“Back in the day, think 1956, when the Futura was still on the auto show market, Dad took me to an auto show. I was age 5-6 at the time. Picture me as the little cute strawberry blond kid in my suite and tie. Pushed my way towards the rope keeping me away from the Futura. I was small, went under the rope and rushed towards the Futura because I had to touch that paint finish. [The] female model with the Futura must have been shocked when little person rushed the stage to touch the Futura but the result? I was allowed to sit in the Futura. Now I have a 1:18 scaled wonderful memory with the Futura and my Dad taking me to auto shows. I still remember sitting in the Futura many decades ago and think the [Minichamps] 1:18 Futura is spot on as I remember it.”
-Alfred H. Baucom Forum18 April 1, 2014
That is a memory every 50’s youngster would envy.
To borrow a phrase from Ronald Reagan, the early 1950's were truly “morning in America”. The USA bestrode the world, brimming with optimism with most of Asia and Europe still recovering from WWII. And it was against that background that Ford’s Bill Schmidt and GM’s Bill Mitchell (of Stingray fame) took a scuba diving vacation in the Caribbean, and the svelte predators they saw in the coral reefs during the trip, mixed with the jet-age design elements already in favor, resulted in two unforgettable prototypes: Mitchell’s Stingray and Schmidt’s Futura.
While the car was a product of Schmidt’s team, it’s assembly was a combination of elements. A stretched a combination 1953 Lincoln & Continental Mark II chassis which forms the extraordinary wheelbase. The Italian design studio Ghia shaped the body panels by hand to the unique design requirements on ancient tree stumps. The plexi-glass canopy though was crafted in the US and sent to Italy for mounting. The engine was rated in press releases at over 330HP but no one seems to be able to verify that as fact. A standard Lincoln 205 bhp V-8 shipped with the chassis.
A remarkable aspect of the car, and of the Minichamps model is the paint, described as "pearlescent, frost-blue white." To this day eyewitness accounts will remember the color slightly differently depending on the light it was first seen in due to the unique paint mix which included crushed fish scales. Oddly enough, it often looks green, and sometimes flat white because of the color conflicts your retina (and my camera lens) tries to resolve...but can't. Remarkable that a resin model captures paint of this complexity as our eyewitness Alfred concurs.
The model shows a number of the unique styling elements of this “laboratory on wheels”. The cockpit was sealed off from the outside, relying on microphones to hear the environment. The restrictive airflow apparently came back to to haunt the designers when on a debut parade in NY that literally stopped traffic, the AC failed. Instruments are on a binnacle on the wheel.
The hubcaps (sadly the model is fixed in terms of motion and steering) have no visible valve stems since they were mounted on the interior of the wheel and had to be serviced from underneath the car.
Behind the front seat, in the console, was a telephone. Exterior door handles were recessed at the tops of the door rather than the sides and opening the doors turned on the lights and the retracted canopy for easy access. Several other features can’t really be experienced or visualized such as the the horn was activated using a pedal on the floor, the roll-top like dash and a vent in the canopy that let in fresh air....when it worked.
The Futura made it’s debut at the 1955 Chicago Auto Show. It would go on to wow show crowds up until 1959 when it’s looks started to fade and Ford was embroiled in it’s Edsel drama, But it was still different enough to be a star, so it wound up in Hollywood, painted red in a Debbie Reynolds/Glenn Ford film “It Started With a Kiss” for which it’s most famous benefactor, George Barris, takes credit. From there, well, you know the rest of the Batmobile story, and if you don’t (or think you do), I’d encourage you to read about it.
I don't claim to be clairvoyant, yet guarantee this model will star in your collection, and in only 900 some odd collections because after that the resin mold will be toast.
It is a massive presence. Literally. Plan a very special display space for this sculptured masterwork. And it’s rock solid, easily the heaviest 1/18 model car you will own. The chrome work is polished, the badging detailed and the model mixed media flows together seamlessly. While the interior isn’t accessible, the console and seating areas are thoughtfully modeled.
Add to that Minchamps has framed the model with the same type of premium production values found in its 1/18 Porsche 917 ‘Pink Pig’ which means packaging that displays they car well, including an abbreviated history and a chromed LE plate with an engraved edition number, not something handwritten on a paper certificate.
This series, Great American Dream Cars, promises a series of models that transcend mere precision and instead go straight for spectacle. Yet, the bet here is that no other subject in the series is going to inspire memories and a memory of a special time in America more than this incredible model.