Stargazers with dreams too big for a small town often pack their bags and head for one city: Hollywood. Legendary custom car builder Gene Winfield is a man who had very big dreams, but not for himself. His aspiration was for a futuristic, aluminum-bodied custom automobile.
The Reactor will be one of 10 original off-off creations in the American Dream Cars of the 1960s class at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Cars ranging from a DiDia once owned by Bobby Darin to a car powered by gyrodynamics will also be present.
Winfield initially imagined and built the Reactor for Joe Kizis’ 1965 annual Autorama car show in Hartford, Connecticut. But after its time touring back east, he realized even bigger dreams for his car. So, he packed up the Reactor and took it to Hollywood, where it captured the attention of leading filmmakers.
“I didn’t know anybody,” Winfield recalled, “but I found 20th Century Fox Studios and I went up to the gate and conned them into letting me in to show my car to their transportation department. For two days, I took the car around and handed out my business card. Two weeks later, Bewitched called me and said that they wanted The Reactor on their set.”
The Reactor made several television/movie appearances on shows like Star Trek and Mission: Impossible, but it is perhaps best known for its appearance in the third and final season of the Batman television series, where it was the getaway car for Catwoman, played by actress Eartha Kitt.
The car was created around a Citroën DS chassis and its unique hydro-pneumatic suspension so that it could move up and down. Winfield installed a 180-hp turbocharged engine from a Chevrolet Corvair Corsa, and paired it with the Citroën DS’s drivetrain. Cleverly, he used the Corvair flat-6 engine as a stylistic tool, because he wanted the Reactor to be as low and close to the ground as possible.