Kevin and Lorin's big adventure with Batman

by Lorin Michel Saturday, October 29, 2011 11:34 PM

In our continuing quest to get ourselves some class and culture, we pulled out the leathers and climbed on the motorcycle for another day of museuming. You may recall, dear reader, that two weeks ago we journeyed to the Miracle Mile – America’s Champs-Élysées – to visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Today we journeyed back in that same direction and miraculously made it to the same mile, so named because of the area’s improbable rise to prominence in the 1920s. It was developed by a man named A.W. Ross who gave Wilshire Boulevard a number of firsts: dedicated left-turn lanes, required parking lots, major retailers with building facades best viewed through a windshield. Bold, simple signage, long buildings at a larger scale. It was designed as and continues to be a car-oriented urban wonderland.

How appropriate then that today we were there to visit the Peterson Automotive Museum. It was a natural choice since we’re both big car people, as in big into cars rather than into big cars, our own big SUV notwithstanding. We’re just fascinated with the engineering that has gone into designing and building automobiles since the first steam-powered cars were built and driven in 1900.

Cadillac Coupe

I’m particularly fond of the big cars from the 1940s. Packards, Cadillacs, Plymouths, Chryslers, and the like. I love all the chrome and the wheel covers. I love the white wall tires. In the 1940s, a car cost on average $800. Gas prices were about $.18 a gallon. Cars got between 15 and 20 miles per gallon. I suspect because the engines weren’t as high-performance, and speeds weren’t nearly as fast as they are today.

The Peterson also had all manner of scooters and some very old Indian motorcycles from 1912, two owned by the late actor Steve McQueen. There were Harley Davidson motorcycles as well and Vespa scooters from way back, even ones with carts and side-cars. What a blast. There were also old sports cars like one of only seven Ford Mark IIIs ever produced. There was a Jaguar XJ220 that originally sold for $650,000. Imagine what it sells for now.

Scooter and sidecar

And then there was the Batmobile, one of the original driving versions from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman and 1992 Batman Returns, both starring Michael Keaton as the dark and body-armored caped crusader. I have to admit that Michael Keaton’s Batman was my favorite. I’ve seen The Dark Knight and liked it. But I don’t particularly like Christian Bale. The Tim Burton flicks still had enough of the comic book genre in them that, no matter how dark they got, they were still strictly fantasy. The newer versions make all of the fantasy more real. Michael Keaton was sexy in his sculpted body armor and gravelly voice; Christian Bale, not so much. I didn’t even mind Kim Basinger in the first one and Michelle Pfeiffer was truly phenomenal in the second (though Danny Devito’s Penguin was simply vile).

The Batmobile and Batman. The original Michael Keaton costume.

The Batmobile in the 1989 and 1992 films was almost 20 feet in length and based upon a 1967 Chevy Impala found in a London junkyard. It was powered by a 327-cubic inch V-8 Chevrolet engine mounted low in the frame in order to drop the hood line and enhance the car’s sleek profile. Rolls-Royce jet engine components were used to form the hood-mounted intake, and turbine blades in the nose piece were scavenged from a British Harrier fighter jet. Two Batmobiles, the featured car and a stand-in, appeared in the two films. It was very sexy, even though rumor has it that it couldn’t get out of its own way in real life.

Interestingly, while we were drooling over Batman’s ride, Tim Burton’s exhibit at LACMA was also still going on across the street. Coincidence?

Here’s the thing: We’re big fans of Batman in general. He’s probably our favorite superhero. Maybe it’s the black leather. When we’re on the bike, we’re often in black leather as well, albeit not nearly as chiseled and muscular as Batman’s. Still, perhaps we feel a kinship. We like that he doesn’t really have super powers; rather, he’s just a guy who’s able to do super things to help others. In that way, he’s more of a regular person thrown into extraordinary circumstances who has to work his way through, just like all of us on a regular basis, whether we’re sporting black leather or not. Definitely worth celebrating.

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live out loud

Comments (1) -

11/2/2011 10:58:57 AM #

I didn't know you were fans of Batman. That might just change my Xmas plans completely. Hmmm.

Bobbi Jankovich United States

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