I intentionally didn’t post this on April Fools’ Day because I didn’t want anyone to think this was an elaborate prank. So dig this:
Story more or less goes like this: Auction house puts up a replica 1966 Batcycle for sale. Guy, on an educated hunch, buys it. Batcycle arrives. It’s an original from the TV show.
The “guy” is Eric Seltzer, one of the preeminent experts on the Batmobile and Batcycle. He operates 1966Batmobile.com and an offshoot on the Batcycle. And recently he made the score of a Batlifetime, which he’s now restoring to its original glory.
Now, most of us buy our Batcycles for our toy shelves. Eric is another matter entirely:
Here’s the full story:
(Note: If you were unaware, there were several official Batmobiles and Batcycles. For the Batcycle, there was the one-episode Harley-Davidson model and the later, more famous Yamaha models, nicknamed the Hero bikes. So when Eric starts talking about Batmobile #1 and whatnot, you’ll know what he means. I also encourage you to check out his websites here and here. You may never want to leave. Also: All pix are courtesy of Eric.)
Dan Greenfield: Let’s take it from the top. How did you manage to acquire this Batcycle?
Eric Seltzer: I bought it at a recent auction and always knew about this bike since it was owned by the late Scott Chinery. This bike in the ’80s and early ’90s was seen on TV and in books, and magazines with Chinery’s “#5” Batmobile. When it went up for sale I could tell that the go-kart was original/vintage from the rims and tires it wore. I wasn’t sure about the bike’s history but I was willing to take a risk since I knew Bob Butts, the prior owner to Scott, owned some original Batcycles.
I bid, won, and when I inspected the bike after it arrived I knew it was one of the original four Batcycles built by Dan Dempski and “Korky” Korkes. What I learned later after much research is this bike was used twice on the Batman TV show. I also studied the other replicas that were built and realized all were unique in many ways.
Dan: Was this something you set out to do a long time ago or was it something that happened by chance?
Eric: Always loved the Batcycle and have a history of Batcycles. I also got to know Bob Butts when I purchased the original molds of the Batcycle in 2003. Bob owned the #1 Hero bike (now at the Peterson Museum) and made molds of the fiberglass parts. After that I got to meet and become friends with Korky and got to know Dan Dempski. I was even on Dan’s radio show in Florida talking Batcycles a while back. Korky and I had a close relationship prior to him passing last year. I got to hear his Batcycle stories and even obtained his Bat-collection of photos and other things he worked on.
Dan: How were you able to confirm its provenance?
Eric: This bike was owned by Scott Chinery from 1988-2016 and prior to that it was owned by Bob Butts from 1985-1988. Prior to 1985 it was in Reno, Nevada, as part of the famous Harrah’s car collection. The VIN and catalog photo of the bike traces it back to the 1985 Kruse/Harrah’s auction. The auction catalog photo of the bike, sidecar and go-kart matches photos I have from the 1970s of it on display in a New Jersey movie-theater lobby. Those photos also matched key characteristics of the bike used on two episodes of the Batman TV show — A Riddling Controversy and Batman’s Waterloo.
Plus, other key things matched:
— This Batcycle wore a white-wall tire on the sidecar.
— This Batcycle never had the support bar for the windshield on the fairing. They only used a silver sticker to replicate the bar.
— This Batcycle had a unique paint pattern on the front fender that the three other Batcycles didn’t have. Plus, it didn’t have holes drilled in the fender.
— The unique Bat-designs on the fairing are unique to this bike.
— This Batcycle has all its original fiberglass pieces, that have been repaired over the years, and show their patina and age.
— The Yamaha is welded (one-piece) to the sidecar frame and that frame matches screen captures from the episodes mentioned above. The frame is all original and had some of its original, black paint. It has the original 16-inch Yamaha side-car wheel and the original plywood board that the cart sits on.
— The go-kart matches many photos from the ’60s and on. The go-cart is handmade and made entirely of steel with a vinyl covering. The wheels are accurate and original.
Dan: The big question: What did it cost?
Eric: I prefer not to say, but I must say the auction house did a poor job describing it and did a disservice calling it a “replica.” I now refer to it as Hero bike #2. Since Bob restored it in the ’80s, it has been a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Most people assumed it was a copy, since it didn’t look accurate since Bob took many liberties with the paint and various cues on the kart and bike.
Dan: What other Batvehicles do you own?
Eric: I built (with help) a replica Batcycle (it was sold in 2005), and in 2011 I owned Robin’s original go-kart that was seen in the Batman movie and all Batman episodes where the bike was featured.
Dan: Most people buy Batcycles for their shelf. You bought one for your garage. How’s that feel?
Eric: It’s pretty cool to own something you can point to and see it was used on TV. Also, pretty cool to know my friend Korky built it.
Dan: Tell us about your connection to the Batman vehicles, the website, etc.
All this craziness came from my love of the Bat-vehicles and more specifically the Batmobile. I have been fortunate to get to know George Barris and his family and become one of the experts when it comes to this historic car.
Lately, I have been working with the owner of the #1 Batmobile in helping him restore it.
Dan: Which of the original Batvehicles have you actually encountered?
Eric: Batmobile #1, #3 and #4 and Hero #1 Batcycle at the Peterson Museum. Yes, I have seen MANY replica Batmobiles, Batcycles and Batboats.
Dan: Now that you’ve acquired this, what’s next?
Eric: Get the Batcycle back to its glory days. Restore it where necessary and get the paint and seat accurate. I’m making sure to save all the patina where possible.
This is the ONLY original Batcycle that has its original go-kart and not a reproduction. Hero bike #1 now has a reproduction cart.
When completed, I will enjoy it for a while and then give it a new home so someone else can enjoy it.