this car, but there aren't any bullet holes. A different car was riddled with the bullets. There's no estimate on how much the 1941 Lincoln Continental Coupe might fetch.