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Batmobile brings $4.62M at auction

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By Bloomberg News
Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, 9:56 p.m.

PHOENIX — The original Batmobile sold for $4.62 million as Batman fans and automobile collectors joined a weekend classic-car auction in Arizona.

The vehicle from the 1960s Adam West TV show (“Pow!” “Zap!” “Kaboom!”) was joined onstage at the Barrett-Jackson event in Scottsdale by its creator, George Barris, who previously had vowed never to sell it.

Earlier, two Ferrari sports cars sold for more than $8 million each, leading auctions that include Lamborghinis, Porsches, Bugattis and Aston Martins.

“This is the second-most important series of classic-car auctions in the United States after Pebble Beach in August,” said Dietrich Hatlapa, founder and managing director of Historic Automobile Group International, a London-based independent research company.

The Batmobile was adapted by Barris in 1966 from a Ford concept car called the Lincoln Futura, a bubble-windowed coupe handbuilt in Italy. It had been estimated to fetch as much as $5 million in a Jan. 19 sale of more than 1,400 cars.

The custom car has a fake jet exhaust in the back (a painted 10-gallon bucket), and two packed parachutes that work, used to effect a “Bat turn.”

The Caped Crusader's cruiser is almost 20 feet long and has controls for various imaginary James Bond-like gadgets on the dash. They include oil slicks, an ejector, rockets, nails and an anti-theft system. There is also a Batphone and a 500-horsepower engine.

During the TV show, which ran from 1966 to 1968, molds were made from the original and about a half-dozen fiberglass replicas were created for stunt work and promotional events. In 2007, one sold at auction for $233,000.

Barris calls himself the “King of the Kustomizers” and has made innumerable TV and movie cars, including the “Back to the Future” DeLorean, “The A-Team” van and KITT Trans Am.

A metallic-blue 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider led Gooding & Company's Jan. 18-19 event with a price of $8.25 million, just beating the $8.1 million paid for a dark-red 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta “Competizione” at RM Auctions.

Russo & Steele and Bonhams are also holding auctions.

The HAGI index of exceptional classic-car prices advanced 16.1 percent in 2012, said Rising values for the most desirable Ferrari sports roadsters of the 1950s and 1960s was one of the key trends of the market last year, along with a surge in demand for collectable Porsches following the 40th anniversary of the 911 RS model, Hatlapa said.

The Ferrari sold at Gooding was an early production model with Scaglietti coachwork. It was one of only 23 examples with covered headlights and had been estimated to sell for between $5.5 million and $7 million, based on hammer prices.

In August, at the bellwether series of auctions in California, Gooding sold a 1960 “competition” 250 GT California Spyder, formerly owned by the late New England collector Sherman M. Wolf, for $11.3 million against a presale valuation of $7 million to $9 million.

The first session of Gooding's Scottsdale auction raised more than $28 million, with six cars breaking the million-dollar barrier.

“The macro-economic environment still favors tangible assets,” Hatlapa said. “Though the market dipped a little at the end of last year, demand for classic cars was strong in 2012.”

The Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta sold by RM Auctions was one of just 74 Competizione-specification SWB examples produced, retained its original engine and chassis, and featured desirable alloy coachwork. It had passed through the hands of only four owners, said the Canadian-based auction house.

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