The original 1963 Batmobile made its debut three years before the first Batman television show, and Hurricane Nate has added another thrilling chapter to its legend.
As Nate took aim at Biloxi, the final days of Cruisin’ The Coast were consolidated, and the Vicari Auction jammed its two biggest days of classic and antique car auction into one long day on Oct. 6.
Normally they sell cars from 10 a.m. to about 6 p.m. during Cruisin’, said Tripp Rabalaif, general manager of Vicari Auction, based in Louisiana. That Friday they started early at 9 a.m., and he said, “We were selling cars up until 10 o’clock at night.”
The Coast Convention Center was packed with people and cars. Rabalaif said he was busy doing other things and not closely following the action, until the crowd alerted him something special was happening.
“I hear the roar and then I turn around and see what car was in the ring,” he said.
Two bidders were in the audience and running up the price for the Batmobile, the black and red beauty with trademark fin, and the earliest known car ever sanctioned by a DC Comics licensee. As the bids climbed over $1 million, “It was deafening,” he said.
When the high bid hit $1.35 million, the auctioneer thought he saw a nod that the seller would accept the bid, and the car was announced as sold, Rabalaif said.
“Everybody thought that the owner took the final bid,” he said.
But the bid was not enough, and the owner decided not to sell.
Vicari Auction can’t reveal the seller’s minimum reserve price on the car, Rabalaif said, but he believes it will sell at a future Vicari Auction.
“The guy who thought he bought it was a little disappointed, but he also understood,” he said.
The car is one of a kind, completed in three years by Forrest Robinson of Westmoreland, New Hampshire,
using a 1956 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 chassis powered by an Oldsmobile Rocket 324 cubic inch engine and a handmade custom body.
He left the car unpainted with just a coat of white primer, and did not have time to complete the glass-domed room before he went overseas with the U.S. Army. It later was painted in Batman colors and used to advertise ice cream. The car was returned to Robinson in 1966, the same year the television show debuted, and sat in a field in New Hampshire for almost 50 years before it was found and restored.
“We toured it around all year thinking he was going sell it,” Rabalaif said. “I think this gentleman realizes somebody, probably with celebrity status and with a collection, would be willing to pay a fortune for this car.”
There’s no doubt the Batmobile was “The Car,” at this year’s auction, he said, but he feels the real story is how the buyers, sellers and staff came together to complete the auction.
The staff at the Coast Convention Center was so accommodating, he said. “That’s why we have been there for 21 years,” he said, and why they plan to be back again next year, possibly adding a spring sale in Biloxi.
“We are negotiating to come back in March,” he said. Vicari Auction has a collection consigned to them, and he said he’s fairly certain the collection will come to Biloxi.