My Day With The Freaks
A 46 year old dream comes true
I think it's best that I set the scenario: Circa 1966, it's 7:30 on a Wednesday night. I'm nine years old at this time, and the Batman TV show was on. After the first commercial the show resumes with the Dynamic Duo sliding down the Batpoles into the Batcave. They leap from the platform, and run toward their sleek crime-fighting vehicle, The Batmobile. My mouth hangs open as I hear the whine of the turbine engines as Robin says "Atomic Batteries to power, turbines to speed". Flames shoot out the back, and the car peels off through the cave's exit en route to police headquarters in Gotham City. From the first time I saw the car, I was hooked and a love-affair was born.
Forward to January 7, 2012. I'm 54 now, and my mouth hangs open just as it did in '66, only this time, I'm not watching TV, I'm sitting in a beautifully recreated version of that classic automobile, complete with all the Bat-bells and whistles, fulfilling a 46 year old dream. Who says good things don't come to those who wait.
How is this possible? Well, my friend, read on.
Little did I realize that a kid in Indiana in the 60's fell in love with the car as I did, but turned his passion into a functioning successful reality.
Logansport, Indiana is a three hour drive from my home in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is the headquarters of Fiberglass Freaks/Magic House productions. The company is licensed by DC Comics, publisher of the Batman and Detective Comics magazines, to build accurate, fully functioning reproductions of the classic 1966 TV Batmobile. I was determined to see one of these beauties up close and personal, so I contacted Mark Racop, the owner, who invited me to "come up anytime". However, every time I planned the trip, something would prevent it, or there wouldn't be a car ready.
But on this day, everything fell into place, so on this sunny day, with the temperature slated to be around 50, my wife, son and I made that trip.
I was so excited, that the trip seemed to take forever, and I broke a few minor traffic rules. Thank God no one saw me.
The initial trip (minus the infractions) was fine. But we got lost upon arriving in Logansport, and couldn't find the workshop. Mark guided us in, and soon we were in the parking lot of what looked like an abandoned building. There was nothing to indicate that the world's most famous TV verhicle was being built here. No sign saying The Home of The Batmobile - nothing! However, on the front of the building were the words Magic House Productions on the glass door entrance, but beneath that was a sign telling the visitor to enter through the door next to the garage. So its back to the rear parking lot.
I left my family in the car and went to the entrance, and walked in. I was surprized that no one challenged me. I didn't have to show any ID, I wasn't frisked, there weren't any armed guards at the door. There was only a lone employee working on a car. I asked where Mark was, and he immediately went for him. While waiting for Mark, I got an eyeful of the car of my dreams in various stages of construction.
Finally Mark came out. An affable person with a wide smile. The meeting was like two old friends that haven't seen each other in years. One look at him, and you could see and feel the passion he has for his work. I'm not this happy when I work on Saturdays. We embraced, and I went to get my family.
We were the only visitors there, which made the whole experience special. Mark and I talked about the Batmobile's origin, in which the original car was built from a 1955 concept car, the Ford Futura, by the "King of the Customizers", George Barris. From there he gave us a guided tour of the workshop, explaining the many phases of the car's construction. I was snapping pictures all along the way.
We followed Mark into Building Two, which in actuality was an old garage. He raised the door, and there it was. It was covered in plastic, but I saw it through the covering. My mouth hung open, followed by some loud gasps, as I stood face-to-fender with the car of my dreams. I was like the perverbial kid in the candy store.
Back in 1983, I saw a Batmobile on display when the Cavalcade of Customs came to Cincy. That car was a huge disappointment, to put it mildly, a piece of junk. However, I did get to meet Adam West and Burt Ward.
The car I was standing alongside now greatly exceeded my expectations.
He proceeded to remove the plastic, and asked me if I wanted to get in. I mean, how could I refuse?
I couldn't believe it. 46 years ago, I watched Adam West and Burt Ward drive around in their vehicle, wishing it could be me. And here I am, 46 years later sitting in the Batmobile surrounded by all the Bat-gadgets, and they work! The red beacon on top rotated and flashed. Mark reached inside and pressed a button, and the Bat-Beam antenna in the front raised. Another button opened the trunk that would normally house the portable Bat-Computer. Even the flame-thrower works.
It was hard for me to get out of the car. However, I was invited back in warmer weather for a ride. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to that.
After the photo-op, we returned to Building One, and went to his office area. There we were joined by his wife, who just happens to be a Green Hornet fan, as I am,
Our wives chatted in the waiting area, while Mark and I went into his office, which as you might guess was filled with Bat-memorabilia, including models of the '55 Futura. My favorite artifact was the bust of Shakespeare, that as any fan of the show knows houses the switch to access the Batpoles located behind a bookcase in the den of Stately Wayne Manor.
He showed me a clip featuring the business that was televised as a segment on the show, How'd They Do That?, as well as bits of media from around the world that focused on the man and his business.
After this, we relaxed at a restaurant, where we continued to "talk shop". I was amazed to learn that he's also an independent filmmaker. During his career, he has worked with the late Chuck Connors of "The Rifleman" fame, as well as other Hollywood luminaries.
Finally, (and regrettably), it was time to leave these gracious hosts. We hugged each other, and was back on the road to Cincinnati.
On the way back, my wife and I didn't stop talking about our day with the Freaks. Incidentally, I got home in time for Batman on METV.
If any reader has any questions about purchasing a car, or general information, Mark can be reached through his website, www.fiberglassfreaks.com. Please mention this hub,