Columns

2002.09.04 Forget a Corvette, I'm buying the Batmobile

on . Posted in Nowhere Road

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 

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