Decades before Robert Pattinson was born, the Batmobile was a 1949 Mercury. Gastown owner Jamie Pye now owns one.
“They are a little different than any cars made today,” said Pye.
Stretching more than five metres long and weighing more than two tonnes, the ‘49 Merc is a beautiful beast. Robert Lowery drove one in a cape and ill-fitting cowl in the 1949 Columbia Pictures serial, Batman and Robin. Hollywood icon James Dean drag-raced the equally iconic car off a cliff in Rebel Without a Cause in 1955.
Souped up with a cropped top, blue flames across the hood and fenders and a 21st century custom interior, among other flourishes, Pye’s ‘49 Mercury attracts attention.
“People often smile or wave,” he said, “or they’ll ask what kind of car it is.”
Pye grew up around restored vintage vehicles. His dad, the late Gerry Pye, owned more than anyone else in Yellowknife at the time.
“Growing up, my dad was a major influence on my love for antique cars,” said Pye. “He had many different cars over the years.”
The elder Pye loved to display his collection, often rolling down Franklin Avenue as part of the Canada Day Parade or any other excuse to showcase the curved contours and chrome accents of the vehicles in his fleet.
“My dad was into all makes and models and anything that could start a conversation,” said Jamie. “My dad would go outside when anyone stopped to look at the car and he would show it and tell them everything he could about them. It’s something he loved to do.”
The rotating roster of autos Jamie grew up around included a ‘51 Mercury, six different models of Peugeots, a ‘56 Hudson Hornet, a ‘63 Studebaker Avanti, and a string of Nash Metropolitan automobiles — a now-defunct British manufacturer that attempted unsuccessfully to sell something akin to a squished compact Cadillac to the American market from 1949 to 1957.
But Jamie’s dream ride wasn’t parked in his dad’s garage. The car that the younger Pye coveted before he could reach the gas pedal was owned by his dad’s friend, longtime Yellowknifer Fred Squires.
“This is when I first remember seeing the car (the ‘49 Mercury). It has always been a car I would look at, at every car show in town,” Jamie recalled. “Fred had put it up for sale last year and we were able to make a deal for it.”
Pye is eager to share his new acquisition with the community, along with his 1957 Chevy Bel-Air and other classics.
“We would like to see a car show for this year,” he said, musing about reigniting that tradition. “There are many classic vehicles and bikes in this town and it’s a great way for people to be able to enjoy them. You may see them in this year’s Canada Day parade. We haven’t finalized any plans yet.”
In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for the Batmobile on sunny days this summer.