eBay Classic: 1960 Imperial Crown Coupe–If Batman Were a Mopar Guy

Just saw this amazing black Imperial coupe on eBay.  I could definitely see Batman and Robin driving around in this–that is, if George Barris had never customized the Lincoln Futura dream car into the Batmobile.  In fact, people call a lot of cars of this era “Batmobiles”;  like the ’59 Cadillac and Buick, the 60-61 Chryslers, and yes, this ’60 Imperial coupe would inevitably be called a “Batmobile” by onlookers who have never seen such a car before.

Above: 1955 Lincoln Futura dream car. Below: Same car, customized into the Batmobile.


The 1955 Futura/Batmobile and the production cars which came after it all shared similar styling themes:  bodies that were longer, lower, wider, and sleeker with forward-thrusting lines and an emphasis on the horizontal.  There were hooded headlamps, jet cockpit wraparound windshields, and long, high, graceful fins.  Like most major innovations, all of the Big Three American auto manufacturers embraced this same general look at about the same time.  Some people blame LSD, others contend it was the forward evolution of car styling features that were successful in the past, or that it was simply an outgrowth of the optimistic, future-focused Space Age fascination of the times.  Or maybe an idea took shape in the “collective unconscious” and inspired auto stylists simply were able to pick up on it.

The whole “Batmobile” concept has a strong grip on popular culture.  Everybody knows what a Batmobile is.  Newer versions of the Batmobile retain key aspects of the original:  a long, low, dramatically styled coupe in black, with exaggerated “futuristic” design features and big fins.

When I was an elementary school age kid, I religiously watched Batman on Channel 11 (WPIX, New York) at 5:00 PM weekdays.  I loved the characters and how they looked, the Batcave, the music, and of course, the Batmobile.

In fact, Mom’s ’62 Mercury Comet looked (to me) sort of like a Batmobile!  (From a kid’s-eye point of view, the car’s fins and jet-like tail lights looked bigger and stood out more than to a tall adult).

One thing Mom’s Comet didn’t do was shoot flames out the exhaust like the real Batmobile.  This led to a conversion with my dad:

Me:  “Dad, what causes flames to come out of a car’s exhaust?”

Dad:  “A backfire could cause that.”

Me:  “What makes a car backfire?”

Dad:  “If the fuel/air mixture is too rich, a car could backfire.”

Me:  “Could you make the mixture rich on the Comet so flames can shoot out the exhaust?”

Dad:  “No.”

But let’s return to our subject Imperial.  It’s such a stunning car–you look at the overpowering size, the voluptuous sculpturing, the exaggerated fins and gullwing bumpers and how it all flows together–and you can’t believe that a serious car company had the audacity to actually build something like this and offer it to the buying public.

Here are more selected photos:

All this restoration, and nobody can find the missing crests and trim pieces over the headlights!






Yes, you could get a “Batphone” in your new Imperial!  Electro-luminescent gauges have a beautiful green glow.



Compare to original Lincoln Futura dashboard


Here’s the “Batmobile” version. A 1959-60 Chevy speedometer was used. There was an episode where a villain rigged the Batmobile so that if the speedometer went over 60 MPH, the car would blow up. The camera kept focusing on that speedometer as Batman and Robin were driving. Luckily, Batman stayed within the speed limit, and no one blew up.


Back to the Imperial:  Dash-mounted directional signal lever at left; push buttons for TorqueFlite transmission; parking brake release under speedometer.





The engine: 413 cubic inch V-8, 10.1 to 1 compression ratio, 350 horsepower.



I always like to see what Consumer Reports had to say:

Anyway, I know these Imperials are great cars because I used to own one–a Willow Green ’62.  However, I sold it and got another kind of “Batmobile”–a 1959 Chevrolet!

So there’s a 1960 Imperial for you–a tangible reminder that there actually was a time when ordinary people drove real-life Batmobiles–commuting, picking up groceries, visiting relatives, going on vacations.  And those Batmobiles took many forms:  Imperials, Chryslers, DeSotos, Lincolns, Thunderbirds, Cadillacs, Buicks, Chevrolets, and others.  And, if you’re so inclined, you can still pick one up today–and cruise down the highway in your own personal time machine.

(Photo from Flickr by Alex Bristol)