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OSU alumnus builds street-legal Batmobile

Courtesy of Putsch Racing

An Ohio State graduate has taken the Batmobile from the streets of Gotham City to the streets of Columbus.

A turbine-powered Batmobile replica, thought to be the first of its kind in the world and based on the design from Tim Burton’s 1989 and 1991 films, “Batman” and “Batman Returns,” can be found just minutes away from campus.

Casey Putsch, a Dublin, Ohio, resident, 2005 OSU alumnus and owner of Putsch Racing, built the car himself.

The idea to build a Batmobile came to him randomly more than a year ago.

“The Batmobile came about because, quite frankly, it was probably late at night when I was like, ‘That would be cool. I could do that,'” Putsch said. “Then I looked into it and I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. I can’t not do that.'”

To make the car as authentic as possible, Putsch rebuilt a Boeing turbine engine from a decommissioned military helicopter. The engine helps the car reach top speeds of “only” between 165 mph and 180 mph, he said.

The car is street legal as it’s registered and insured for street driving, but the noise of the engine could potentially attract the attention of Gotham, err, Columbus police.

“I didn’t really muffle it, so it’s pretty loud, but nobody really cares,” he said.

The five months it took him to build the car weren’t easy, either.

Because the dimensions of the Batmobile are unlike any other car on the road today, Putsch had to build a special frame and chassis. The suspension and transmission were borrowed and modified from a Corvette. It even features a navigation system that runs on an iPad.

The design of it, however, was done in his head.

“I just know material sciences and processes and how things work together well enough that I can just think about it for a long time and think about the best course of action,” he said.

Putsch would not say how much it cost to build the car, but said the majority of the costs on such a project come more from labor, including input and design from engineers, rather than materials.

“The reason I was able to do this as just one person is because I have all the skill to build it by myself … but I also am the person who engineered it,” he said.

Reaction to the car has been wild, Putsch said. He said people tend to be skeptical that the engine is a real turbine engine, but when the car starts, people can’t help but be drawn to it.

Even old ladies with camera phones have stopped to take pictures, Putsch said.

“The people who see it will freak out and stop because it’s the Batmobile,” he said. “You can tell that boundary between fiction and reality just got broken down in their minds and they don’t know how to react. It kind of freaks them out.”

Because of that, he doesn’t drive it on the street often because it might distract drivers and cause an accident. He also limits driving it in public because he’s worried people will “maul” it.

The car was on display at a Putsch Racing open house the weekend of July 4, where Josh Quellhorst, 32, of Worthington, Ohio, and a 2003 OSU alumnus in criminology and sociology, first saw the car.

His first reaction to seeing the car was simple.

“It’s the Batmobile! What else is there to say?” he said.

David Reyes, Jr., director of marketing for the Graphic Novel Club at OSU and a fourth-year in English, was also impressed, but by photos of the car.

“Oh man, that looks sweet,” he said. “I always find it cool when people are able to combine their passions with their own personal interests. Not many people can use their degrees to achieve a personal dream like that.”

Putsch said he also considered building the “Tumbler,” the vehicle Batman has driven in the last two Batman films, “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” but thought the Batmobile from the Burton films was more fantastical.

“(The Tumbler’s) not so magical to me, and I think a lot of people, as the Tim Burton one because the Tim Burton one had a much more fantasy kind of role to it, so it was much more fun bringing it to reality because it never existed, it never was going to,” he said. “The Tumbler is more kind of real. It (doesn’t) exactly seem like as much (of a) challenge.”

Putsch came to OSU as an industrial design major. He requested to design a car rather than a bathroom scale as required, and when he was denied, he left the program and became a fine arts major.

That’s not what helped him build his Batmobile the most, however. That came at the OSU stable responsible for such projects as the world-record-breaking Buckeye Bullet.

“The biggest credit I can give to Ohio State regarding my ability to build the Batmobile came from everything I learned at the Center for Automotive Research,” he said.

Putsch’s Batmobile has since gone viral, being featured on MTV, Engadget, Yahoo! News and BBC’s “Top Gear” website, among others. But, he said, that’s not what he’s most proud of.

“The thing that makes me happy is just the fact that it works exactly the way I thought it would, perfectly, the first time,” he said. “I haven’t had to change anything. Nothing’s broken. I haven’t adjusted anything. It’s been perfect.”

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