Greenway Productions was a driving force of television in 1966. Their huge hit, "Batman", in association with ABC-TV and 20th Century-Fox Studios, had fast become a pop-culture phenomenon. But the show's overwhelming success did not come without some help from a very special vehicle... The Batmobile.
Executive head of Greenway Productions, William Dozier, was the brain behind the conceptual aspects of "Batman". Early on, he realized the importance the Batmobile would play as a central element in the twice-weekly series. First though, the studio needed to find someone to build it.
During the summer of 1965, Dozier called on Hollywood auto stylist, Dean Jeffries, to create the Batmobile. Once a date for delivery of the finished car was agreed upon, Jeffries set to work on plans for converting a '59 Cadillac. Unfortunately, Dozier phoned Dean a short time later to say that their production timetable had been moved up (the studio needed the car within three weeks.) Jeffries, knowing that he would not be able to do a job he was proud of, reluctantly declined the task of building the Batmobile.
Desperate, Dozier then contacted George Barris. Over a period of a few short weeks, Barris and his team transformed Ford's 1955 Lincoln Futura show car (a prototype) into the world famous "1966 Batmobile". The rest, of course, is TV history.
Back To Dean Jeffries...
Before they parted ways, William Dozier had promised Dean Jeffries another chance to build a vehicle for him in the future. That opportunity came the following year, when Greenway and 20th Century-Fox brought forth "The Green Hornet", starring Van Williams (as The Green Hornet) and Bruce Lee (as Kato).
True to his word, Dozier again contacted Dean. This time, to create a gadget-filled auto called "The Black Beauty". To Jeffries' delight, the studio requested not one car, but two copies! (Complete story of The Black Beauty No.2 here.) Greenway and Fox were looking for a vehicle to rival the Batmobile, but wanted something more refined in appearance. Jeffries chose a 1966 Imperial Crown for the task. Long, dark and limousine-like was the image that producers and Jeffries were after. "The Black Beauty" would soon become Chrysler's first prominent Television/ Movie car.
Meanwhile, George Barris had submitted his own souped up design for The Black Beauty. The studio had other ideas, however, and quickly rejected it. Both Barris' and Jeffries' original "Beauty" renderings are displayed here together for the first time.
During the reportedly four weeks of construction, Dean Jeffries and his crew set out to create a vehicle that was not only fully functional, but had a visual style all its own. Handcrafting the body modifications out of metal, and wiring in the electrical effects, proved to be the most time/ labor intensive parts of the job. After all, there were no digital effects back in the '60s. Therefore, all mechanical features of the car had to physically work for filming purposes. Much to the crew's frustration, some of these features had to be changed several times until the look and functionality they desired were achieved.
BB #1 Delivered To Fox…
Studio documents place delivery of The Black Beauty to the set on May 10th or 11th 1966. On May 18th, The Black Beauty #1 (hereinafter referred to as "BB #1") and The Batmobile were photographed together for the first time. This was likely when filming began for ABC-TV's Fall Preview entitled, "7 Nights To Remember". An interoffice memo from that time period instructed actor Van Williams not to let the press see all of The Black Beauty's features. Producers wanted these details to be revealed on the TV show.
Within a couple of weeks, BB #2 was delivered to the set, thus fulfilling Dean Jeffries' obligations to the studio. The cars were used on the show as needed, and a number of "stock" scenes were filmed for reuse in the weekly episodes. Not surprisingly, requests came in for The Black Beauty to appear at various promotional events outside of filming. Greenway/ Fox obliged when they were able to.
Sadly, after one season (26 episodes), "The Green Hornet" TV series was cancelled. Both cars were returned to the studio and eventually sold. Mr. Jeffries, in private conversation, said that he had kept track of both vehicles over the years…much like a parent keeps track of their children. "It's always interesting to find out where they've been and have ended up."