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Up Close with The Tumbler

The Dark Knight Rises - Tumbler in Toronto

There are two striking things about the Tumbler, a.k.a. the newest incarnation of the famed Batmobile from the Christopher Nolan directed, Christian Bale starring films about Bruce Wayne’s masked alter ego (the final film of which opens in theatres on July 20th in theatres around the world). First, thanks to the scope of Nolan’s imagery, the vehicle “designed to build bridges” looks a lot smaller in person. It’s also far more intimidating up close.

When it’s right in front of you, there are three specific things you can notice immediately. First off, the custom tires in the back are positively massive and built exclusively for the car, while the front wheels of the Tumbler and both on the Batpod motorcycle are custom made, but slightly more believable looking Hoosier tires. Second, the body of the car, made largely from military grade metals is unbelievably sleek; not shiny, but a kind of dull oil slick black that fits the Bat’s aesthetic nicely. Finally, you remark on how cool it would be to have an actual car with a jet fuel afterburner attached to it.

During a few recent tour stops in Canada – including a scuttled attempt to bring the Tumbler and Batpod motorcycle to Montreal that had to be cancelled due to ongoing rioting – passer-by got a chance to look at the vehicle somewhat up close from behind the velvet ropes. Dork Shelf, however, got a chance to get up close and personal with the Tumbler (and we could have even probably started it up if we stuck around just five minutes longer), and we spoke with Hobart Lundt, the Transportation Manager for Wayne Enterprises, one of two men tasked with upkeep and maintenance of the vehicle when it isn’t on screen or off fighting crime. Check out what he had to say in honour of advance tickets for The Dark Knight Rises selling out all over the world today.

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Dork Shelf: So how long have you been on the road with this thing so far this summer?

Hobart Lund: I think we’ve been on the road about 33 days. It goes all the way back from here back down through the states in Ohio, Indianapolis, then slowly make our way back to Texas and back to California for the opening on July 20th.

DS: Now what’s it like trying to load these things into the trailers every night? They seem like they can’t be that easy to manoeuvre.

HL: (laughs) Well, it definitely takes two people. The trailer only has about a half inch of clearance on each side, and as you can see here the vehicle is a lot wider than most. So I can’t see anything so I will have a person guiding me in. I try to centre it into the trailer and they just tell me to go a little left or a little right and we get it in there.

DS: Think there will ever be a point by the end of this where you can do it on your own?

HL: (laughs) Oh gosh, no. It’s deceiving because you look at the front of it and it’s so narrow and the middle is the fattest part, so you’ll think you’re doing fine and then you’ll end up breaking one of the hydraulic shafts on the side or something.

DS: I have to ask about the tires and what are they made for?

HL: These are custom made for the Tumbler, definitely. The wheels on the front of the Tumbler and over on the Batpod are Hoosiers, since the Batpod has to come out of the Tumbler it’s easier to just use that feature when Batman needs to use it.

DS: Is this just a touring model or is this one that was actually used?

HL: This is the vehicle used in all three movies. This is the original car. There might have been more at one time, but there aren’t any more now. This one’s an original.

DS: So this has been outfitted to do all of the stunts and the tricks you see in the film, and if you guys wreck this one you’re going to get in pretty serious trouble?

HL: Well, not really. On the film if something happens it just goes back to the shop and it gets worked on. It goes through maintenance every night. The special effects men and the transportation guys will take care of it at the end of the night. Special effects and the mechanics will make sure all of the nuts and bolts are tight through the whole thing and make sure it has fuel.

DS: What kind of fuel does this thing run on?

HL: Jet fuel! Come on! (laughs)

DS: I kind of figured from those giant tanks you can see peeking through the back flaps here.

HL: These are actually nitrogen tanks that you’re pointing at. These operate the flaps that you see on the side and those will come up when the car tries to slow down to act like a jet stopping an airplane. And that just goes back to how it’s built to seem real and to make everything look real. For something like this, doing stuff CGI just makes the movies not as good. Everything on this vehicle is the real deal and it helps to make the movie that much better in general.

DS: So how do you get into this thing, exactly?

HL: Well, the entry point is in through the top, here, and as you can see, the seats are way down low in this thing. Lower than where you would expect them to be in relation to the placement of the windshield, but it’s still the best point where you can see through. You just can’t back up, really well. (laughs)

DS: As for the bike, this seems a lot more lightweight than it looks on screen.

HL: Yeah, it only weighs about 300 pounds, and it has the machine guns and missiles and attachments on the front that actually add most of the weight to this thing.

DS: And I assume those aren’t exactly operational right now

HL: Well, for Batman they work. Not for me, though. (laughs) I’m not that lucky.

DS: Now the metal on these isn’t really like anything I had ever seen before, can you tell me a bit about that?

HL: The metal and glass on these are all real, bulletproof materials used specifically for this and other things that I can’t really talk about. It’s made specifically by Wayne Enterprises. (laughs) Again, it all goes back to making it seem real because on set these things will take quite a beating and as you can see there really aren’t that many, if any, scratches on this thing right now. They have great care taken of them.

It’s got great ground clearance and it’s made to tumble over and drive upside down. It turns pretty great, too. It’s got lockout brakes so you can slide the rear and you can just pull on them and slide the car almost perfectly left to right at a 90 degree angle. You can turn it as fast as you want because the shocks in the vehicle are going vertical almost up through to the windshield. You could jump the car four feet in the air while turning and you would still be fine. It’s done three movies. It’s definitely done it’s share of hard work on these films.

The Dark Knight Rises opens in theatres July 20th and advance tickets have gone on sale today through numerous North American theatre chains. The Bat Tumbler and Batpod continue to make their way across the US this summer. For future tour stops and more information, please visit the official Tumbler Tour website, appropriately enough on Tumblr.


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