INTERVIEW WITH BILL SHREWSBERRY

March 2008

In the late 1960's, "Wild Bill" Shrewsberry was making a big name for himself with his wheelstander cars like the "L.A. Dart."  In 1967, Bill was picked to drive the Batmobile at various exhibition races across the United States.  Some of the places he raced the Batmobile included: KK Sports Arena, Cecil County Dragway, Motor City Dragway, Lions Drag Strip, Island Dragway, and the Irwindale Raceway.  Video and more photos of Bill driving the Batmobile can be seen here.  

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Eric: Tell us about yourself?

Bill: I am originally from Ohio and I moved to California in October 1962.  I went to work for Mickey Thompson drag racing Pontiac's stock cars. In 1965, George Hurst wanted me to drive the car they built called "Hemi Under Glass."  It was the first car to do wheelies and it was not meant to--it was very exciting. 

E: How did you get the job to drive the Batmobile?

B: I was around 20 years old when I got the job to drive the Batmobile.  Batman” was in production and they wanted more publicity for the TV show, so they had me drive the car at different dragstrips around the country.

E: What year(s) did you drag race the Batmobile? From the articles I've come across it looks like from January to September 1967.

B: Sounds about right, but may have been a little bit longer than September of 1967.

E: Can you give us the specifications of the car?

B: Holman & Moody built a blueprinted 427 C.I. motor, with a high-rise intake manifold with 2qty 4 barrel carburetors. It had an Art Carr C-6 Ford transmission with headers, and positraction with a 514 Locker rear end.  I think the car weighed approximately 3300 lbs.

E: Was the car powerful?

B: It did not want to go real fast, so it looked better when the tires were smoked or when I fishtailed the rear.

E: How fast did the Batmobile run the 1/4 mile?

B: The car ran in the 12’s.  They didn’t want the car to run too fast, so everyone could get a good look at it.  It ran a 12.05 1/4 mile at 118 mph.

E: How many runs did you do at each event?

B: 2-3 runs

E: How did the after-burner (flames from the rear) work?

B: The car had a little 3-4 gallon tank filled with gas or kerosene that produced the fire effect 

E: How did you deploy the Bat-chutes? Was there a lever or a switch?

B: The parachutes were deployed by the red handle under the arch

E: Did you ever race it against any other famous cars? If so, which ones (Munster Koach, Black Beauty, Monkeemobile, etc)?

B: I only ran exhibition runs by myself and never ran it against any other cars.  Yes, there are lots of rumors about the Batmobile racing the Green Hornet’s “Black Beauty” but that is not true.

E: Did the Batmobile have any mechanical issues while you were drag racing it? I read an article from 1967 that stated "Due to mechanical troubles, the Batmobile was unable to race."

B: No issues, it ran well with no problems.

E: Do you know why the rear canopy had four holes cut-out on each side? Was it to provide air flow so they wouldn't pull off?

B: Sorry I do not know about that.

E: Do you have photos of you with the Batmobile?

B: I’m not sure, but may have them somewhere.

E: Any mishaps or funny stories you’d like to share?

B: In Wisconsin, the after-burner was on when the Bat-parachutes were deployed and I accidentally burned them.  Also, I did get to take my kids to school in the Batmobile that was fun.

E: Did you enjoy the job?

B: I had a great time driving the Batmobile.  It was fun to do, especially at night with all the flashing lights it had!  I got to meet some great people and even people from the Batman TV show, like: Adam West, Burt Ward, Burgess Meredith, and Frank Gorshin.

E: Do you remember how much you got paid?  Was it per event?

B: I do not remember the specifics, but it was a very fair wage.  

E: What are you up to now?

B: I am in my 60’s now and I am in the Real Estate business in Southern, CA.  I still own the “L.A. Dart” and all my “wheelie cars” for the exception of one. Life has been good!

Thanks Bill!