Holy windshield wipers! Did Fargo Police really once impound Hollywood’s Batmobile?

The famous TV car was in Fargo in the fall of 1968 for a publicity tour that might have ended in an arrest and court appearance.

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The famous Batmobile from the Batman TV show starring Adam West is parked in front of the Fargo Civic Center during a publicity stop in November 1968. The car's designer says Fargo Police ended up impounding the car and arresting him.
WDAY-TV Film Collection/State Historical Society of North Dakota Archives


That’s your mind being blown when you find out the Batmobile might have run afoul of the law in Fargo.

The year was 1968. November. Right before Thanksgiving when local reporters were in for a treat - getting to step away from their typewriters writing stories about the price of turkey or the likelihood of snow for the holiday for a chance at being a superhero. Or driving like one anyway.

Listen to this story on Tracy's podcast:

The Batmobile, minus Batman, had come to town and reporters, including WDAY’s Howard Graber, were given the keys to take it for a spin. Watch Howard in action in this old news clip.

That video, in and of itself, is pretty fun. But the story gets even more interesting when you realize after this film was shot, the car might have been impounded and the designer arrested.


Cue the Law and Order sound effect: Dun-dun!

George Barris was the designer of the Batmobile used in the 1960s-era Batman TV series starring Adam West. In a YouTube clip from 2008, Barris explains some of the features of the car. Just after the 3:00 mark, he tells a story of the time he brought the car to Fargo and the shenanigans that ensued.

I was in a show in a town called Fargo, North Dakota. And we were doing a press media shot and I'm driving down the street with the press people and all of a sudden….(makes the sound of a police siren). So I pull over. This guy gets out. 

He says, ‘You have no windshield wipers on that car and your taillights are not right I'm going to impound that car.’

I said, ‘Wait a minute. Wait a minute, officer. We're just doing a press shot for the TV.’

He said, 'I don't care what you're trying to say.’

He called a tow truck in, towed in the car, hauled me into the police station and arrested me. 

We go before the judge and the judge looks at me and and he looks at his officer and he says, ‘Wilbur, do you realize what you did? You impounded the famous Batmobile and you threw Mr. Barris in jail! I’m going to demote you to a dog catcher!’


Here's the clip of Batmobile designer George Barris saying his car was once impounded in Fargo. The portion is at the 3-minute mark.

Did the Batmobile really get impounded and Barris arrested?

To solve this riddle, I reached out to the Fargo Police Department to see if officials there had any record of the impoundment and/or arrest. (Gosh, I’d love to say I used a red Batphone to do so, but I just emailed them.)

Katie Ettish, the public information manager for the city of Fargo, forwarded me to Jean Syverson, manager of the Fargo Police records department. She asked me for a few clues to help us find some answers.

Was there a VIN number or license plate on the car impounded?

What a couple of great questions - questions to which I did not have an answer.

Were you the kid who got a ride to school in the Batmobile?

All I knew was the incident is likely to have happened between Nov. 17 and 19, 1968, when the car was here for the publicity tour.

Then based on Barris’s story from YouTube we had more clues:


  • The arrest was made by an officer named Wilbur
  • The man arrested was George Barris
  • Barris says he appeared in front of a judge in what was likely municipal court, but the case was basically thrown out

Unfortunately, Syverson did not find any records pertaining to any such incident.
I also reached out to longtime municipal court judge Tom Davies who served on the court for nearly 40 years. While he started with the court in 1972, four years after the alleged incident, he said he had never heard any stories about it over the years.

My next step was to start digging through The Forum archives. I looked through the entire month of microfilm from November 1968. There were no stories about the Batmobile, not even about the publicity tour. All we had was the film clip from WDAY-TV and there was no mention of any trouble with the car.

So what gives?

Why is there no record of the Batmobile being impounded in Fargo in November of 1968? Well, I have a couple of theories.

  1. Perhaps the Batmobile was impounded on a different visit to Fargo. The Batman series, featuring this real Batmobile ran from 1966 to 1968. Could the Batmobile have come to town at another time when the arrest and impoundment happened?
  2. Barris was mistaken about where it happened. Maybe it happened in another North Dakota city. Although, my searches of “Batmobile” in other North Dakota newspapers at that time only yielded comic strips - no news stories about the Batmobile getting impounded.
  3. George Barris was just having a little fun, telling a tall tale about the Batmobile’s adventures on the road. Sadly, Barris died in 2015 so we can't ask him.

Putting out the Batsignal for your help

This is where I need your help. Do you remember the Batmobile coming to Fargo or any nearby city and do you remember it getting impounded? Let me know.

And here is one final clue. In Howard Graber’s report, he mentions a contest being run where a child in the community would win the opportunity to get a ride to and from school in the Batmobile. Sounds like fun. But I couldn’t find any more information about the contest or who won it.

Were you the kid who got a ride to school in the Batmobile? Or maybe it didn’t happen because it was in the impound lot. Perhaps that could help us get to the bottom of the Batmobile mystery.

And finally, maybe we just need to realize even if the impoundment of the Batmobile really happened it would matter little to the caped crusader - a good citizen willing to sacrifice his own good for that of the community, even one he was just visiting.

Spy for yourself this interaction between Batman and Robin after parking the Batmobile on a street in Gotham.


Batman: "Better put 5 cents in the meter."

Robin: "No policeman’s going to give the Batmobile a ticket."

Batman: "This money goes to building better roads. We all must do our part."

I suppose the same could be said of an impound fine.


Tracy Briggs Back Then with Tracy Briggs online column sig.jpg
Tracy Briggs, "Back Then with Tracy Briggs" columnist.
The Forum

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Tracy Briggs is an Emmy-nominated News, Lifestyle and History reporter with Forum Communications with more than 35 years of experience, in broadcast, print and digital journalism.
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