Gear Head Tuesday – Lincoln’s Futura Morphs Into the Batmobile

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Benson Ford, Henry’s grandson and head of the Lincoln-Mercury Division, is at the wheel of the Lincoln Futura show car in New York City, 1955. In the video below, he is shown driving the Futura through Manhattan, ending in front of the United Nations. (Note the Checker cabs.) CLICK to watch:

The Lincoln Futura show car was designed by Bill Schmidt and John Naijir. Construction was done by Ghia of Turin in 1954 at a cost of $250,000. The Futura was built on a prototype Lincoln Continental Mark II chassis.

56 Lincoln

Schmidt did much of the work on the 1956 Lincolns, considered by many to be one of the best designs of the 1950s. Some of the styling themes of the Futura were used on the 1957 Lincolns, but the result was not as happy as on the original show car nor was the ’57 Lincoln design as pleasing as Schmidt’s ’56 Lincoln.

1957 Lincoln

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After penning the Futura with Naijir, Schmidt landed at Packard as director of Styling. Packard president James Nance poached a lot of talent from Ford, Schmidt being part of that. For reasons I’ve never learned, Nance installed Schmidt as Director of Styling for Studebaker-Packard, leaving Richard Teague as Director of Packard Styling. Teague did most of the work on the ’55 Packards, a facelift of the ’51 body shell that was so well executed that most people thought it was an entirely new car. It was Teague that came up with the famous “cathedral” taillights for Packard. It had to have stung Teague that Schmidt was leapfrogged from Ford over him, but Teague was always the gentleman and it seems that Teague and Schmidt worked well together. The two of them did much of the work on the Packard Predictor show car and on the shared body shell styling of the still-born all-new ’57 Packards and Studebakers.

Schmidt liked the “Frenched” headlights seen on the Futura and one of his contributions to the production ’56 Packards was to “French” the headlights.

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Schmidt touches on Packards: above – the “Frenched” headlights on the ’56 Packards, below – Schmidt did much of the work on the Predictor show car. Note the opening in the fin – similar to his treatment of the fins on the Lincoln Futura.

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When the Futura had done its duty as a show car, it avoided the fate of many show cars – it was not destroyed. In 1959, it “co-stared” with Debbie Reynolds and Glen Ford in It Started With a Kiss. The Futura later landed in the back lot of California car customizer George Barris, who plucked it out the lot and transformed it into the 1966 Batmobile. It survives and is currently offered for sale at Hemmings.

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In Batmobile form, the Futura has its fans, but I am not among them! I prefer it in its original form as seen in 1955. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this show car is that it survives!

Bill Schmidt-Futura

Just as Winston Churchill usually had a cigar at hand, Schmidt had a pipe nearby. Here he is shown in a publicity shot with a model of the Futura. I wasn’t able to ferret out the context of the note to the left of the photo of Schmidt.

That said, Barris did a fine job of understanding the role of the Batmobile in the film and crafted the Futura to fit the role.

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Courtesy of “Chris-to-Fear” we continue with photos of old gas stations at
Curbside Classic. Here we have an unidentified Chevron station. California?

Chevron station

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Stephens’ Farmhouse, CA-99, 7 miles south of Yuba City, CA

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4 Comments

Add yours →

  1. As always.
    great articles and stories you find. Loved this one. I did not know the base car for the Batmobile.
    Some great pictures! Moving day….. Again!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bill Packard 27/02/2018 — 13:18

    Why do you think there are so few vintage Packard trucks ?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill – Thanks for visiting and leaving your question. My guess is the answer is two-fold:
      1) There weren’t really that many built to begin with and most of the ones that were built were war production. Many of those were likely lost in battle, and many of the survivors were likely left in Europe – one example being the one in Serbia that was restored. 2) After WWI, some military trucks were re-patriated to the U.S. This had the effect of driving prices down. My guess is that the depressed prices led to many trucks being scrapped where higher prices would have likely led to a higher survival rate. I know that the depressed prices for trucks was a factor in Packard’s decision to end truck production.

      I’ll forward you question to Dave Lockard, who is the unofficial Packard truck guru. I’m sure he can educate both of us! 🙂

      Like

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