Collecting Batmobiles: Clifford Batmobile

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A new installment here at PMB! will feature posts about classic Batmobile toys and collectibles.

First up is the Clifford Batmobile from 1966-8.

clifford_batmobile

clifford_batmobile_box I’ve been collecting Batmobiles for 43 years. Ever since my parents brought me home my first Corgi Batmobile  gift set, it’s been an obsession with me. Sometimes I look for super-accuracy. Sometimes I enjoy the strange results of  those familiar lines being put through a cultural translator, sometimes the packaging or a unique take on the subject matter draws me in.

With this toy, it’s a smattering of many elements. This is a 7 inch long plastic friction powered car. At first glance, it’s not much different than the more common Ahi cars, but there are some significant differences. The chromed rocket tubes, the stencil-sprayed door bats, the addition of the red pinstriping (few toys did this), the silver grilles – all made this Batmobile toy a little cooler.

My favorite aspect of this toy is the wonderfully designed box art. Utilizing the correct show typeface, the correct ‘bat signal’ and a great color illustration of the car (from TWO angles no less) with an Adam West styled Batman (taken from a popular publicity still) all  make this one of the best-rendered boxes from the era.

It’s  a great addition to any Batmobile collection. Not hyper-rare, but uncommon, these have gone for as much as $300 MIB  but I often see them for FAR less loose.

If you find one without the box – buy it. You’re in luck. You can either download and make your own box from Dave Van Der Heeden’s excellent site: http://www.thebatmobile.nl/ . Or buy a pre-assembled, pre-shrinkwrapped replica box from Toy Tent.

Clifford, 7″ Friction-Powered Batmobile, 1966/8,  Hong Kong (pictured missing siren/antler assembly)


  1. Tim Meyer

    August 19, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Nice! I’ve always liked that toy-especially the box art!

    Go Shocking Blue!

  2. A. Pennyworth/JohnH

    September 2, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Clifford-vs-Hoover?
    I have 2 of these and both do not have red pinstriping, both do not have beacon or antlers, and the bottom reads 312 MADE IN HONG KONG
    I have reference picture from various sources/auctions in which the same car has the red pinstriping and does not have the beacon nor antlers and the markings underneath say HOOVER 312 MADE IN HONG KONG (the Hoover name has a large “V” with wings flanking the uprights)
    Do you own your pictured car, I ask because I have that exact photo stored dated 2006, if so what are the marking underneath.
    Looking for any other info on these cars.
    I am assuming the Hoover version has the red pinstripes and the Clifford does not, however I could be wrong, with variations possible on each.

  3. admin

    September 4, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Hi A.P. Yeah that was my car and my photo of it. I sold that one a couple years back so it’s out there in the world and I can’t check the markings on that one. I have had the Hoover marked versions as well. I hadn’t noticed the pinstriping vs. none pattern before. I will look through my other photos and see what I have available.

  4. Roger Goodlet

    July 29, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    I am 70 years old now and long retired, but I am the individual who was responsible for the Financing, Design,Development and Production of the “Clifford” Batmobile. Therefore you might find the story of this best selling toy of interest..

    My firm Herbert Kees Ltd of Hong Kong was a long established traditional British owned China Coast Trading Company (just like the “Struan’s” that James Clavell describes in his novels”Taipan” and “Noble House, but smaller so the boss was deemed a “Loban” and not “the Taipan’ of who there was only one in the colony.) We traded things like Tea and Citronella oil and in the early days, probably dabbled in Opium. After the war we started a textile division and became among other things,the largest exporters of Rainwear from Hong Kong to the UK

    In.1959, we were approached by a certain Richard Levy, who had just succeeded his father Clifford Levy (hence the trade name) in the running of the family firm, Messrs F. Levy & Co Ltd, who had wholesaled toys in a modest way in the London area since the turn of the century. Like all young men, he searched for ways to grow his business and decided to start importing product from the nascent Hong Kong Plastic Flower and Toy industry. My firm was eager to help and so a toy division was started.

    Business proceeded with Levy’s at an acceptable pace, interesting but nothing to get too excited about. Richard would come to buy from Hong Kong twice a year, but the product he found was badly developed and dull. Marbles, rubber balls, yo- yos, dolls and guns there were a plenty, but as every Tom Dick and Harry could buy them, competition forced down profit margins in London.

    Then one day a factory owner showed us a very poor copy of a red London Bus which was hardly saleable but of interest because of the Hong Kong made friction motor which powered it. It seemed to be a copy of a German design. Richard was a car buff and he began to send us brochures of every new car that appeared in Britain.We used Chinese craftsmen to make 1/25 plaster models of these and the best were chosen for further development. My firm accepted that they would have to finance the whole operation, so they agreed to develop and pay for the moulds and design and pay for the packaging. So once we had received a commitment to go with an item, we supervised the mould making and when complete gave the production to the most competitive factory. In many cases we also had to finance and pay up front for the raw materials. We also had to give Clifford six months to pay for the goods!

    But business boomed and we both made money’for we had filled a gap in the market. at the right price.AT the price point (17/11d retail)that Dinky and Corgi were offering their standard 41/2 inch die cast car, we found we could retail an eight inch friction car with clear plastic windows opening front doors boot and bonnet, vacuum plated dummy engine and bumpers. We even threw in a driver and dummy luggage.which we packed in a poly bag and put in the boot. The extra play value to the was child overwhelming.

    We had appeared at exactly the right time. Dinky were fast asleep and trading on their past. Corgi were trying and were soon offering more features. Match box serviced a different price point.

    Then came the Thunderbirds and James Bond. and the die-casters found a way to cover their higher costs through character merchandising, as they could ask a higher price.The 007 Aston and the Pink Thunderbird Rolls Royce killed our sales overnight.

    Therefore, we had no option but to follow the market and so the ” Clifford Batmobile” came to be. In order to pay for the exclusive character licence. the size of the car was was reduced from our standard 8 inches to 7 inches and no opening parts were deemed necessary. Vacuum plating was all but abolished and painted decoration was used instead. However we used a top artist in London. ( I forget the name) for the box, instead of the usual Hong kong.product. I think the Artwork is superb and stiil looks good today.

    The car came out just as the TV programme came on line. The cartoon “Pows” and “Kerbooms” which were superimposed over the fights caused the progamme to become a hit. Our sales boomed and we were quite unable to meet demand..So we employed other factories to help out. However, we only had one set of moulds so the plastic parts were moulded by Hoover, who were a larger more financially sound factory. It is they who added their logo without our permission to the base mould. We farmed out the assembly to extra factories. Hence the different specs you find between the product. For such was our hurry to stay on the band wagon we sometimes had to down grade the product spec to hold the retail price if a sub contractor was unable to accommodate our production price. Such was the popularity of the car, no one noticed.the difference..

    And then it was over.We had made a bundle!!

    However greed then caused us to make a disastrous decision, And fate added its coup de grace.

    We had noted the success of the 007 Aston, so in our hurry to settle the deal, we bid too much for the licence to market the “Q’ modified Toyota sports that 007 drove in the film “You only live twice.”

    The car never took off. and sales were dismal. And then Harold Wilson devalued the pound. All our products were affected and we had to face a 20% price hike. We lost a fortune and a lot of the Batmobile profit. Although Clifford battled on, they never again reached the heady heights of the Bat mobile period. We suffered as well. But our luck was better and prosperity returned when later we began manufacturing in China for Polistil of Mlan, whom everyone Knew were the Rolls Royce of the-diecasters .

    Ironically Dinky, Corgi and Matchbox at this time were faced with the onslaught from Mattel’s Hot Wheels and all faded soon thereafter.

  5. Roger Goodlet

    July 31, 2012 at 6:11 am

    An error needs attention in my previous post.
    The price quoted should read 7/11d and not 17/11d.

  6. Roger Goodlet

    November 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    I am 70 years old now and long retired, but I am the individual who was responsible for the Financing, Design,Development and Production of the “Clifford” Batmobile. Therefore you might find the story of this best selling toy of interest..
    My firm Herbert Kees Ltd of Hong Kong was a long established traditional British owned China Coast Trading Company (just like the “Struan’s” that James Clavell describes in his novels”Taipan” and “Noble House, but smaller so the boss was deemed a “Loban” and not “the Taipan’ of who there was only one in the colony.) We traded things like Tea and Citronella oil and in the early days, probably dabbled in Opium. After the war we started a textile division and became among other things,the largest exporters of Rainwear from Hong Kong to the UK
    In.1959, we were approached by a certain Richard Levy, who had just succeeded his father Clifford Levy (hence the trade name) in the running of the family firm, Messrs F. Levy & Co Ltd, who had wholesaled toys in a modest way in the London area since the turn of the century. Like all young men, he searched for ways to grow his business and decided to start importing product from the nascent Hong Kong Plastic Flower and Toy industry. My firm was eager to help and so a toy division was started.
    Business proceeded with Levy’s at an acceptable pace, interesting but nothing to get too excited about. Richard would come to buy from Hong Kong twice a year, but the product he found was badly developed and dull. Marbles, rubber balls, yo- yos, dolls and guns there were a plenty, but as every Tom Dick and Harry could buy them, competition forced down profit margins in London.
    Then one day a factory owner showed us a very poor copy of a red London Bus which was hardly saleable but of interest because of the Hong Kong made friction motor which powered it. It seemed to be a copy of a German design. Richard was a car buff and he began to send us brochures of every new car that appeared in Britain.We used Chinese craftsmen to make 1/25 plaster models of these and the best were chosen for further development. My firm accepted that they would have to finance the whole operation, so they agreed to develop and pay for the moulds and design and pay for the packaging. So once we had received a commitment to go with an item, we supervised the mould making and when complete gave the production to the most competitive factory. In many cases we also had to finance and pay up front for the raw materials. We also had to give Clifford six months to pay for the goods!
    But business boomed and we both made money’for we had filled a gap in the market. at the right price.AT the price point (7/11d retail)that Dinky and Corgi were offering their standard 41/2 inch die cast car, we found we could retail an eight inch friction car with clear plastic windows opening front doors boot and bonnet, vacuum plated dummy engine and bumpers. We even threw in a driver and dummy luggage.which we packed in a poly bag and put in the boot. The extra play value to the was child overwhelming.
    We had appeared at exactly the right time. Dinky were fast asleep and trading on their past. Corgi were trying and were soon offering more features. Match box serviced a different price point.
    Then came the Thunderbirds and James Bond. and the die-casters found a way to cover their higher costs through character merchandising, as they could ask a higher price.The 007 Aston and the Pink Thunderbird Rolls Royce killed our sales overnight.
    Therefore, we had no option but to follow the market and so the ” Clifford Batmobile” came to be. In order to pay for the exclusive character licence. the size of the car was was reduced from our standard 8 inches to 7 inches and no opening parts were deemed necessary. Vacuum plating was all but abolished and painted decoration was used instead. However we used a top artist in London. ( I forget the name) for the box, instead of the usual Hong kong.product. I think the Artwork is superb and stiil looks good today.
    The car came out just as the TV programme came on line. The cartoon “Pows” and “Kerbooms” which were superimposed over the fights caused the progamme to become a hit. Our sales boomed and we were quite unable to meet demand..So we employed other factories to help out. However, we only had one set of moulds so the plastic parts were moulded by Hoover, who were a larger more financially sound factory. It is they who added their logo without our permission to the base mould. We farmed out the assembly to extra factories. Hence the different specs you find between the product. For such was our hurry to stay on the band wagon we sometimes had to down grade the product spec to hold the retail price if a sub contractor was unable to accommodate our production price. Such was the popularity of the car, no one noticed.the difference..
    And then it was over.We had made a bundle!!
    However greed then caused us to make a disastrous decision, And fate added its coup de grace.
    We had noted the success of the 007 Aston, so in our hurry to settle the deal, we bid too much for the licence to market the “Q’ modified Toyota sports that 007 drove in the film “You only live twice.”
    The car never took off. and sales were dismal. And then Harold Wilson devalued the pound. All our products were affected and we had to face a 20% price hike. We lost a fortune and a lot of the Batmobile profit. Although Clifford battled on, they never again reached the heady heights of the Bat mobile period. We suffered as well. But our luck was better and prosperity returned when later we began manufacturing in China for Polistil of Mlan, whom everyone Knew were the Rolls Royce of the-diecasters .
    Ironically Dinky, Corgi and Matchbox at this time were faced with the onslaught from Mattel’s Hot Wheels and all faded soon thereafter.

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