1961 was the year of the Batmobile

Judging from the 1960 Mechanix Illustrated preview of the 1961 Detroit auto lineup, 61 was the year of the Batmobile. It's all bubble roofs, tailfins, huge anthropomorphic grilles, and go-faster curves.
So far as the standard lines are concerned, the biggest change for 1960 will be the virtual abandonment of fins by the finniest company--Chrysler. Sweeping fender lines will be seen on the 1961 Plymouth rather than the upraised extensions of the past; there will be a complete re- vamping of that line's body shell in the wake of its not-fully-successful 1960 selling season.

The smoothing and new treatment of the Plymouth will be echoed in variations on the other Chrysler Corp. cars; the fin treatments on those other cars will be reduced to a bare minimum. And the daddy of big fins, Cadillac, is going to de-fin if reports are true.

What some stylists call "blades" will tend to replace fins all through the industry, blade treatment being what you saw this past year on Ford and Chevrolet.

The Chrysler wedge shape will continue but less exaggeratedly. GM bodies will provide more headroom. Ford's bodies will be more square at the corners than heretofore; their blades will slant upward a little more than was the case in 1960. Ford will introduce a kind of grille treatment at the rear, embellished with bull's-eye taillights like those of past years.

PREVIEW OF THE 1961 CARS (Jul, 1960)


  1. You’ve put the car before the bat. Batman the TV show premiered in 1966. The batmobile was futuristic already. :-)

    1. The batmobile was futuristic already. :-)

      And that batmobile was built by Barris on the foundation of the Lincoln Futura concept, which was built in 1954.

      Just goes to show how ahead of their time the Ghia designers were.

  2. That would have been the best-looking Corvette ever, by far. The ’63 was but a pale, watered-down Chevette by comparison.

    Hell, all three of these are incredibly cool.

  3. Here’s a swinging version of the Batman theme by Sun Ra to accompany your early 1960s fantasy automobile reverie:

  4. “Finally, appearing in growing numbers in 1961 will be electric cars, the first in about 40 years. Most are currently being tested in commercial fleet operation. But as more efficient batteries are developed it seems likely that the “silents” will be earning a place as popular second cars for short-haul commuting and city travel.”

    Whaaaaat? Cars that run on electricity? Slow down there, Buck Rogers, this isn’t some sort of science fiction writing contest about life on Mars. This is America. You can get a gallon of high test premium ethyl for a quarter, and it will ALWAYS be that way.

    Electric cars he says. Ho-ho, what a maroon.

      1. Ah: what of this, then?

        “The “lead” in leaded gasoline was a chemical called tetraethyl lead (C2H5)4 Pb, which was added both to boost octane number and to lubricate valve seats. It was often called “ethyl” for short.”



        …so “unleaded ethyl” = no such thing, I guess.

        These obsolete technologies and their jargon….tsk.

  5. It’s a pity that aerodynamics, pedestrian/passenger-safety and risk avoidance have made cars so dull.

    Let’s be honest: all major cars look similar nowadays.

    1. So true. I can’t tell the difference between a Hyundai, Mercedes or Lexus sedan, (as well as numerous numerous others. Forget about even attempting differentiating between SUV models.

  6. Watered-down Chevette? That’s a pretty egregious insult to the ‘Vette – and anachronistic to boot, Donald! The Chevette didn’t come along until the 1976 model year (1973 in Brazil). It was a cheap, rear-live-axle subcompact that had no kinship whatsoever with any Corvette ever made.

    A girlfriend of mine in the early ’80s had a Chevette. The rear hatch window came loose flew out one day while she was driving on the expressway. On yet another day, the rear axle fractured internally, and the car ground to a stop. Ah, the memories.

    1. Watered-down Chevette?

      Oh, yes… I know the Chevettes well, and I meant every word. Well, not really to insult the ’63 Corvette, which before today was my favorite Vette, aesthetically speaking.

      My hyperbole was just to show how much I love the above-pictured concept, right down to the “periscope” rearview mirror. God, that thing’s gorgeous.

      Now I wonder which car was worse: the Chevette, or the Dodge Omni? Or maybe the Ford Festiva?

      1. All those vehicles were competitors with the Dodge Vegomatic, praised in this song:

        …were they not?

        Rock’n’roll’n’cars… A long-time partnership.

      2. Gotta go with the Festiva as the worst: gutless and looked like a shoe. The Chevette at least has some retro 70’s vibe, even if a poorly made automobile. My buddy in high school had an Omni: and I have to say that 2.2l was surprisingly fast (at least compared to my 81 Ford Escort. . .)

        Then the Omni failed somehow in the weatherstripping department and the cab would fill with water after it rained: thus to be renamed Lake Omni.

    1. Exactly what I was thinking. Somebody gave the designers a picture of the D-type (or possibly a lotus 11) and told them “Like this…but with chrome!”

  7. Did they not use articles (a/the) much in the ’60s or was this not written by a native English speaker? Or both?

  8. Actually, 1955 was the year of the Batmobile. That was when the Lincoln Futura concept car was shown at the New York Auto Show. It was later sold to the great customiser George Barris, who used it as the basis for the Batmobile in 1966. He didn’t tweak it too much either – it already had the double bubble canopies and the sinister hooded headlights.

    PS Sorry I began my comment with “Actually”…

  9. The 1961-era cars have a special isolated weirdness all their own, especially stuff from Val Exner. The 1961 Pioneer is one of my favorites.

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