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The Batman: on the trail of the Batmobile

Dominik Bärlocher
Zurich, on 29.03.2022

Dodge Challenger or Charger, Mickey Thompson tyres and NOS. The Batmobile from «The Batman» exists in the real world.

A criminal is on the run. From Batman. He gets behind the wheel of his car and speeds off down the streets of Gotham City. The greater the distance between him and the dark avenger, the better.

The dark avenger takes up the pursuit. In an alleyway, flames blaze from the exhaust pipes. This is exactly why the man in the bat costume built a car to begin with. Built in the Batcave, the car is both a means of transportation and a weapon. The car itself looks like a wild animal and roars like one, too. Its massive front bumper gives you an idea of what might happen if the Batmobile were to hit something.

But the most fascinating part? The new Batmobile looks like it could exist outside of the movie. And so I set out to track down the Batmobile, just like Batman followed the Riddler’s trail in the movie. What’s under the hood? What is the man in black driving? What tricks does the Batmobile have in store?

My search takes me away from the magic of movies. Instead, it involves a toy brand from Denmark, a garage in the canton of Aargau, physics, a kids’ book and electromobility.

The answer is in the detail

Identifying the Batmobile is a piece of cake for car fans. I double-check with two colleagues who are also car fans. They confirm my first guess: «Definitely a Dodge,» says car photographer Giosue Ceniviva. American muscle fan Rainer Bächli agrees. What type of Dodge proves to be a more difficult question: «Hm, that’s a tricky one. I’d say it’s a Dodge Charger.» The defining factor is the shape of the roof along with the hood, which protrudes over the radiator grill.

Someone who’d know for sure is Ash Thorp. He’s the man behind the early sketches and the overall design of the vehicle. Unfortunately, he didn’t respond to my e-mail. Production Designer James Chinlund is also keeping quiet.

An early design sketch of the Batmobile
An early design sketch of the Batmobile
Ash Thorp

What we do know is that in the world of «The Batman», Bruce Wayne – played by Robert Pattinson – converted a car. A job he did by hand in an abandoned subway station that serves as his Batcave. In several scenes, there’s an engine without a car in the background. It’s the engine that will later drive the turbine at the rear of the car. So, everyone agrees that the side trim has been completely redone. «The curved fenders could indicate a Buick Riviera,» says Rainer. However, after giving it some thought, Rainer sticks to his first guess, the Dodge Challenger. Just like the car magazine Motor Biscuit, he even goes so far as to insist it’s a «Second Generation Charger».

Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack with 392 Hemi engine
Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack with 392 Hemi engine
Dominik Bärlocher

All that’s missing now is an official confirmation. Anything about «old Charger or new Challenger» that will turn the assumption of a journalist, photographer and a company owner into a hard fact. Matt Reeves, the director and mastermind behind «The Batman», did not go into the car in much detail. In The Nerdist, Reeves only states that the Batmobile is Bruce Wayne’s home-built project.

The trail: 136 pages of a kids’ book laced with some «The Fast and The Furious»

As is usual for the Batman franchise, there are countless merchandise items and tie-ins available. One of them is a book for children between the ages of eight and twelve. In «The Batman: Before the Batman: an Original Movie Novel», author David Lewman tells the story of young Bruce Wayne. He builds a car that will one day be the Batmobile and uses it to participate in illegal road races.

The Batman: Before the Batman: an Original Movie Novel
The Batman: Before the Batman: an Original Movie Novel

The vehicle Bruce is working on is described as a «muscle car from the 1960s and 1970s». Which would support team «old Charger». But much of the design of the old Charger models has been carried over into the new Challenger models. Meanwhile, the Charger has evolved into a five-door car since the 2006 sixth-generation model.

Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner
Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner
NME.com

By the way: in order to take part undercover in Gotham’s illegal street races, Bruce Wayne calls himself «Paul» in the book. Alarm bells are going off among car fans. Fast cars, street racing and the name Paul ... who could that be? It wouldn’t happen to be Paul Walker who played Brian O’Conner in «The Fast and The Furious» franchise? I inquired with the book’s author David Lewman but have not received a reply.

The trail leads nowhere.

The detectives: YouTube does some uncovering

In addition to tie-ins and Oreo cookies with Batman faces, Warner Bros, the studio behind «The Batman», has organised events to go with the film. At these events, visitors get to see original costumes and other props from the movie. At the heart of this exhibition is the Batmobile. London-based Youtuber Rana65556 not only provided the world with great close-ups of the vehicle, but also found a person at the exhibition who knows exactly what’s up there on that podium.

The most insightful videos on the subject are the following three. I recommend that you watch them. In any case, I’ll be talking about the video’s most important aspects throughout the article and will add screenshots to illustrate the content.

The crew from Car Throttle was also at the event and they have further details.

Reporting from France, Movie Cars Central have footage shot by their masked presenter shot in broad daylight. He knows many technical details about the vehicle, and is also of the opinion that the windows are definitely Mopar. Mopar is the parent company of Dodge.

The three detectives from London and Paris and the experts in Switzerland are starting to paint a clear picture of the Batmobile. The «old Charger» being the main source of inspiration is as good as confirmed. «New Challenger» works too, as its design is almost identical. According to Rana65556’s video, a total of four Batmobiles were used in the film – with each of them serving a different purpose. However, only two of them are equipped with an engine. Although old Chargers are widespread, they’re now considered collectors’ items. Does this mean a new Challenger was used?

The V8 engine of the Batmobile
The V8 engine of the Batmobile
Franck Galiègue

The model in Paris’ eighth district, filmed by Franck Galiègue – the man behind the Movie Cars Central mask – could be the same model Rana65556 and Car Throttle saw in London. Franck says the body is clearly Mopar.

Plymouth Road Runner
Plymouth Road Runner
AmazingClassicCars.com

Then Franck says something that could throw the whole Mopar theory out the window: «It could also be a Plymouth Road Runner.» He’s referring to a Plymouth model that hasn’t existed for a long time. The two Swiss experts disagree: «The shape of the roof is completely different on the Road Runner. Who would take a Road Runner for its shapes and then stick a Dodge roof on it?»

The width of the rear tyre
The width of the rear tyre
Car Throttle

Alex Kersten and Jack Joy of Car Throttle know that the bumper isn’t just a bumper, it’s a type of ram. The steel bumper is welded to a frame that runs throughout the Batmobile. This means that the movie’s Bruce Wayne has eliminated all of the vehicle’s crumple zones. In other words, there’s nothing to cushion the impact when the Batmobile hits another car.

Car Throttle also has first details about the engine performance. With its two turbochargers, the V8 engine in the rear – which is apparently fully functional – delivers 700 brake horsepower (bhp). Converted into local horsepower, that’s 693 hp. Rana65556 disagrees with the information. In his video, the exhibition employee states that the engine only delivers 650 bhp, or 643 hp.

In addition, the Batmobile has a four-wheel drive, which can be turned on or off as needed. The modes are front-wheel drive, four-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive, according to Car Throttle. «This Batmobile can do everything you see in the movies in real life,» says Jack.

One of the stunt cars was specifically designed for jumps. Although a steel frame is useful for this purpose, a steel ram at the front only adds superfluous weight. So for the «Jump Mobile», a Batmobile was constructed with a bumper made of fibreglass, which is 100 kilogrammes lighter. To do this, the entire suspension was replaced so that the shock absorbers could move more and therefore absorb more impact.

The Mickey Thompson Sportsman
The Mickey Thompson Sportsman
Car Throttle

The tyres are from Mickey Thompson. Judging by the tread pattern on the front tyre, they’re 15-inch Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R 30X12.00R15LT tyres, to be precise. At the rear, however, the tyres are much wider and have a larger diameter – just as proper dragster tyres should. Presenter Alex from Car Throttle demonstrates that the tyre is about as wide as his forearm and hand. For an average-sized adult male, we’re talking about 43 cm or 17 inches. That would make the rear tyres Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R 29X18.00R20LT or 31X18.00R20LT.

When Batman gets behind the wheel of the Batmobile, he uses little that wasn’t built specifically for the movie. The steering wheel is OMP, probably an OMP 320 Carbon S, and the racing seat is by Corbeau, almost certainly a Corbeau Forza.

«The Batmobile doesn’t have door handles,» Franck remarks.

Identification time: the rear engine

One thing is clear: the rear engine is a V8. American, most likely. Rana65556’s video talks about 650 bhp, Car Throttles talks about 700 bhp. Franck provides footage from Paris showing two gigantic turbochargers. Turbochargers have a direct influence on the horsepower of a vehicle. Turbochargers compress intake air, then shoot it into the cylinders, where it mixes with gasoline and explodes. The more air supplied to the cylinder, the more gasoline can be burned. Because of this, the engine knocks out more raw power.

If you want your car to deliver even more power, either make your turbocharger larger – but that leads to retarded acceleration – or do as Batman does: use two turbos.

The exact specs of the engine are unknown, apart from the number of cylinders and the two turbos. But it’s quite possible to draw reasonably accurate conclusions – with some half-baked mathematics. According to How to Create, a twin-turbo setup can add up to 60 per cent more horsepower. Racing driver Ken Block demonstrated this in a particularly impressive way. His custom 1965 Ford Mustang named «Hoonicorn» has two turbochargers and delivers 1400 hp or 1414 bhp.

The 1965 Ford Mustang Hoonicorn V2
The 1965 Ford Mustang Hoonicorn V2
Ken Block, Facebook

As 1 hp is only 0.99 bhp, this means Batmobile’s engine is a V8 that produces between 410 and 589 horsepower as a crate engine – that’s an engine sold without a car around it. Since the chassis was already Dodge, it can be assumed that the engine also came from a Dodge. Furthermore, it makes sense for Batman to opt for a new engine, as these not only perform far better, but also consume comparatively less gasoline. A look at the current engines from Dodge suggests the 392 Hemi V8. The current version has 485 hp, which is pretty much in the middle of the range where the hp figures should be.

The 392 Hemi is one of Dodge’s most notorious engines
The 392 Hemi is one of Dodge’s most notorious engines
Dominik Bärlocher

The question is, why not a Hellcat? Most likely, the torque played a role there. The 392 Hemi has 657 newton meters (nm) of torque, while the Supercharged 6.2l High-Output Hemi V8 installed in the Hellcat has 958 nm. The rear wheels on a Hellcat are very likely to spin unless you go extremely easy on the already very sensitive throttle. Even the 392 Hemi tends to spin the rear wheels. As cool as that may be, it’s inefficient. So if Batman wants to make a lightning escape, an excessive amount of Newton metres is probably not a good idea.

The Dodge Challenger Hellcat
The Dodge Challenger Hellcat
Giosue Ceniviva

The Mystery: a second engine?

An engine needs two exhaust pipes. They release the pressure created by the explosion in the cylinders is released. And obviously also the fumes. Therefore, the rear engine must have large exhaust pipes and a mysterious jet engine, which is part of the V8 engine featured in the movie. Before the first big car chase, there are scenes of Batman analysing clues in his Batcave. In the background: the motor with the jet engine, which is later installed in the back of the Batmobile along with two turbochargers.

Why are there exhaust pipes under the driver and passenger doors and under the hood when the Batmobile’s drive is in the back?

«Is there a second engine?» Franck asks in the video.

That would make sense in the context of the film. In it, Batman uses the jet turbine just once, during the big jump of the Batmobile. So, does Batman switch on the jet engine to generate some extra thrust?

In our world, this would probably be the case. Or it could be that the front engine drives the car and the rear V8 is pure decoration that sometimes spits flames. In the movie world, however, there’s a reason why it might be the rear engine that gives the Batmobile its propulsion.

NOS?
NOS?
Movie Cars Central

In both Franck’s and Car Throttle’s video, it’s clear that the Batmobile has no passenger seat. Instead, there are bottles and hoses. This is likely to be nitrous oxide, or what is called «NOS» or «Nitro» in automotive circles. The liquid, which rose to fame in «The Fast and The Furious» franchise, is bottled for cars by manufacturers including Holley Performance. Holley’s bottles are blue, which is not to say that all NOS bottles are blue. Take those in the Batmobile, for example.

So, could NOS be the reason behind the rear engine potentially bringing the drive to the vehicle after all? In the movie, Batman fires up the Batmobile’s jet engine when he needs extra thrust. In other words, when he has to drive through an overturned truck, or before the big jump seen in the trailer. This is consistent with the behaviour of NOS. The liquid provides extra horsepower for a short time.

And, more importantly: NOS burns blue.

The blue flame of the Batmobile
The blue flame of the Batmobile
Warner Bros.

It’s also possible that the tube from which the blue flame shoots is not a jet engine at all. Is it an exhaust pipe for burning NOS?

A red herring: the jet drive

Truth be told, it’s pretty clear that the jet propulsion must be a red herring. A look at the Batmobile’s history tells us that a Batmobile with jet propulsion would have to look quite different. It couldn’t be a muscle car, because a jet turbine can’t just be bolted onto a car. Let alone in the shape of a V8.

A jet engine works fundamentally differently to an internal combustion engine. If a turbine needs to be installed in a car, then it’s either weak and slow or large. If it’s large, the car would look something like the Batmobile in «Batman» and «Batman Returns» penned by Tim Burton.

Batmobile from Batman (1989)
Batmobile from Batman (1989)
AutoEvolution.com

In real life, the Burton Batmobile is powered by a Chevrolet V8 engine) – there are also replicas with V8 engines from a Ford Mustang. But in the world of film, this is one of the few cars that is feasibly jet-powered. The design, stylised as it may be, shows roughly what a performance car with a high-performance turbine would look like. In fact, it’s elongated shape is determined by the turbine.

A turbine sucks in air at the front, which then goes through a compressor. After compression, fuel, usually kerosene, is injected. This mixture is then ignited. The generated energy is expelled from the rear of the jet engine, giving the vehicle or aircraft the thrust to move.

Even if an internal combustion engine also causes a gasoline-air mixture to explode, thereby generating energy, this energy is converted differently into forward motion. In the case of a turbocharged V8 engine, the turbo sucks in the air, compresses it and shoots it into the engine’s cylinders. There, it’s mixed with gasoline and compressed again by the cylinder by an upward movement. A spark plug ignites it all and the expansion pushes a cylinder down. This up and down turns a crankshaft that makes the wheels of the car turn via a gear shift.

So, the explosion in the internal combustion engine doesn’t really generate the same thrust as a turbine. Rather, the combustion engine generates rotation, which in the end makes wheels turn. I’m sure it’s somehow technologically possible to generate jet thrust from a V8 engine. But even after extensive googling, it’s so pointless that I haven’t found anything that looks even remotely like V8 jet thrust.

So it’s clear that the rear motor isn’t a rear engine. The blue flames from the supposed jet engine, which is actually an exhaust pipe, are burning NOS.

In a nutshell: a jet engine generates permanent thrust. Batman only uses the blue flames in the back when he needs a boost. This speaks for the NOS theory and against a «second engine».

The loose canon: an electric Batmobile

Arguably, the best detail of the whole production is that one of the four Batmobiles built for the film has an electric drive. At least this is what the anonymous employee of the exhibition says in Rana65556’s video. To be precise: the man says the engine is from a Tesla.

Tesla Model 3
Tesla Model 3
tesla.com

An electric power drive delivers horsepower and powerful acceleration – which a V8 and NOS can, too, though in a more complicated way. Above all, an electric drive adds something that’s particularly useful for movie production: silence.

The Batmobile is loud. I think we can assume that Batman needs to use earplugs to avoid damaging his hearing in the long run. There’s a turbocharger right behind his head. And the Batmobile doesn’t seem to be designed for soundproofing, either. The reason you don’t notice any of this is when you’re watching the movies is because they’re almost completely re-dubbed after shooting. The slam of a car door, the roar of an engine, Batman’s heavy footsteps in the rain, the scream of a criminal ... all these sounds are inserted retroactively. Therefore, a vehicle can make as much or as little noise as it wants on set. In the end, it’ll sound different in the film anyway.

However, using a silent engine when shooting would not only protect Robert Pattinson’s hearing, but also make subsequent dubbing much easier. In Rana65556’s video, the anonymous man says, «The electric Batmobile was used for night shoots or on sound stages,» so no residents were disturbed and other sounds on stage were not drowned out by the roar of the engine.

The file: case solved?

With these deductions in mind, a clear picture of the Batmobile emerges. An image so clear that it could actually exist in our world. Film magic was applied when the car needed to jump or be silent. But both the jump vehicle and the electric Batmobile exist and function as shown in the movie.

We now know what the Batmobile is:

  • A new Dodge Challenger or an old Dodge Charger
  • Or a Tesla
  • Mickey Thompson rain tread drag tyres
  • Corbeau seat
  • OMP steering wheel
  • Engine: Dodge 392 Hemi
  • Two turbochargers
  • NOS booster
  • No jet drive
  • Steel frame and bumper

Has the case been solved? Yes, but we’re still missing some important elements. What’s under the hood if the engine’s in the rear? Where’s the tank? Not to mention details about the gear shift and dashboard. I’m happy to pass on the case to someone else: What do you know about all this? Did you see anything suspicious?

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Journalist. Author. Hacker. A storyteller searching for boundaries, secrets and taboos – putting the world to paper. Not because I can but because I can’t not.


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