June 2001

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Michael working on the replicas in 1966 

 

Known in the 60's as Gale Black, a car customizer "metal guy", Michael worked for George Barris for 7 years.  While he was there he worked on numerous projects including the Futura/Batmobile conversion and the subsequent Batmobile replicas.  He also spent time in the late 60's touring with the replicas.

 

Eric: How many people worked on modifying the Futura into the Batmobile?

Michael: Five guys. 

E: Who were the five guys?

M: Myself, then known as "Gale Black", "Korky" Korkes, Bill Cushenbery, Roy "Tubs" Johnson (painter from Detroit), and Les Tompkins.

E: Where was the Batmobile built?

M: At Barris Kustom City on Riverside Drive in North Hollywood.

E: What happened to all the Futura's old parts?

M: Tossed them!  There was the center section of the canopies that hung on the wall which was also seen in a movie (not related to Batman).

E: How were the door bats applied on the #1?

M: Probably yellow glue by 3M, but not sure.

E: Where did you get the beacon light and the props for the #1 and the replicas?

M: "Joe Factors" surplus parts store, on Burbank and I think Buena Vista.

E: What was the original trim color?

M: The original paint color was a 1956 Ford Carousel red (pinkish-red) RM paint.  After taking the molds off the original, it was sent back to the studios. The original and reproductions were then taped with a red fluorescent tape from Geomolite Plastics on Caheunga Blvd.

E: Why was the car originally painted flat black with a white stripe, etc?

M: It was primered black and sent to the studios for their feedback on paint colors, etc.  At that time I worked on the aluminum blade that slid out of the front nose.  We had creative license to do what we wanted.

E: Did you work on the repairs of the #1 when the car was breaking down in 1966?

M: Yes, we put a new engine in and popped molds off of it for the replicas.  The #1 had to be re-painted after the molds were taken from it. 

E: How many replicas were built by Barris' shop?

M: Three including the Dragster.

E: In what years were the replicas built?

M: All three in 1966

E: What chassis was used to build the replicas?

M: 1965/66 Ford Galaxie

E: When were molds pulled from the #1?

M: In 1966 we worked a long weekend (Friday to Tuesday) making the 3 cars.

E: Who were the people who worked on the replicas?                             

M: About 8 guys including, Myself, Richard "Korky" Korkes, 2 guys from Cal Automotive (one was John Green).  

E: Were any of the replicas used on the TV show or 1966 movie?

M: No, only the real car. 

E: Did you build a metal replica or are you familiar with a metal replica (#5) that George may have won in a lawsuit/dispute?

M: In January 1967, I was touring with one of the replicas and I saw a duplicate (unauthorized) Batmobile at the same car show that I was at with the Batmobile.  It was metal and looked just like the original, but a little different in shape.  I immediately  called Barris to notify him of the car and the next thing you know there were two Marshals that came down to seize the car.  The owner never saw his car again!

E: Did the Dragster have a manual or automatic transmission?

M: The Dragster may have had an automatic transmission but it was changed to a manual 4 speed Ford Top-Loader.  

E: Did the Dragster have any unique features?

M: Its engine and we rigged it up so it could shoot flames out of the exhaust/turbine area.

E: What engine did the Dragster have?

M: 427 C.I. Holman & Moody.

E: Who professionally drove the Dragster Batmobile on the racetrack?

M: Bill Shrewsberry

E: Did the replicas originally all have rear canopies?

M: Yes, it would have ruined the lines if they didn't.

E: Originally where any of the replicas flocked?  Was it to hide stress cracks from the fiberglass?

M: No, maybe the "#5" metal one was.  The molds that were pulled were good!  

 

A special thank you to Mr. Black for his time and all the great information and stories!