Cruisin' the Coast

First-ever Batmobile to be auctioned off at Cruisin’ the Coast

The first Batmobile, a 1956 Oldsmobile, is one of the featured cars up for sale at the Vicari Auction at this year’s Cruisin’ The Coast.
The first Batmobile, a 1956 Oldsmobile, is one of the featured cars up for sale at the Vicari Auction at this year’s Cruisin’ The Coast.

Like the town square of the 1950s and ’60s, the Coast Coliseum on Beach Boulevard in Biloxi is where Cruisers head to see and be seen.

With a central location and lots of space indoors and out, the Coast Coliseum and Convention Center has hosted Cruisin’ since the event’s inception, said executive director Matt McDonnell. This year’s Cruisin’ events hold appeal to all generations of car buffs.

Highlights are:

▪  Vicari Auto Auction has grown to fill the entire 145,000 square feet of the showroom at the Convention Center, McDonnell said. It takes the whole week to set up for the three-day auction Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 5-7, and then send the cars off to the new owners, he said. The sale begins at 10 a.m. Thursday and at 9 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and admission is $15. Children 10 and under admitted free with a paid adult.

Even those who aren’t buying or selling this year will enjoy checking out the cars and being in the crowd when the auctioneers sell 500 antique and classic cars to the highest bidders. The best cars are auctioned at the end of the day, and among this year’s featured cars is the original 1963 Batmobile, the earliest known car ever sanctioned by a DC Comics licensee, said Tripp Rabalaif, general manager of Vicari Auction based in Louisiana.

“It’s a big deal that this car resurfaced,” he said, calling it a piece of “artistic and comic book history.” Built using the framework of a 1956 Oldsmobile 88 and a 324 Rocket engine, according to the company’s website, the car was designed with a dorsal fin in the back, a bat-nose front end and pocket sliding doors.

Forrest Robinson, then 23, and his friend Len Perham worked on the car in a barn on Robinson’s family farm in New England until he was sent overseas by the Army. The custom-designed fiberglass body was completed in 1963, before the Lincoln that was used in the classic 1960s TV show. The car toured the Eastern U.S. as “Batman’s Batmobile” until late 1966. Robinson then painted the car space-age silver and used it for commuting to work.

Rabalaif said the cars that bring the most at auction aren’t the oldest, but the ’50s and ’60s models on a new powertrain. Put a Denali motor in a classic, and he said, “It still looks like a ’57 Chevy, but it runs like a brand new Denali.”

▪  Autocross. The Racing Rednecks will be back for the third year, setting up a course in the Coliseum parking lot just west of the parking garage, where registered cruisers can see how they and their ’57 Chevy or those 1960s Mustangs and Camaros handle the turns. Presented by Golden Nugget Casino, the Autocross expands to three days this year and is free and open only to registered cruisers. Hours are 1-5 p.m. Monday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. TV host and car enthusiast Cristy Lee will swing by the Autocross from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesday.

▪  The Swap Meet/Manufacturers Midway has 250 vendors and spreads out on the front grounds, inside the arena and through part of the convention center, McDonnell said. It’s from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and has everything car related from fuzzy dice to an engine. “You name it, you can buy it,” he said, and plenty of browsers and shoppers are expected. “That event normally will draw over 25,000,” he said.

▪  Inkin The Coast is a tattoo and arts festival for those who arrive in South Mississippi ahead of Cruisin’ The Coast. This is the 7th annual event is Sept. 29 and 30 and brings tattoo artists from around the world and TV personalities from such as “Inkmasters.” Admission is $20 a day or $45 for a weekend pass.

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