5 Best Gadget Cars from the Movies: Batmobile, a Bond XKR, KITT, Black Beauty and Mach 5
Starting May 5th, the Petersen Automotive Museum is opening its latest exhibit that’s packed with blockbuster Hollywood movie and video game cars. Titled, “Hollywood Dream Machines: Vehicles of Science fiction and Fantasy” the display promises to be as exciting as your pre-teen self imagines it will be. To celebrate the exhibit, we took a look at the list and found that some of our favorite “gadget cars” were on display, and we thought it would be fun to explore what gadgets each car was equipped with. Turns out there are a lot of similarities, and some of the gadgets of the past are now available here in the present. Read on to find out if you own some of the features that were only imagined for the Green Hornet’s Black Beauty or Speed Racer’s Mach 5.
1. Batmobile (Batman 1989-1992)
What kind of car would you build to fight crime with an unlimited budget? Measuring in at over 21 feet in length, almost eight feet wide, but only 51 inches high, the Batmobile is a formidable fantasy machine. It has a 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of over 300 mph with power coming from a jet turbine. It uses an arsenal of gadgets to combat crime—some of them using technology that has yet to be developed and some that can be had in a new Tesla.
The Batmobile's Gadgets:
- Call back auto drive mode
- Armor protection Cocoon mode
- Converts to Batmissle for narrow escapes
- Grappling hook launchers
- Central foot that can lift vehicle and rotate it 180 degrees
- Rear oil slick dispensers and smoke emitters
2. Zao’s 2002 Jaguar XKR (Die Another Day 2002)
What we love about this car is that it’s not James Bond’s car—it’s a gadget filled luxury car designed for a villain, Zao. It’s similar in many ways to a Q-equipped car, but this one is more designed for destruction than employing defensive measures. Unfortunately, the XKR was electronically limited to a maximum of about 155 mph, but we’ll just assume that when the evil agency was building it they removed this limiter. In production form, the 4L V8 offered about 370hp and accelerated the car to 60 mph in about 5 seconds, with 20-inch wheels and Brembo brakes.
Zao's XKR Gadgets:
- Back seat mini gun
- Front rocket launcher (18 rockets)
- Door panel missile launchers (6 missiles)
- Mortar launcher located in trunk (9 rounds)
- Reinforced ramming spikes
- Bulletproof sheetmetal and chassis
- Thermal imaging
3. Knight Industries Two Thousand aka KITT (Knight Rider 1982-1986)
What started out as a 1982 Pontiac Firebird probably sporting a smog-choked 305ci producing a whopping 165hp was transformed by Knight Industries with a “turbojet” with modified afterburners and a computer controlled eight-speed “turbodrive” transmission. The Knight Rider universe claims 0-60 mph in two seconds and a standing quarter mile time of a hair above four seconds. They didn’t forget the brake upgrades necessary for such speed—KITT features “electromagnetic hyper-vacuum disc brakes with a 14-foot braking distance from 70 mph."
The Knight Rider TV show ran for over four years, so the writers had a field day with all the different gadgets KITT had to fight the bad guys in every episode (which definitely made it fun for my pre-pubescent self). The list of gadgets is so long that there’s no way physically possible that this car could hold or properly employ all the gadgets it had throughout the series at any one time. So, for this article we’re going to stick with the gadgets that were used most frequently.
- Artificial intelligence and self-driving
- Molecular bonded shell plating that can withstand almost all forms of conventional firearms and explosives
- Turbo boost
- Silent mode
- Grappling hook
- Oil jets/smokes screen
- Flame thrower
- Ejection seat
4. Black Beauty (The Green Hornet 1966-1967)
Many people haven’t heard of the Green Hornet—it was a show that stars a rich guy who fights crime using a customized car and a sidekick. Does that sound similar to another crime fighter who wears a cape and is associated with flying mammals to you? As it turns out, The Green Hornet radio show aired three years before Bob Kane thought up “The Bat-Man” but the premise is much too akin to ignore.
The Green Hornet of the ‘60s was a less comical and less fantastic (and less popular) TV series than Batman and had a grittier more realistic approach. Following that line of thought, the Green Hornet’s car, Black Beauty, is a modified 1966 Chrysler Imperial Crown with a number of crime fighting gadgets.
It's possibly cooler than the Batmobile because it reflects the attitude of the show and everything it can do is based in reality. There is no technology of the future incorporated into the car (except the deployable drone, which was futuristic in the ’60s). Of all the cars on this list, it’s also one of the few that you could actually own and drive (without armament, of course).
Black Beauty's Gadgets:
- Hornet’s Sting (ultrasonic soundwaves that unlocked doors/set things ablaze)
- Knock-out gas gun
- Rocket launchers behind headlights and in rear bumper
- Small flying video/audio surveillance device (drone)
- Infra-green vision
- Grease/smoke and oil rear deployment
- Rotating rear license plate
- Brooms (yes, you read that right, brooms—to brush away tire tracks)
5. Mach 5 (Speed Racer Movie 2008)
The other vehicles on this list are primarily designed for crime fighting, whereas this car is optimized for racing combat. Yes, racing combat, which begs the question, is there a reason why the Mach 5 wasn’t in one of the Death Race movies? But I digress. Obviously, the Mach 5 was built for speed (pardon the joke) first and combat second. In the Speed Racer world, the Mach 5 was capable of 0-60 mph in 2.7 seconds and could whiz through the quarter mile in about 7 seconds. Thankfully, the designers of the car were more imaginative with the gadgets than most and dreamt up devices other than pop-out guns and missiles.
The Mach 5's Gadgets:
- Jump jacks (for jumping over stuff, obviously)
- Bullet-proof deflector
- Tire shields
- Regenerating tires (Hexodyne emergency spare)
- Dual zircon-tipped rotary saw blades
- Tire crampon grips (tire spikes)
- Homing robot (drone)