Ernie Lepore held a model original Batmobile _— 1/18 scale — in his hand while walking through a swap meet one day almost 15 years ago when someone approached him.
Out of the blue, the Santa Clarita resident heard an unfamiliar voice say, “I’m building one of those!”
“And I’m thinking, ‘What? Are you building a diecast?’” he remembered thinking to himself.
The man Lepore met at the swap meet was building a life-size Batmobile, and that got him thinking about building one, too.
Through a friend, he found someone who could use a mold to create a fiberglass body of the Batmobile — just like the one used by the superhero, Batman.
“It was funny because I had to send this guy $13,000 before they would even think about molding it,” he said.
Two months later, Lepore received the body of his Batmobile from Florida, and a little after that he had the windows, too.
“It was quite the ordeal when I got it home,” he said. “I’m like, ‘What am I going to do now?’ I didn’t even know where to start.”
Lepore eventually figured out his next steps. In 2010, he came across a 1975 Lincoln Continental Mark IV.
“It’s got four-wheel disc brake, the big (Ford) 460 (engine) in it, the hydro boost, it was a pretty good car,” he said, noting he didn’t initially want to use the car as the frame for his Batmobile.
“I went out to go to lunch, it wasn’t even hot out, and I had the windows cracked but the center of the dash just split in half,” he said. “And I’m like ‘OK, I’m using this car then.’”
After three years, the car was ready for the road and driving it has been Lepore’s favorite part.
“Everybody lights up and (it) just puts a smile on everybody’s face,” he said, noting people often take pictures of his Batmobile when he’s filling it with gas. “I let people sit in it and take pictures. They just love it.”
Lepore equipped the car with replica rocket launchers, fat wheels, and big wings and window canopies on both sides.
On the inside, Lepore’s ride has a nonfunctional Batphone.
And the Batman symbol signed by actors Adam West and Burt Ward — Batman and Robin in the original ABC TV series, “Batman” — and actresses Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether — who played Catwoman in the show — stuck to the dashboard.
Lepore said he watched the show as a kid.
“I’d run home to see the episodes,” he said. “It was quite an ordeal. I couldn’t miss them because I could record it and it was on like once or twice a week.”
After finishing his own Batmobile, Lepore continues to work on cars, including a 1969 Pontiac Firebird and another Batmobile.
“I’ve always liked that car,” Lepore said. “I’m not really like the Batman. I don’t need the cape. I’m not doing roleplay. But I’ve always just liked that car.”