Hot Wheels 1/18th scale 1966 Batmobile

As a child of the 1960's, I watched many a goofy, bad prime time sitcom and drama.  For every Star Trek or Gunsmoke, there was a Gilligan's Island or Munsters.  And of course, I loved them all.

And one of my favorite goofy shows was Batman.  The show ran for two and a half seasons, from 1966 to 1968, but because they ran two new shows each week, there were actually as many shows as a current five year television show.

The show is a classic spoof, with some truly hilarious themes and performances.  I will never forget, as long as I live, watching Batman collect a bowl of alphabet soup from a crime scene by placing it in his handy 'Bat-thermos', taking it back to the Batcave where he literally poured it into a slot in the Batcomputer, where a message was revealed from the remaining letters.  Now that's detective work!

Unfortunately, there has never been any sort of DVD release of the series.  The rumor is that because Warner Brothers owns Batman now, but FOX owns the old show, they can't come to an agreement.  That actually sounds fishy to me though, because when there's money to be made, most companies find a way to agree.

One of the lasting images from the old show is the classic Batmobile.  George Barris, arguably the most famous car customizer of all time, was asked to build a Batmobile for the television series, but was only given three weeks.  Rather than start from scratch, he started with a 1950's Ford concept car called the Futura.  The car was an instant hit, and has been an icon in the Batman world ever since.

Mattel has produced a number of Batmobiles in their Hot Wheels line since picking up the DC superhero license a couple years ago.  They even produced a version of the 1966 Batmobile in the 1/64th scale, the same scale as a regular Hot Wheels car.  However, it was the 1/18th version (which translates to the scale for figures approximately 4" tall) that has had collectors salivating.

There are actually three versions of the 1/18th car being released.  The first is the basic car, reviewed here tonight.  You can expect to pay around $30 for this one, and you should be able to find it at most mass market retailers (with some online suggestions at the end of the review).

There's also going to be an 'elite' edition, with 200 parts and greater detail than this regular version.  It runs around $80.  And just to wring the very last penny out of this, there's also a 'super elite' version with 400 parts, a limited edition size of 1966, and light up features.  This baby runs $275 (although there are rumors that Mattel has reset the SRP to around $155).

For the completist, there's one more version of the 1/18th scale 1966 Batmobile that was sold at last year's SDCC.  This version is the same as the basic car reviewed here, except it is flocked.  Yep, it's fuzzy like a 70's G.I. Joe head.  Believe it or not, this is actually accurate, because Barris made three 'show' cars that were used to tour the show car circuit.  At one point, these versions were giving a flocked paint job, most likely to hide cracks in their fiberglass bodies.

Packaging - ***
The package shows off the car fairly well, and makes a good use of the 60's show kitchyness, with Biff! and Pow! around the outside.

You might even call it collector friendly, since you don't have it destroy anything to free the vehicle.  You can even put it back, if you're willing to spend a little effort.  The car is held into the cardboard insert with four screws, which can be replaced fairly easily.

You can even manage to remove the tape on the plastic wrap holding the doors in place, if you try hard enough.  I just cut 'er loose, but the option is there.

Sculpting - ***1/2
Considering the price point, this is a very well done approximation of the actual car.

As I mentioned earlier, it's 1/18th scale, which comes out to action figures that are 4" on average.  That means the vehicle would look pretty good with Jack Sparrow or Darth Vader standing next to it, and hopefully the new 3 3/4" DC line will give us a great Batman to stand next to this car.  In real numbers, the car is 11 1/2 inches long, 4 inches wide, and about 2 1/4 inches tall.

The overall body style, with it's manta ray like look, is extremely accurate.  The height of the fins, where they start and end on the car, the location of various accessories, and the general shape of the front and back end are all very accurate to photos I referenced of the original screen version of the car.

Now, it's not perfect.  The shape of the front lower grills is slightly off, and slightly larger than the original vehicle.  The lack of any 'glass' for head lights is pretty obvious, but the black reflective paint does through light back pretty well.  The parachute packs on the tail aren't too detailed, but do seem to be about the right size, and are a very nice addition.  Some of the little extras are off in terms of size - the exhaust pipes seem a hair long, the antenna a hair short, and the twirly doohickey on the hood is a bit large - but these are only minor variances.  The little lights on either side of the top light are just painted red, and there's far less detail in the interior than there was in the original vehicle.  Some items like the 'Bat Emercency Lever" sign on the roof support are missing, although the lever is definitely there.

It might sound like I'm being picky, but the reality is that I'm very impressed with the actual quality and final design.  With only these few minor issues, they matched up to the actual car extremely well.

The quality of most of the materials is good as well.  The majority of the body is die cast metal, with a plastic front and back bumper.  Of course, the underside is plastic, as are most of the small items.  Some of the smallest though, like the back antenna, are in a softer rubber to avoid breakage.  The tires are solid rubber as well.

Paint - ***1/2
The paint is generally good, but I do expect that we'll see better work o the Elite and Super Elite models.

The jet black body has a nice high sheen gloss, and the red trim is very clean and even.  Decals, like the door Bat symbols look good, and there's no glopping or poor cut lines on most of the work.

The silver areas do have a few issues, and as long time collectors know, silver can be a tough color to get clean, consistent coverage.  There's a bit of slop around the steering wheel, windshield edges, and top light, but it's still fairly minor.

Features - ***
There's only two major features: the doors open, and the front wheels turn left and right.  The car rolls on all four wheels of course, but that's pretty much expected, right?

The doors are nice and sturdy, and open and close smoothly.  They fit cleanly, so you aren't rubbing or chipping anything using the feature.  They also open up to about the right distance.

The front wheels turn left to right, and they are connected to the steering wheel so that as they turn, it turns (and vice versa of course).  That's also a fairly common, standard feature for die cast cars in this scale, and it works well enough here but isn't going to get any oohs and aahs from the peanut gallery.

Accessories - Bupkis
Die cast cars usually don't come with accessories, so I'm not surprised.  This won't negatively effect my Overall, but it's worth mentioning in case you had different expectations.

Fun Factor - ***
This version of the car is intended for kids and collectors alike.  While it won't break the piggy bank, it looks terrific and has a reasonable amount of detailing.  Kids can bang it around pretty good and have plenty of fun with it, although the cramped interior means no figures sitting in the driver's seat.  If your kids are like mine, that means a broken steering wheel is in the future, because a damn figure is GOING to fit in that seat, if it's the last thing my son does.

Value - **1/2
Most 1/18th scale die cast cars run in the $25 - $30 range unless there's something extra special about them, and this car fits that model pretty well.  Having bought other die cast cars in this scale, I didn't feel ripped off, but it isn't a special value.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Not much.  Be a little careful with the softer rubber rear antenna and twirly doodad on the roof, since both of these can be torn off pretty easily.

Overall - ***1/2
The more I compared this vehicle with photos of the original, the more impressed I was.  The car is a little light on detailing, particularly inside, and I suspect the $30 price point might put off folks that aren't regular buyers of 1/18th scale vehicles.  I do wish that the front and back bumper were metal (it was pretty obvious handling the car that they weren't), and an opening hood would have been nice, but most of my nits are pretty minor, especially considering that this is the mass market low end release. 

I do expect that the $80 version will be better both in paint and detailing than this, and live up to its advertised quality.  And that $300 Super Elite version better damned well light my cigarette and smoke it for me too.  Yes, I'm crazy enough to have ordered one.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ***1/2
Paint - ***1/2
Features - ***
Accessories - Bupkis
Fun Factor - ***
Value -  **1/2
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy -
Mass retailers like Toys R Us will be carrying this basic car, but not the Elite and Super Elite.  Online options include:

- Entertainment Earth has the basic version for $36.

- YouBuyNow has the regular at $40.

- and you can search for any of the versions on ebay using the sponsor My Auction Links.

- Related Links -
I've done lots of Batman reviews, but not as many Batmobile reviews.  That's interesting, since I own just about every Batmobile ever released, as at one time I was a completist with the things.  I eventually broke free of that, but I still buy an awful lot of them.

However, I did review one of the LEGO Batmobile sets, and had a guest review of the large Batman Begins Batmobile.  I also reviewed the large version from The Batman, and the maquette from the cartoon as well.

More directly tied to this review though, I had a guest review of the 1/18th Hot Wheels version of the Batmobile from the first Burton film, and my review of the 1/24th scale Johnny Lighting 1966 model.

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Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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