A Brief History of the George Barris #4 Batmobile

April 30 2014

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The #4 dragster was a souped up car that was used for exhibitions on the drag strip circuit. “Wild” Bill Shrewsberry drove the car at Muholland and several other strips across the country. The #4 car had a working flamethrower and working parachutes.

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Barris made a mold of the #1 car and cast three replica car bodies in fiberglass in “one long weekend.”   The replicas differed from the 1955 Lincoln Futura screen-used Batmobile in numerous ways: the dashboards were made of wood, covered in black vinyl. The headlight buckets and tail light buckets were capped. The seats had no chrome surrounds, and the door panels had no chrome trim. The beacon lights were much larger, usually without beacon cages. The trim on the windshields was black rubber.

Aside from one short scene in “The Contaminated Cowl,” where the #4 replica Batmobile was heavily obscured with equipment in the Batcave, the replicas were never used in the making of the Batman television series. Instead, the three replicas were used for touring all over the country.

George Barris sold the car in 1975-76 to JJ Born, of the Chicago Antique Auto Museum. It sold to an unknown buyer in 1984-ish.  He rented the car to the Gatlinburg “Believe It Or Not Museum” for a year or so, then it was housed in the Nashville Cars of the Stars Museum for about ten-twelve years. It sold in 1998 to R. Spencer of Florida, who sold it to the current owner.

The Restoration of the George Barris #4 Batmobile

May 3 2014 – The owner has contracted Fiberglass Freaks to restore the #4 car to its original 1966 look–as the #4 car. He doesn’t want it to look like the #1, so yes, things will intentionally not match the #1.

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The original rear windshields of the #4 Barris-built Batmobile separated from the vehicle while going over some rough railroad tracks.

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Our primary task is to paint the #4 Barris-built Batmobile. The car was painted with lacquer, then flocked for that batfuzz look, then repainted with lacquer. While the car was shiny, the paint had thousands of pinholes in it. We have begun the arduous task of carefully stripping off the lacquer paint…

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May 3 2014 – Yes, you guessed it–the striping on the #4 Barris-built Batmobile was tape! Head light buckets were never cut open (only the #1 and #3 have working headlights), and the amber batray lens has an ordinary metal household outlet box behind it!

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May 3 2014 – The original rocket exhaust tube is rough, but salvageable. The owner installed a perfect beacon and made a beacon cage, and then had a new graphic made for the front left fender, just like the car had back in 1966.

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May 4 2014 – The door jamb of the #4 Barris-built Batmobile is in really nice shape. Barris used a 1958 Edsel steering wheel for the car (he must have had several Edsels!). The nostrils of the hood scoop had grilles, but were not opened up to allow any air in the engine compartment.

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May 5 2014 – The #4 Barris-built 1966 Batmobile wiring harness (if you can call it that) was nothing short of scary. The rear half of the car was wired with 220 household wiring. There were no grommets through the firewall, the wires were chafing from the metal, and 2 gauge wire was bolted together with terminals inside the metal dashboard–without any insulation! It’s a wonder that the #4 car is still with us today. We have removed all of the wiring from the car and are starting over–beginning with a fuseblock.

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May 6 2014 – The flip front of the #4 Barris-built dragster 1966 Batmobile provides a nice look at the 1950s truck radiator Barris used to keep the 427 double side oiler engine cool. They used leaf springs as the hinge point for the flip front. The headlights were temporary and will be removed in our restoration.

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May 8 2014 – The #4 Barris-built dragster 1966 Batmobile fuel and brake lines were haphazardly run. The fuel line was too close to the exhaust for comfort, and the brake line was pinched between the frame rail and the metal floor pan. We removed the brake line and found no brake fluid in the line at all. The flywheel cover was missing, and the transmission cooler was a great idea, but it was mounted against the floor pan bottom.

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May 8 2014 – I had heard that Barris used plywood for part of the floor pan on the #4 screen-used Batmobile
replica, but I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that it was a major part of the construction!

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The body is hard-mounted to the chassis. It was surprising how good of shape the metal and wood were in.

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The B pillar, which was molded right off the #1 Futura car, but they used a bolt through it and warped the shape right behind the “striker” area. It is really hard to imagine that this car went down the racetrack at 140+ miles per hour…

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May 9 2014 – The parachutes on the #4 Barris-built 1966 Batmobile replica are real. This is a view under the car of the tether bar to which the parachutes tethers are bolted. Wild Bill Shrewsberry drove the car at drag strips across the country in 1967.

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May 11 2014 – For you gearheads, the #4 Barris-built Batmobile had a very special engine. Holman & Moody built a blueprinted 427 C.I. double side oiler motor with twin four barrel carburetors. The high rise intake manifold was made by Ford especially for Barris. It had an Art Carr C-6 Ford transmission with headers, and a posi-traction 514 rear end.

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It had an Art Carr C-6 Ford transmission with headers, and a posi-traction 514 rear end.

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May 12 2014 – The accelerator pedal on the #4 Barris-built 1966 Batmobile dragster drives a unique hydraulic hose to actuate the throttle. This one is leaking. They don’t make them anymore, unfortunately, but we are planning to rebuild it with new O rings.

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May 13 2014 – The Batbeam on the #4 Barris-built dragster 1966 Batmobile was merely some of the grille material.

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May 16 2014 – We were very surprised to find that the arch on the #4 Barris-built dragster 1966 Batmobile was not bolted, screwed, or glued to the rear package tray. It “floated,” being held in place by only the rear windshield!

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Interestingly, the two cables coming out the back of the arch are the working parachute cables. The Emergency Bat Turn Lever actually worked on this car! The arch is made of wood (including the rounded top), covered in vinyl.

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May 18th 2014 – This is an under car view of the #4 Barris-built dragster Batmobile frame rails, where they stretched the 1966 Ford Galaxie frame just over ten inches to accommodate the Batmobile body.  After stretching the frame, they capped the underside with steel strap that ran the length of the floor pan.

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May 19 2014 – More wood! The rear of the #4 Barris-built dragster Batmobile had wheel wells.

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The modern fuel cell has been removed and a Moon fuel tank will be going in. It was interesting how serious the bracing was at the rear package tray/rear wall (2″x2″), but how thin the bracing was under the seating area. The angled piece of steel from the rear wall steel to the transmission tunnel is for the fire extinguisher mount. You can also just barely see the triple rocket tube mounts.

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May 20 2014 – Discombobulation of the #4 Barris-built dragster Batmobile dashboard. The dash was a piece of 18 gauge steel rolled into shape, then covered with a layer of half inch foam and black vinyl.  The steering wheel is a 1950s Edsel, but the column is a modern GM part.

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Inside was an interesting discovery–at some point there were illuminated dashboard labels with two lights behind each label. A mechanical dial had contacts that alternated the lights behind the labels. The rectangular holes have been filled with expanding foam.

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The steering wheel is a 1950s Edsel, but the column is a modern GM part.

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May 22 2014 – Before removing the bat gadgets, vinyl, and foam so we can restore the dashboard from the #4 Barris-built dragster Batmobile, we carefully archive every single part to make sure it can be reinstalled exactly where it was located.

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The owner is insistent that the car perfectly matches the #4 in 1966/67, and we are going to great lengths to make that happen.

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Thanks to a client and friend in Iowa, we have the most difficult part on the way…the mysterious “Ford Safety Package” (seen in the vintage photo with the word Ford covered in black tape!).
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May 22 2014 – The heat from the #4 Barris-built dragster Batmobile engine had baked the glue attempting to hold the carpet in place. We easily removed the carpeting to reveal the metal work underneath.

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You can see there isn’t much foot room for the driver! Many pieces were held in place by only two or three pop rivets and one or two screws.

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We carefully removed the metal floor pan pieces, one by one, and began the arduous job of cleaning them up and then metal etch priming them. You’ll note the long piece of metal on the forward transmission tunnel piece. This was for the original gear shift lever, a long rod that had an Ansen T handle on it. Later, this was changed to a Mustang gear shifter.

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May 24th 2014 -The first thing we did on the #4 Barris-built dragster Batmobile was replace the brake lines and reroute them. The original rear brake line was pinched between the frame and the floor pan.

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We rerouted the line along the frame rail. We also installed a correct proportioning valve and replaced and rerouted the front brake lines. The car should actually stop now without having to use the batchutes!

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May 25 2014 – We cleaned the surface rust and glue from the #4 Barris- built dragster Batmobile floor pan pieces, then metal etch primed them. We patched holes from underneath, then screwed them back to the car. We seamsealed all seams. The floor pan is much stiffer, better mounted, and then we added C channel underneath to really get some strength! The 20 circuit fusebox has been started…

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May 26 2014 – This is the bottom and top of the #4 Barris-built dragster Batmobile rocket exhaust tube. It was a functional flamethrower in 1966, but at some point (probably when it sold to the museum in 1973) the flamethrower was removed. The current owner rerouted the exhaust to go through the tube, and added the old hot rod spark plug flamethrower method. We will be rerouting the exhaust to the proper location and installing our propane flamethrower system.

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May 26 2014 – This is the flimsy dashtop extension of the #4 Barris-built dragster Batmobile.

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The 1958 Edsel speedometer was faux, merely the dome and the bezel, bolted through the metal! We will be replacing it with a functional speedometer soon…

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May 29 2014 – The inner door panels on the #4 Barris-built dragster Batmobile were molded right off the #1 car. You can even see the masking tape where the protected the edges of the chrome trim!

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June 6 2014 – The new wiring harness for the #4 Barris-built dragster Batmobile is underway! We’re adding some modern conveniences: a fuse block, wire loom, and grommets!
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June 9 2014 – Wire loom! What will they think of next to protect wiring from the elements of the #4 Barris-built dragster Batmobile?
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June 13 2014 – Lookie what I found on eBay–an exact match for the Heater, er, I mean the “rocket tubes” switch! (Yes, I know that the photo is of the #3 instead of the #4, but the switch was used on both.)

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July 19 2014 – The restoration of the #4 Barris-built dragster Batmobile continues…Here are some pics of the passenger door. This door was so thin that even a nineteen-year-old Burt Ward couldn’t have stood on it! Barris used a simple piano hinge for mounting the door, but he used a real automotive latch. Can anyone recognize the latch? It might be from the donor car, the 1966 Ford Galaxie?
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Aug 22 2014 – The bodyworking of the bottom half of the front of the #4 Barris-built dragster Batmobile is coming along nicely! The driver side grille bucket lip is breaking off (you can see the crack), but the driver side is great. We are making a mold of the passenger side grille lip, then we will flip the casting around to make it work for the driver side.
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Aug 29 2014 – The #4 Barris-built dragster Batmobile driver side front grille lip is fiberglassed in place and bodyworked!
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Sept 16 2014 – We block sanded and primed the bottom half of the front half of the #4 Barris-built dragster Batmobile today! We’re ready to flip it over and remount it to the chassis. Yay, progress!

Nov 10 2014 – Work continues on the restoration of the #4 Barris-built dragster 1966 Batmobile. Here are some pics of the rear deck–at some point, someone bodyfilled the grooves of the (non functional) trunk edges! The owner has asked to retain the grooves, which I think is awesome.
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Nov 25 2014 – With skim coat of Bondo and lots of block-sanding later, the #4 Barris-built dragster is coming along nicely!
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Jan 13 2015 – The driver side front fender of the Barris-built #4 1966 Batmobile dragster is coming along nicely…It won’t be too much longer and we’ll be applying first prime.
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Jan. 23 2015 – The #4 Barris-built dragster 1966 Batmobile replica is primed!
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Feb 11 2015 – We applied second prime to the Barris-built #4 dragster 1966 Batmobile replica today! Even though it’s just primer, it was an absolute thrill to see it in black for the first time since we started the restoration.

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Feb 23 2015 – Doing the last of the sanding on the Barris-built #4 dragster 1966 Batmobile restoration–the B pillar/door striker areas! Here’s two during the bodyworking, and one from before…

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March 25 2015 – The front windshields are mounted on the #4 Barris-built dragster 1966 Batmobile! (Next up, the hard one–the rear windshield. And the owner of the car wants me to recreate the four holes in each bubble.)

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More pics coming soon…

Categories: Bat-Build Blog

300 Responses so far.

  1. Roger Wheatley
    reply

    I am so happy that you are getting to restore this car Mark. They could not have picked a better guy to do it.

  2. maillot psg
    reply

    I like whɑt you guys are usually up too. This type of
    clever work and reporting! Keep up the wonderful works guys I’ve incorporated
    you guys to my personal blogroll.

  3. #4 Bat-fan
    reply

    “You’ll note the long piece of metal on the forward transmission tunnel piece. This was for the original gear shift lever, a long rod that had an Ansen T handle on it. Later, this was changed to a Mustang gear shifter.”

    YOU ARE THINKING OF THE #3 CAR AND NOT THE #4. #4 ALWAYS HAD THE MUSTANG AUTO SHIFTER.

    • markracop
      reply

      Thanks for your email, 4fan. Are you Doug? There was a long slot cut out of the top of the transmission tunnel, and the carpet was split for the gear shifter. It is circumstantial evidence, grant you (I don’t have any photos of the #4 with the long gear shifter rod), but I have photos that show that it probably did have it at one time. Would you like them? Thanks again for your email.

  4. nate
    reply

    Hey Mark! Glad this car is in the right hands! You must be having a blast peeling back Barris history and getting the real truth about this car out in the open! Looks great so far, have fun!

    • markracop
      reply

      Nate, it’s great to hear from you. Thanks so much for your kind words! It has been fascinating workin on the #4, that’s for sure. So far, so good. We’re in “recombobulation” phase now. I’ll post more pics soon. Take care!

  5. Bruce
    reply

    Can you tell how the rebuild on the hydraulic throttle went? I have the same one on my nostalgic dragster and it’s in need of service.

    Thanks.
    Bruce

  6. Kevin W.
    reply

    I was there back in June, shortly after the car had arrived. Thanks to that trip I can rightfully say I’ve sat in three of the original four Barris Bats! The body wasn’t even off the frame yet but Mark and I talked about what would be done to the car. Surprised to see it this far along to be honest. Can’t wait to see the rest.
    Amazing things keep happening in the FF bat cave! I was never much a fan of the Fiberbats but I really can’t wait to see the end game on this one!

  7. Kevin W.
    reply

    finally got around to catching up here. Much further along, than when I saw the car in June. What a birthday present that was! Thanks to the guys at FF, I can now say that I’ve sat in three of the four originals! Too bad it wasn’t driveable and owned by FF! I’d be able to say I’ve driven two of the four.
    Keep up the great work and to Mark and all the little freaks out there, have a safe and happy holiday!

  8. Kevin W.
    reply

    Those are the lathes and strikers from the Galaxie’s, I’m almost certain. I double checked on google (which is almost as reliable as my memory) to match an image. Ford+ door latches+ 1967. Those show up on top. I haven’t confirmed, but it makes sense Barris would have made use of as much of the Galaxies as he could.

  9. Kevin W.
    reply

    SA-WEEEEEEETTT!!!

    I’ve never been so mad, I don’t live in Logansport!!

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