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CATA driver Aaron Aikman is no stranger to building odd automobiles. Among the 15 cars parked at his home on Lansing’s westside, he created a replica Mystery Machine from Scooby-Doo, Ecto 1 from Ghostbusters, Kit from Night Rider and a coffin mobile. Now he sets his sights and engineering prowess on the Batmobile, a six-wheeled mish-mash of a dune buggy, Oldsmobile Toronado and Dodge Ram truck.
At 26 feet in length, the car barely fits into his large garage.
“I love Batman and the show, but I never thought about owning one,” Aikman said.
He's building the car for Shamus Smith, more commonly known as the Lansing Batman. Smith is part of the League of Enchantment, a group of superhero impersonators who make appearances for sick children and community events.
The car originally started as a broken-down dune buggy.
“My best friend had left this buggy outside for six years. All the rainwater got in the engine and locked it up,” Aikman said.
“I came up with the idea it would be really nice with Oldsmobile power as a mid-engine vehicle,” he added. “I thought that was a lot of work, so why don’t we just take an Olds Toronado and weld it to the frame.”
After finding a Toronado that hadn’t started in 20 years, Aikman was in luck.
“I came with a gallon of gasoline and a good battery. I cranked it over for about five minutes to get the oil pressure going through it. I hooked up the gasoline to the fuel pump and it fired right up, purring like a kitten. That’s why I love Oldsmobiles.”
However, combining two cars into one presents several problems. The first was that Aikman needed to find six wheels that resembled those on the Batmobile to move the beast. A set of 1994 Dodge Ram truck wheels gave the Batmobile a tank-like look. But finding a way to mount the wheels required hours of custom fabrication work.
“I had to make my own wheel adapters for this thing. You are going from General Motors 5 lug to Dodge 8 lug. Then we are going from Volkswagen 5 lug to Dodge 8 lug. It was a lot of work,” he said.
Aikman further fabricated all of the body from sheet metal and is working on handcrafting a cockpit akin to a Star Wars X Wing. Some components like the Batmobile weapons will be custom 3D-printed, Aikman said.
Since most of the vehicle is based on the Oldsmobile chassis, Aikman was able to use its VIN. He hopes the Frankenstein creation catches the attention of the R.E. Olds Museum.
“We are trying to use the original dashboard from the Oldsmobile to preserve as much of it as possible. We actually want to dedicate this to Oldsmobile when it’s done.”
He further plans to make the vehicle street legal and drivable.
“Its biggest problem is that the steering radius on it is really bad. We actually have the back tires that were on the dune buggy on the front of the vehicle,” he said.
The vehicle’s signature jet engines are made from a pair of metal trash cans with a flared-out tailpiece. One of the engines actually hides the steering column of the former Oldsmobile, which is not removable.
“I spent the last month busting my butt on this. I gave up $2,000 of overtime to do this within these last two weeks,” Aikman said.
“It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of stress. The goal is to have this ready for a proper reveal next May at Olympic Broil.”
The next phase for Aikman is making the body paneling streamlined. The sheet metal still has sharp edges and some still needs to be bolted onto the body.
Aikman estimates he put in more than 1,600 hours of work on the car in the last six months.
“Though it’s a lot of work, it is also a lot of fun for me. I love building these cars.”