The Batmobile no one ever drove, part 2

on black 1940_batmobile

The building of the 1940 Style N8MOBILE part 2!  Read part one HERE!

By Nate Truman

How do you take an idea of a never built car and get to a finished car that’s legal to drive down the highway?  Focus.  Desire.  Time.  Creativity, and of course, CASH!  I had a lot of the first four, but not an unlimited amount of the last one.  Besides, if I had unlimited amounts of money I could just go to a custom shop and say “BUILD THIS” and throw money at them.  That’s a terrible journey.

I did also have a few rules: Rule #1. As a son of a “Car Guy” I knew a few things I shouldn’t do.  DON’T destroy a car that can be restored to it’s original condition. These are also known as OS, Original Steel.   I wouldn’t use a car like this because they are rare and if there is someone out there that wants to restore a car back to it’s original look, it should go to them.  So it had to be a car that would be near impossible to take back to stock.

Rule #2. RUST will drain your wallet.  Cars from 1939-42 are 75 years old. Rust happens and it costs a LOT to repair.  I don’t like to do it, I don’t want to do it, it’s not fun.  SO I must have a  car with no rust or the rust already repaired.

Rule #3. The closer the donor car is to your idea of a finished product the fewer variables there are to get it there.  This basically means that if a car has some costly work done the way I want it done, that’s a fixed price.  A finished interior or installed motor, etc. is work that is paid for in the purchase price.   It’s very easy to get way over budget by hoping for the best prices and no problems and then end up thousands of dollars in higher costs because of unforeseen problems along the way.   A cheaper donor car can often mean a lot more expensive finished car. Ask any Knight Rider replica builder!

I spent months scanning craigslist for about an hour a night.  I started seeing some cars that didn’t sell for months.  I figured out what was a good price, what was way too high, and what was a deal.  I didn’t buy anything, I didn’t go see anything, I was just learning. I was an expert on other cars, but not this era.

The odd part about this search was that I wasn’t looking for a specific make and model!    Ford, Dodge, Cadillac, Plymouth and Chevy were all on the table.  Details I had to have: 2 door coupes, with two windows on each side. Headlights incorporated into the fenders. That would eliminate a lot of cars.  For between 6-18 grand there were lots of choices of “heaps”.  That means it’s a body, and a HEAP of parts!   Maybe an engine inside, some ran, some were in great shape, others were barely cars.

I considered a lot of cars, but I knew I had to be patient to find the perfect donor car. I didn’t mind doing the interior exactly how I wanted it, but that opened me up to lots of cost overruns. These kinds of cars can be an endless project of broken parts and unknown problems.  I wasn’t going to pull the trigger until the perfect car showed up.  Besides, shopping for cars is pretty much the only shopping I consider “fun”!

As time passed, I found a few good possibilities.  I was searching about a 1000 mile radius, so if I just wanted to get a better  idea of the actual condition of the car, I would ask a friend who lived closer to go take a look at it for me.

Unfortunately, rust and the state of disrepair made most of them unsuitable.  In fact, the more I looked at the “heaps” the more I realized that starting that far down the ladder would really open me up to a lot of frustration, and money spent with little to show for it.  So I changed my parameters of my search.  Still 1939-1942, but now I added “Hot rod” or “Kustom”.    I started seeing chopped and channeled projects, cars with motors replaced with newer more reliable and powerful motors, and for about the same price as the “heaps”.


I was finding many more cars that fit my specific bill, and a few that I started looking at hard.  The best one was in Northern California, and a hot rod guy had started building a big horsepower 1/4 mile race car.  I didn’t want or need a car that was “tubbed” with 800 hp, but he had to stop his build for personal reasons, and it was at just about the point where I wanted to take over.  Motor and tranny were brand new and mostly installed, and the body was mostly straight. I loved the overall look of the car.  So we started to email back and forth, looking for any problems, haggling over price, and figuring out transportation.  I thought I had found THEE donor car for my Bat build.


I didn’t like the single window in the back, but I had toyed with the idea of just sealing that up.  Challenges:  A few missing panels, missing glass, ZERO interior other than a cage and a couple of really low racing seats.   At this point in the journey is when the rational mind needs to step in!  I really wanted to get started and this was the best donor I had found up to that time.  The price was fair, and I sensed he would go even lower, giving me some financial room to finish it my way without breaking the bank.  But there was the window, and several “mostly’s”.  I did some math, looked at how much I would have to do, and what would have to be undone. It just didn’t add up.  I sighed, and took a pass.  At the time I was disappointed, but in the long run it was a great decision to let someone else finish this for the race track, and wait for the street driver I wanted.  Another old rule, don’t spend ANY money for starter cars or cool extras that make your project less accurate to your idea. 800 horse power! Tubbed! Cool!! But I had to remind myself, not on my want list.  The search continued on…

NEXT PART 3: Nate finds the right car to get started!

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