Arguably one of the coolest rides ever conceived may be the Batmobile from the Tim Burton Batman films starring Michael Keaton as the caped crusader. The original model still exists, and though replicas have been made, none have been made with a jet turbine engine — until this year.
Casey Putsch, 29, is a racing and design enthusiast who runs Putsch Racing out of Dublin, Ohio, and he pieced together the only turbine-powered Batmobile, other than the original. In an interview, Putsch told me he had come up with the concept mentally and began work based on what his vision was. He describes the car as a mix of automotive, auto racing and aviation engineering.
The final result is a car that is powered by a 365-horsepower Boeing turboshaft engine that controls the rear wheels through a four-speed gearbox with reverse. "It's not thrust-driven like a jet fighter, it's a turboshaft engine that a helicopter would run on," he says.
The engine was initially used in the late-1960s by the U.S. Navy for a radio-operated helicopter drone designed to drop torpedoes on enemy submarines from above. It runs on diesel, jet fuel or kerosene. "The reason I used that one was simply because its configuration blended itself perfectly in its application," he adds.
The rest of the body is a mix of concepts. Putsch says no car kit or donor chassis was used, though the suspension, drive train and steering rack come from Corvettes. He built the monocoque chassis, custom-designed the tubular frame and fabricated the other parts himself to get the outer look he wanted.
"It's very, very custom," he says. "The Batmobile, throughout its history on film or TV going back to the campy 60s show, has always been portrayed as being turbine-powered. The cars in the movies were merely props, and replicas that people built afterward ran on regular V8 engines."
He's quick to point out that he "drew the line at making it bulletproof," though he could've done it if he wanted to. Contrary to some press about the vehicle, it doesn't actually have machine gun turrets that pop out, nor does it fire rockets. And there are no wraparound shields, or a remote control where the driver can issue commands the car obeys.
It has headlights, brake lights, signal lamps, a horn and even windshield wipers. The tires are large with big aluminum wheels, both of which adhere to the U.S. Department of Transportation's regulations.
On the inside, the car seats two comfortably, and there is an iPad mounted in the middle of the dash, with Internet access, GPS and a police scanner to boot.
Putsch put the car up for auction on eBay with an asking price of $620,000 (U.S.) and, despite getting a few worthwhile offers, he hasn't budged yet. "It's an expensive numberbut there are far more common Ferraris that cost that much or more, and if you were to have something like this built by any company or person, the project alone would cost more than that," he says.
Putsch's Batmobile is street-driveable, has been insured (in the U.S.) and prospective buyers can be based anywhere, he says.