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Friday, July 17, 2009

Batmobile Attracts Crowds at Syracuse Nationals

In this video you will see Adam West and Julie Newmar of the old Batman TV series and the Batmobile. Also, see only a few of the hundreds and hundreds of automobiles on display at the 2009 Syracuse Nationals.

Julie Newmar, 75, Catwoman in the 1960s "Batman" television series, strikes a pose for a fan at the Syracuse Nationals car show at the New York State Fairgrounds.

Holy hot rod! As more than 6,000 customized cars and as many as 80,000 people descend upon the New York State Fairgrounds this weekend for the Syracuse Nationals, the real star of the show is the black and red-trimmed Batmobile, from the mid-1960s television series, starring Adam West as the Caped Crusader. 

West, the original Batman, is in town all weekend signing autographs, as is Julie Newmar, one of three actresses who played Catwoman on the show. 

But it's the Batmobile, which featured atomic batteries, turbine engines and an endless supply of crime fighting tools, that's getting the most looks from a steady stream of motor heads inside the Center of Progress building. 

Here's a little known fact: The Batmobile rarely went faster than 25 mph. The car was difficult to drive, said West, 81. It was heavy and unbalanced, and the brakes often failed. The steering and suspension were unwieldy and awkward. 

"So poor Burt Ward, who played Robin, sitting beside me, was always white knuckled," West said. "It's probably the world's most famous car, and it's so beautifully designed for film," West added, "but when you have to drive in it on a daily basis, it's hard to push it over 30 mph because then they can't photograph it the way the want to. They make it look like it's going faster." The crew had to undercrank the camera, which meant they'd shoot less than the standard 24 frames per second, so when the film was projected at normal speed the car would appear to be going much faster than it really was. And those gadgets? Well before cell phones, the Batmobile introduced the car phone. 

"It was a car ahead of its time," West said. "We also had the first navigation system and the first system that enabled us to make a 180-degree turn at a high speed. "They were mostly props," West said. "But the flame out of the back of the car worked. The parachute actually did come out. I had several bruises on my shins getting in and out of the car, trying to look heroic." 

The Batmobile on display at the Fairgrounds is not one that was used in the TV series. It's owned by Chris DeFalco of Saratoga and is one of several replicas that were built later on, specifically to be displayed at car shows. 

The original, created from a car called the Futura, is owned by custom car builder George Barris. "The fun of it is people still love the Batmobile," West said. "It was so tricked out in such an absurd way. We wanted the car to look really sleek and nutty and fun." That also describes the show itself. "You've got a guy in a cape and tights running around fighting crime 24-7; this is not normal," West said. "But it worked because the kids loved it and the adults laughed with it. The car was a big part of it."

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