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1955 Lincoln Futura
one prototype built
|Assembly||Carrozzeria Ghia, Turin, Italy|
|Designer||John Najjar and Bill Schmidt|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||2-door coupé|
|Engine||368 cu in (6.0 L) Y-block OHV V8|
|Transmission||3-speed Turbo Drive automatic|
|Wheelbase||126.0 in (3,200.4 mm)|
|Length||227.0 in (5,765.8 mm)|
|Width||84.6 in (2,148.8 mm)|
|Height||58.2 in (1,478.3 mm)|
The Lincoln Futura is a concept car promoted by Ford's Lincoln brand, designed by Ford's lead stylists Bill Schmidt and John Najjar, and hand-built by Ghia in Turin, Italy — at a cost of $250,000 (equivalent to $2,400,000 in 2020).
The car's official public debut was on January 8, 1955 at the Chicago Auto Show; it had been shown to the press at the city's Congress Hotel on January 5. While being displayed elsewhere in the U.S. that spring, the Futura was seen by the country's television audience on Today ("The Today Show") on March 3, 1955. The Futura's styling was original by 1950s standards — with a double, clear-plastic canopy top, exaggerated hooded headlight pods, and very large, outward-canted tailfins. Nevertheless, the Futura had a complete powertrain and was fully operable, in contrast to many show cars. Its original color was white, and was one of the first pearlescent color treatments, using ground pearl to achieve the paint effect. The Futura was powered by a 368 cubic inch Lincoln engine and powertrain; the chassis derived from a Continental Mark II.
The Futura was a success as a show car, garnering favorable publicity for Ford. It was released as a model kit and a toy, and, in a much more subdued form, its headlight and tailfin motifs would appear on production Lincolns for 1956 and 1957, such as the Lincoln Premiere and Lincoln Capri. The concave front grille inspired the grille on the 1960 Mercury Monterey and the 1960 Ford Galaxie.
The Futura played a prominent part in the 1959 movie It Started with a Kiss, starring Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford. For the movie, it was painted red, as the white pearlescent finish did not photograph well.
The red-painted car is also seen in Ford's 1961 promotional film "The Secret Door." The film's looking inside Ford's Styling Center includes footage of the Futura on the test track and in the wind tunnel.
The concept car was subsequently sold to auto customizer George Barris. Having originally cost $250,000, the Futura was sold to Barris for $1.00 and "other valuable consideration" by Ford Motor Company. As the car was never titled and was therefore uninsurable, it was parked behind Barris' shop, sitting idle and deteriorating for several years.
The 1994 NBC TV series VIPER featured a red 1955 Lincoln Futura called "The Baxley". Season 1 Episode 8. The cars creator stole it after it was recovered by construction workers. There was quite a bit of film featuring the vehicle. Even a chase between the VIPER Defender and the Futura. There is a youtube video available of the chase.
In 1966 Barris was asked to design a theme car for the Batman television series. Originally the auto stylist Dean Jeffries was contracted to build the car for the show in late 1965, but when the studio wanted the car sooner than he could deliver, the project was given to Barris. With the short notice, Barris thought the Futura might work well, and using Jeffries's initial car, decided that its unusual winged shape would be an ideal starting point for the Batmobile. Barris hired Bill Cushenberry to modify the car's metalwork.
Barris went on to build three fiberglass replicas using the frames and running gear from 1966 Ford Galaxie cars for the show circuit. Barris later acquired a fourth replica, a metal car built on a 1958 Ford Thunderbird.
Barris retained ownership of the car after its conversion to the Batmobile, leasing it to the TV studio for filming. After production of the TV series ended, it was displayed in Barris' own museum in California. It has also been displayed in the Cayman Motor Museum on Grand Cayman Island.
In the 1990s, Bob Butts (with George Barris' consent) made replicas of the Batmobile, using a mold of one of the Barris-built replicas. Based on pictures from when the Futura was shown in the 1950s, he reskinned an existing Batmobile replica back into a Lincoln Futura replica. He only created one copy.
The original fiberglass copy shell of the Futura made by Bob Butts was later found by Gotham garage owner Mark Towle and his friend and actor Shawn Pilot and rebuild as an original copy of the Lincoln Futura together with his team in their shop in Temecula, California, as seen in the Netflix series Car Masters: Rust to Riches.
After finishing the car the Futura was eventually sold at “The Grand National Roadster Show” at Pomona for approximately $90,000 to Keith Dean whose father Dick Dean worked with George Barris.
In this deal Mark also sold his just finished International COE Car transport truck for $90,000 and got a 1936 Ford with it from Keith Dean that was also part of the deal. The money they ended up with was $170,000. The Ford's value was around $10,000 without any changes, and with modifications the Ford's value would easy be around the $70,000-80,000.
- "Specifications - The Futura". The Classic 1966 TV Batmobile. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
- Bakken, Douglas A. "Automotive Design Oral History Project: Remembering John Najjar". University of Michigan. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
- Prototypes, Detroit (n.d.). "Detroit's Prototype and Concept Vehicles: 1955 Futura". Bryant & Stratton College. Archived from the original on March 7, 2016. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
- “Two Lincoln-Mercury Firsts at the Chicago Auto Show: World Premiere of the Lincoln Futura” (display ad). January 9, 1955.
- “Experimental Car Will Be Seen at Show” Chicago Tribune, January 6, 1955.
- “Radio-TV.” Buffalo Courier-Express, March 3, 1955.
- "Lincoln Shows Its Idea Automobile." Popular Mechanics, March 1955, p. 95.
- 1955 Lincoln Futura in It Started with a Kiss, Movie, 1959 at the Internet Movie Car Database
- George Barris, David Fetherston, Barris TV and Movie Cars, pages 20-27 (MBI Publishing Company, 1996) ISBN 0-7603-0198-0
- St. Antoine, Arthur. - "Interview: Dean Jeffries, Hollywood legend". - Motor Trend Magazine
- "Sold! Barrett-Jackson's 5000 Series Generates More Than $29.2 Million In Scottsdale". January 20, 2013.
- Couch, Aaron. "JAN 19 21 MINS First Batmobile Fetches $4.6 Million at Auction". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
- "Original Batmobile from TV series sells for $4.2M". USA Today. January 20, 2013.