Barris Batmobiles

Corgi Toys was a company that had been making toy cars since 1956. Those toy cars were quite a bit larger than the little toy cars I'm familiar with.

In 1964, though, Corgi started producing a line of 1:64 scale cars called Husky Models. Corgi was known for its TV- and movie-based offerings, and almost as soon as George Barris created the car in 1966, Corgi added the Batmobile to its line-up. Husky Models had the same kind of skinny, nondescript, hard rubber wheels as all the other cars of the time. But a year later, Mattel's Hot Wheels™ burst onto the scene and rocked the toy car world.

Immediately, the other makers scrambled to design wider, low-friction wheels in order to compete with Hot Wheels™. Matchbox came up with "Superfast" wheels. Corgi began tooling up "Whizzwheels", and in 1970 changed the name of its 1:64 line to Corgi Juniors.

Also inspired by the success of Hot Wheels™, a company in Hong Kong called Playart sprang up in the early 1970s and began making clones of cars from almost every other contemporary manufacturer. Information about Playart is scant, although the company did have an extensive catalog of moderate-quality models that it sold through Sears and Woolworth stores. However, Playart's Batmobile licensing seems questionable.

On the left: Originally a beat-up Playart casting, completely re-done in Metallic Black with a set of Johhny Lightning™ wheels. When I tore it apart, I didn't know it was rare and valuable. Fortunately, neither did the seller.
On the right is the more common "jaw-less" Corgi Juniors casting.

Corgi, in South Wales, made the little Batmobile from 1966 (when Barris created the car), first as a Husky and then as a Corgi Junior until the company went into liquidation in 1983. A management buy-out got the company re-formed as Corgi Toys Limited in March 1984, but it no longer had the rights to the Batmobile. The new limited company struggled, doing contract work, and partnering with a Chinese company in an effort to stay afloat.

But when it was being made, the Batmobile was popular. In 1977, in an episode of the TV show Doctor Who titled "The Talons of Weng-Chiang," the Doctor is asked to empty his pockets, and one of the objects he pulls out of his pockets is a Corgi Juniors Batmobile. And despite CBS News calling it a Hot Wheels™ car, it was a Corgi Juniors version that helped catch a murderer. (Story below.)

Toward the end of 1989, Mattel bought the Corgi company. Mattel took over the Corgi Juniors castings, made some slight modifications, and suddenly had a whole bunch of new Hot Wheels™ models. This suited Mattel, and in August of 1995, it sold off the rest of Corgi but kept the Corgi Juniors designs.

Even before the Mattel buyout Corgi had long lost the rights to the Barris-designed Batmobile, and DC Comics had become very guarded about its properties. It took almost 20 years for Mattel to secure licensing to make the Batmobile again. Finally, in 2007, Hot Wheels™ released its "1966 TV Series Batmobile" (in 3 sizes), claiming the most accurate representation possible.

In 2008, offered this model of the Batmobile, with Neo-Classics style wheels and torsion-bar suspension, to members of the website's Red Line Club. The edition was limited to 13,428. The axles weren't very bouncy.

The best rendition of the Hot Wheels™ 1966 Batmobile is the 2007 San Diego Comic Con exclusive, made in a limited edition of 8000. Five thousand were sold at the Comic Con, and the other 3000 were sold through the website.

To Catch a Killer

CBS News

In December 1978 someone walked into the Huling family's secluded home in St. Cloud, Minn. First the intruder shot Alice Huling and killed her.

Then the killer went after Alice Huling's four children, who were in bed upstairs. "My brother said, 'Who are you?'" Bill remembered.

"The person raised the gun up toward him and shot. And at that point, I became very scared and just pulled the cover over my head and lay in bed," he added.

Bill's 13-year-old brother Wayne was dead. Next the intruder shot and killed Bill's older sisters, Suzy and Patty.

Huling says he heard footsteps entering his bedroom, and then a shot. "It went right next to my head. I had my arms right over my head," he says. "Didn't hit me or anything, and as the person poked me, I think I probably breathed a little bit and moved."

The killer fired a second time, but somehow missed again. "I guess I didn't move that time, cause then footsteps started walking away," recalls Huling, who ran nearly two miles to get help after the killer left.

Although there were several suspects, no one was charged with the murders because there was not enough evidence.

Four days later, police stopped a drifter, Joe Ture, in a stolen car and discovered hundreds of names, license tags and telephone numbers of women in the car. But it wasn't enough to hold him, so Ture was released.

He was free until 1981, when he was finally charged and convicted of the murder of a waitress, 19-year-old Diane Edwards, one of the women he had targeted. Ture confessed to a cellmate three years after the murder that he committed the Huling family murders. Police had confession letters signed by Ture, but even with these confessions, Ture wasn't charged with murdering the Hulings. In fact, the only person who says Ture confessed was his cellmate. Ture denied dictating the confession letters.

Ture became the chief suspect in the Huling family murders. But when 48 Hours first aired this story in 1996, investigators still didn't have enough to convict him.

This drastically changed when a viewer saw that broadcast. Ture admitted in the interview with 48 Hours that he would track down someone he wanted to meet through their automobile license tags.

That night, one viewer was watching 48 Hours. "As we were watching it, I started shaking and I said, 'Oh my God, I think that's the guy," recalls Lavonne, who along with dozens of other women, recognized Ture as the man who attacked her.

Everett Doolittle, who heads Minnesota's Cold Case Unit, received numerous responses from viewers. Could he prove that Ture also killed the Hulings?

When police found the names and addresses of women in Ture's car – right after the Huling murders – they also found a ski mask, a club wrapped in leather, and a little toy Batmobile car.

What was a toy car doing in Ture's vehicle? Ture told investigators the car belonged to his granddaughter, even though he was only 27 at the time he was questioned.

Doolittle asked Billy Huling, the only member of his immediate family who had survived that night, what the detectives 20 years ago had failed to do. He asked Bill if he had any Hot Wheels cars.

"And his answer was, 'Why, did you find my Batmobile?" recalls Doolittle. "He said the last time he saw it was on his kitchen table the night of the murder." This tied Ture to the crime and gave investigators enough evidence to charge him with the Huling killings.

In 1978, no one had asked 11-year-old Bill Huling about the toy car. In part because of this lapse, Ture stayed out of jail long enough to kill two women, and to rape at least four more.

Not only had investigators failed to ask Huling about his toy car, they never bothered to show him Ture's 1981 confession to the murders, which included many details that could only have been known by the killer.

Bill Huling confirmed that all of these details were accurate. "It had to be the person there," he said. "Because there was too much stuff in there that was exactly right."

In December 1999, Ture was tried for the Huling murders. At the trial, Bill Huling, now a Navy officer with a wife and two children, testified twice. After a four-week trial, Ture was convicted and sentenced to four consecutive life sentences.

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