A Publication of WTVP

Central Illinois’ own Caped Crusader

by Phil Luciano | Photos by Ron Johnson |

John Bisanz of Washington has built his own Batmobile and he loves showing it off

Some boys want to grow up to be a policeman.

Others want to be a fireman.

John Bisanz wanted to be Batman.

In a way, the real estate agent has achieved his goal.

“Realtor by day and Caped Crusader by night,” he says with a laugh.

The 61-year-old Washington man doesn’t fight crime like Batman. But he does drive a Batmobile.

Bisanz spent the last 10 years and as much as $150,000 creating a remarkable facsimile of the centerpiece vehicle from the campy ‘60s TV show: a 1966 Batmobile.

Back then, a young Bisanz was riveted by the program. Not by the crimefighting heroes, not by the crazy villains, but by the car.

“The car was always the thing,” he said.

Since his teens, Bisanz has been a gearhead. He has a 4,000-square-foot-garage that he lovingly calls “my man cave,” though he plans to start calling it, more appropriately, his “bat cave.” There he parks 10 rather non-conventional vehicles, including a Mayberry police cruiser from “The Andy Griffith Show,” a 1969 ambulance, a Dodge Viper and a custom race car.

But even as his collection grew over the years, he yearned for that missing piece.

“I’ve always been into cars,” he said before correcting himself. “I’ve always been into the weird cars. And there’s nothing weirder than the Batmobile.”

But replicas can cost well into six figures. Bisanz never had that much spare cash lying around. “It’s all about time and money,” he said.

So more than a decade ago, he started to make plans to assemble a Batmobile piece by piece.

‘There’s no instruction on YouTube on how to build a Batmobile’— John Bisanz

First, for the body, he got a hold of a 1977 Lincoln Continental. That was the easy part. He had to figure out the rest.

“There’s no instructions on YouTube on how to build a Batmobile,” he said.

Meantime, he needed parts exclusive to the Batmobile, such as the Bat-phone, the Emergency Bat-turn lever and the turbine exhaust.

“I can’t go to O’Reilly’s and buy parts for a ’66 Batmobile,” Bisanz said with a laugh. “They’d look at me really weird.”

So, he had to either make the parts himself or order them from other Bat-fans. The labor of love took 10 years, as Bisanz was persnickety about his four-wheel baby. During that time, he financed the project with sweat equity. Bisanz is known around Washington as a reliable fix-it guy, from lawn-mower repair to small home renovations.

“I’m just insanely handy,” he said.

Between projects as a handyman and Realtor, Bisanz finally got his Batmobile done earlier this year. To complete the picture, he bought a batsuit, which he plans to wear as Central Illinois Batman in public appearances with his vehicle.

“The goal for me has been to raise money to help kids,” he said of the children’s charities he plans on supporting.

Some kids are hip to the ‘60s Batman show. But not all, such as the 12-year-old girl who spotted Bisanz’s Batmobile roll by recently and yelled out, “Nice ‘Fast & Furious’ car.”

Bisanz laughs at the memory. “But the older people, they totally get it,” he said.

Washington Police Chief Mike McCoy has heard about Central Illinois Batman but hasn’t yet encountered him or the Batmobile. The chief appreciates any law-and-order support.

“We, as with most cities, can use all the help we can get,” McCoy said with a chuckle. “We would welcome caped crusaders in Washington.”

Bisanz has taken a few spins around Washington, always prompting wide eyes and cell phone shots.

He made a recent stop at a fast-food eatery and the parking lot quickly filled with curiosity-seekers. One gent sped home to retrieve his son.

“His son, who is about 35 years, old, was dressed head to toe in a full Batman suit,” Bisanz said. “They were taking pictures. We had the greatest laugh.”

‘The goal for me has been to raise money to help kids’ — John Bisanz

Central Illinois Batman looks forward to many more such encounters.

“That the best part,” he said, “just making people’s day and seeing their reactions.”

Phil Luciano

Phil Luciano

is a senior writer/columnist for Peoria Magazine and content contributor to public television station WTVP. He can be reached at [email protected]