The Batmobile "race car"

Courtesy Warner Bros.; Photo: David James

The Assembly Line

Besides the test frame, the team manufactured four complete, street-ready race cars. To do that, they built the steel frames and mounted the drive trains on each one. Then the body shop manufactured the 65 carbon-fiber panels for each car.

These "race" versions of the Batmobile are the cars that careened through the streets of Chicago during filming. From the outside, they look like Batmobiles. Inside, however, they look like NASCAR race cars.

According to Nathan, when you get in the car, what you see is the steel frame of the car along with sheetmetal covering some of the surfaces, as in a NASCAR car. The gauges are all exposed. There is a Halon fire-suppression system along with other safety features to protect the drivers.

Visibility is terrible. The driver can see out the front window fine, but there is no side or rear visibility. So the team mounted side and rear video cameras, and the driver uses monitors to see outside.

Because of these extenuating circumstances, the drivers for these Batmobiles trained for six months before they started driving on the streets of Chicago.

So why'd they build four complete Batmobile race cars? There were two reasons. First, the team expected there to be accidents and wanted to have multiple cars in case one or two wrecked. Think about it: These cars have the ability to go 100 mph but have hand levers to help turn corners. They also are called on to jump 30 feet. Accidents seemed likely. The good news is that no accidents actually occurred (if you ignore the incident in which a driver rear-ended one of the Batmobiles as the four cars were moving to a new location). The six months of training and the drivers' skill really paid off.

The other reason is that two of the four cars are special:

  • One is the flap version. It has all of the hydraulics and flaps to handle the close-up shots where the car is "flying."
  • The other is the jet version. Nathan didn't want to "add on" the jet flame with a computer -- he wanted a real jet flame. The car has an actual jet engine fueled by six propane tanks located inside the car. The team can mount and dismount the jet as needed for filming.

Each of these four cars cost about $250,000 to build.

These four cars worked great for the street scenes. However, when you watch the movie and Batman gets in and out of the car, you obviously do not see him getting into a vehicle that has a bare frame with a Halon safety system and riveted sheet metal. The interior of the Batmobile is cool. Two other teams made the Batmobile's interior possible...