Sing to the tune of Dylan’s ‘Rising Sun’: “There is a house down in Agatha | They call the ragin’ bull!” Seemingly it is cars week for me: Lamborghini has done it again, as they already did when I was kid. Back in 1971 the first prototype of the ↑ Countach was introduced—the futuristic aztec architecture flabbergasted the audience, and several years later, when it went into production and on sale, us kids, too. We were standing at our preferred kiosk and wondered at glossy magazine pictures of that supercar of a never-seen-before kind. The car-magazines featuring the Countach even edged out the Batman-comics on the shelf nearby, at least for some time. Now, at the Salon d’Automobile 2005 at Geneva, Lamborghini showed off the ↑ Concept S—after the ↑ Diablo, the ↑ Murciélago, and the ↑ Gallardo the fourth reincarnation of the immortal Countach. A German newspaper said, with the Concept S Lamborghini is going for the future and for people who have nothing to say to each other, as the passengers are separated by the engine’s windpipe. Well, if you ever rode in a Lamborghini, you know that its pure piston sound already suffices to render every conversation an utter impossibility—no material separation of the car’s inmates needed. The raging bull says: “The classic single-seaters did not have a traditional windscreen, but utilised the so-called ‘saute-vent’ (in French: a sudden change in the wind) in order to direct air over the head of the driver – and so does the “Concept S”. These devices divide the cabin into two distinct compartments, giving the car an aggressive and futuristic look and also creating a space between them that acts as an additional air inlet for the powerful engine, which is positioned behind the seats.” (official press release)
Well, in the 1950s Bill Schmidt, then chief stylist at Lincoln Mercury, had similar visions of what looks futuristic. Based on his ideas the Ford Motor Company built the ↑ Lincoln Futura, a concept car, which saw the light of day in 1955. “The most revolutionary car to appear on the American road in the past decade was revealed at the Chicago Auto Show, January 8 to 16, 1955.” (↑ official press release) Coincidentally the Futura’s body was made by Ghia in Italy—Lamborghini’s homeland—and its original color was white, just like the Concept S’. The Futura toured the motor-show circuit before it was sold to ↑ George Barris, self-proclaimed ‘King of the Kustomizers’ (this was allegedly the first time of ‘custom’ being spelled with a ‘k’—an early case of ↵1337-speech ). Barris had the Futura appear in the occasional movie, then stowed it safely away.
In 1965 Barris was asked to create a ↑ Batmobile for the upcoming television series, but was only given three weeks time. He pulled the Futura out of storage, painted it black, completely turned the car inside out, and built the Batmobile upon it.
In the picture George Barris is shown together with Bob Kane (1916-1998)—the taller guy in the dark suit—, the creator of Batman. Batman has appeared for the first time in 1939 and since then became a globally recognized character, appearing in print, movies, TV, and on countless pieces of merchandise. with George Barris’ 1966 Batmobile the concept of the globalized costumed mythical superhero artistically appropriates the equally global concept automobile. It may seem a little far-fetched, but customizing cars for telling stories on the silver screen is the movie-maker’s cultural appropriation of the motorvehicle.
Now imagine Lamborghini’s Concept S varnished in a shiny black, the raging bull emblem on its hood substituted by the simplified silhouette of a bat on yellow background … Welcome to the 21st century, Dark Knight.
UPDATE (08 November 2012):
The Los Angeles Times carries a ↑feature article on Barris.