Original Batmobile, built in 1963, fetches $137,000 at auction

The 1963 Batmobile is shown in this photo released by Heritage Auctions, HA.com December 5, 2014. REUTERS/Heritage Auctions, HA.com/Handout via Reuters

By Marice Richter

DALLAS (Reuters) - Holy Bargain, Batman! The original Batmobile fetched $137,000 at auction on Saturday, a small fraction of the $4.2 million that a buyer paid last year for another version built for the television show that aired during the 1960s.

It was the first time that the 1963 Batmobile, a replica of the sleek black ride used by the DC Comics superhero, was up for auction since it was cast off and forgotten decades ago, according to Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale. Information about the buyer was not immediately available.

"This is a great piece of lost pop culture and Americana," said Margaret Barrett, director of entertainment and music at Heritage Auctions. "There is a lot of interest in it."

The car was put up for auction by Toy Car Exchange LLC, an online marketplace for collectible cars, which bought it and had it restored to pristine condition, Barrett said.

It was the creation of Forrest Robinson, a Batman fan who spent three years customizing a 1956 Oldsmobile 88 with a 324 Rocket engine to resemble the single-fin vehicle depicted in DC's Batman Comics from the 1940s and 1950s. He finished in 1963.

Robinson's Batmobile was completed before George Barris began building a Batmobile for the ABC TV series "Batman," which aired for three seasons until 1968. The Barris Batmobile sold at auction in January 2013 for $4.2 million.

The television show's popularity made Robinson's Batmobile such a sensation that a DC Comics licensee leased the car from Robinson and rebranded it Batman's Batmobile for touring, primarily on the East Coast.

Eventually, replicas were made of the TV Batmobile, and Robinson's car was returned. He sold it a few years later.

It did not resurface until 2008 when a man found it rusting in a New Hampshire field, Heritage officials said.

After changing ownership several times, Toy Car Exchange bought the car in February 2013, Heritage said. Borbon Fabrications, a vintage car restorer in Sacramento, California, restored the car.

(Editing By Frank McGurty and Jonathan Oatis)