Jay Leno Drove the Batmobile Tumbler and Loved It
The world’s most famous car collector, Jay Leno, might not strike you as a big Batman fan. But when he saw Christopher Nolan’s new batmobile in person, he was amazed at the vehicle’s craftsmanship.
The Batmobile “Tumbler” starred in Nolan’s Batman trilogy
Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) is a reboot of the Batman franchise. The director pioneered the gritty/realist tone that would define early 21st century films. To this end, the movie revolves around what drives Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne to put on a mask and fight crime as Batman.
For a realistic explanation of all Batman’s gadgets, Nolan leans on the Wayne family’s history as defense contractors. The resulting “Tumbler” Batmobile is an abandoned military prototype.
The Batmobile in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is an ultra-fast armored vehicle. It features Hummer-size mud tires and long-travel suspension. But instead of a truck, it has a cabin large enough for one or two people. Its body is covered in armored panels and aerodynamic flaps.
Christian Bale’s Batman uses his Batmobile to chase down bad guys while avoiding gunfire. In The Dark Knight he even reveals a sort of escape pod feature where two wheels can transform into a “Batpod” motorcycle.
The movie prop visited Jay Leno’s garage
When Warner Bros was promoting Batman Begins, the crew brought the Tumbler Batmobile to Jay Leno’s garage. Though Jay Leno has never professed to being a comic book fan, he was instantly taken with the vehicle.
Leno said, “We’re all about unique driving experience here (Jay Leno’s garage) and it doesn’t get more unique than this!”
Then the retired Tonight Show host immediately began questioning the crew about the custom vehicle built for the movie. What he found was stunning.
A crew of 30 designers and fabricators built the all-new Batmobile. The first prototype took over a year to get right. But the result was able to perform the stunts seen on screen.
Warner Bros built four specialized street-ready stunt cars, at a cost of $250,000 each. The Tumblers are powered by a Chevy 350 V8. This engine is paired to a manual transmission with straight-cut gears and a ratchet shifter.
The Tumbler also has a rear axle from a truck. The team engineered an axle they could remove without removing the rear wheels to swap out rear end ratios between stunts. Leno learned the vehicle once hit 85 or 90 mph on the set.
The Tumbler also features trophy-truck suspension with over a foot of travel engineered for the stunt jumps. It rides on 44-inch dirt-track racing tires. One Tumbler even has a hot air balloon burner and propane tanks to create an “afterburner” effect.
World’s most famous car collector taken by the custom work
Jay Leno hopped in the Batmobile Tumbler and took it for a spin. As he tore through the streets of Los Angeles he decided, “This thing is really cool.”
The comedian makes no secret of his love for unique and hand-built vehicles and his respect for the craftspeople who assemble them. When he finally climbed out of the Tumbler he said, “The coolest thing is it’s a real car that is built by real craftsmen who know their stuff! And it’s really fast, it’s a lot of fun to drive.”
Check out the new muscle car Batmobile from 2022’s The Batman or see Jay Leno test drive the 2005 Tumbler in the video below: