2002.09.04 Forget a Corvette, I'm buying the Batmobile

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

I recently ran into a friend who owns a Buick Regal Grand National, one of my dream cars of the mid 1980s. Black, turbocharged V-8, and only door numbers and a few stickers short of being able to compete on the Winston Cup circuit.

My friend said he had only put about 6,000 miles on the car in the seven years he’s owned it and probably spends more time keeping it spotless than driving it. I offered to swap him a perfectly good Chevy Caprice he could drive year-round with no fear of having to keep it clean. When he was able to stop laughing, he politely turned down my offer, but ever since, I keep being reminded of classic cars.

Later at home, I came across a catalog I received some time ago from the Corvette business in Napoleon, Ohio. They claim to have over 150 classic Corvettes in stock, and the catalog lists more than that. I never was a huge Corvette nut, but I liked the mid-1960s body style so I checked out that section to see what was available.

Sure enough, they had a 1965 Corvette coupe, red with black interior, automatic, air, AM/FM radio, etc. “Looks, runs and drives excellent…$36,995.” Do you suppose they’d take a 1985 Caprice in trade? Then I’d only owe them, say $36,900?

No chance of that happening, of course, but the catalog is fascinating reading. The company’s customers include Olympian Todd Eldredge, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and Dale Earnhardt, who bought wife Teresa a 1958 Corvette just weeks before his fatal accident.

They have recently sold cars belonging to Burt Reynolds and Reggie Jackson. Country singer Alan Jackson stopped in to test drive a few Corvettes, but apparently hasn’t found any to his liking yet.

I got the biggest kick out of the description of a 1953 Corvette, which the company had recently purchased. The previous owner, who had held onto the car for 32 years, “stored this prize in a missile silo, where he lived.” You know there’s got to be more to this story than just an old man with a Corvette, but no further details are given.

If I had really been interested in a classic car, the place to be would have been Auburn, Ind., last weekend. That’s the annual site of what’s purported to be the “World’s Largest Collector Car Auction and Show.” With over 5,000 cars expected to be displayed and/or auctioned, the claim is probably valid.

Auburn is the home of the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum and their annual ACD Festival takes place the same weekend as the auction and show. Having toured the ACD Museum, I’d make the trip again just for that. The rest of the festivities would make for a great mini-vacation.

The auction website offers listings for everything from Jaguars to Jeeps, Cords to Crosleys and Saturns to Studebakers. There’s even a list of cars that won’t be at Auburn, but are available for sale including a 1976 Rolls-Royce originally owned by Reggie Jackson, a 1968 Shelby Mustang once owned by Jimmy Conners and Reggie White’s 1955 Chevy Bel Air.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far, however, pales in comparison to one car that was on display at Auburn, but not available for sale there but instead from Warner Brothers: the Batmobile from “Batman Returns” and more recently, television commercials for OnStar.

I love the option list: Jet turbine, smoke screen, oil slick, voice-actuated control, twin machine guns and grappling hooks, just to name a few. It’s the perfect car when you have to go Christmas shopping at the mall.

Warner Brothers, of course, or probably their lawyers, is selling the car for display only and certain restrictions and contract requirements must be met, with Warners reserving the right of buyer approval. But since this is the Batmobile, I’d bet they’re just trying to keep it out of the hands of The Joker. After all, how are they going to enforce their restrictions after the car leaves their hands? Send Bugs Bunny along to guard it?

The more I think about this, the more I’m considering calling Warner Brothers for their buyer approval package. When the deer start running across the highways this fall, I’m planning to be prepared.

    – Sept. 4, 2002 
  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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