Hollywood is all about illusion. Even before CGI, which allows us to see modern footage of the Titanic pulling out of Southampton, movie makers used visual sleight of hand to make us believe in things that weren’t real. The Batmobile from the television series was a real object, indeed, it was a real car – sort of – but none of its gadgets really worked and it wasn’t really capable of any of its fictional capabilities. It was just a prop.
So why build a replica of something that isn’t real in the first place?
Wayne Lensing builds race car chassis, owns a bunch of commercial and storage buildings and created a museum, Historic Auto Attractions, in Roscoe, Ill., to house and show his large collection of automotive and celebrity paraphernalia. Within that museum is a collection of movie cars including a TV batmobile, two vehicles from “Batman Returns”, the Ectomobile from “Ghostbusters” and the Delorean from “Back to the Future”.
But are any of them “real”?
I ask because at least one of them, the Ectomobile, is so obviously not the real movie car that the evidence is sitting right there in the museum. Surrounding the car is a display of stills from “Ghostbusters” and the car in the pictures is not the same as the one on display. Numerous details differ between the two including the rear roof line, the rear doors (front-hinged in the movie stills, suicide doors on the car on display), and many of the graphics on the two cars.
On the wall behind the car is a large graphic from “Ghostbusters II” but the car on display isn’t from that movie either. Numerous changes were made to the Ectomobile for the second movie but none of those changes, such as the digital displays mounted on the roof, appear on the car in the museum.
According to a 2010 article at Wired.com, the studio still owns both cars that were used for filming and created a replica for the studio tour. That replica, Wired says, fell into the hands of an anonymous collector in January of 2010. I believe that the version in the museum has been sitting there for longer than that.
The museum’s TV Batmobile is obviously not the same one that was used in filming the television series, either. One look at the steering wheel gives it away. It’s from a much more modern car than the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car or the mid-1960s variants that were built for the TV show.
So what gives? Are the movie cars in Historic Auto Attractions just outright fakes? Do they call into question the authenticity of the rest of the collection?
Well, it’s complicated.
In the case of the Batmobile, there were several “real” cars made for the TV series. George Barris built the original car using the Lincoln Futura concept car he had bought from Ford Motor Company for $1. That car proved to be trouble-prone and experienced a number of mechanical breakdowns during filming. Barris was directed to fix the issues (the studio never owned the car, Barris leased it to them and got it back when the show was canceled) and was contracted to build two copies of the car.
By the time the show ended four Batmobiles existed although, with one possible exception, car #1 was the only one that ever appeared on camera. The others were used mostly for promotional purposes.
A number of “tribute” Batmobiles have been built since then and they still show up at car shows and other events. The car in Lensing’s collection may be one of those but it’s unlikely that it is one of the four built for the TV show.
Customizing Deloreans to look like the car from “Back to the Future” is something of a cottage industry in its own right. Today there are probably far more Delorean replicas out there than were built for filming (who knew it was so easy to find flux capacitors). The studio had six built for the movie and according to Wired, the fate of four of them is known, one of which was found on a studio back lot and was being restored at the time the article was written. Again, the Delorean sitting in the museum has been there longer than that.
Back to my original question: Why build a replica of something that isn’t real in the first place?
Because it’s fun. Because guys do stuff like that. Because we love cars and love challenges. Because some of us (not me) are talented enough to do it.
Because . . . well, just because.