Zac Mihajlovic is the Batman that Sydney deserves.
For the last few years, locals around Cobbitty in Sydney's southwest have become accustomed to seeing Zac cruising around in his street legal Batmobile. Modeled after the Batmobile in the 1989 Tim Burton movie starring Michael Keaton, the car is an impressive street machine that looks and feels exactly like the Batmobile we have seen on the big screen.
Zac came to SBS recently as a guest on our podcast BATMANLAND which each week discusses the 1966 Batman episodes (starring Adam West) that air each week on SBS VICELAND and stream at SBS On Demand.
The immediate question the BATMANLAND hosts Dan and Nick had when meeting Zac is: why did he build a Batmobile to begin with?
"It was the first movie that clicked with me... I was like any kid. I had all of the toys," Zac explained with a smile. The idea to build a Batmobile came to Zac in his early 20s when he began to realise that his grandfather, a mechanical engineer, had an impressive skillset.
"We built some cars and I just wanted to build a Batmobile", Zac revealed. "I was like 'Let's do something extreme'.
Zac found original parts in a Hollywood Auction of the Batmobile. These were spare molds and excess parts from the actual 1989 movie's vehicle, intended as replacements if the car was damaged during filming.
The cost of running the vehicle has proven expensive for Zac. While the cost of registering the car is the same as any other four wheel vehicle, insurance costs are considerably higher. Another drawback is being unable to take the car through the McDonalds drive-thru, but apparently the staff are always very willing to run out and get Batman's order.
While Zac does take the Batmobile out to paid events like birthdays weddings, and formals to help pay for the cost of running it, it is charity work that has given Zac the most pleasure. To date, he has done approximately 100 wishes for Make-a-Wish and has volunteered his time fundraising.
Charity work was one of the main things Zac wanted to do if he was able to accomplish his dream and built the Batmobile. "I had the idea that we could use it as a tool to give back. I got that from him [Zac's grandfather], that philanthropy is... rewarding to help out people."
It was through his charity work that Zac managed to score his one and only parking fine for the Batmobile. "I've had a parking fine," Zac admitted. "I was doing a job for a girl and things weren't going great for her. I said "I'll pick you up from school one day". I pulled up out the front so all her friends could see her get in the car. She was very excited. I pulled off and two weeks later I get a fine in the mail. Four points and x amount of dollars because I was parked in a No Stopping zone at the school."
Zac is committed enough to the Batmobile that he also does a lot of work in costume. Having invested in a $10,000 suit, Zac finds it a thrill to dress in costume:"I am very shy, but when I'm Batman, anything goes. I have so much fun as this character. I've developed a split personality."
Warner Bros, who own the rights to Batman through DC Comics have come to an agreement with Zac to allow him to continue to use their intellectual property. He explained that "I got permission to build the car and they were cool with that because I had original parts and I could show them some of the other things I had made. They didn't realise how much interest there would be with this. I started to do a couple of videos which got a few million hits.
"So, then I got a call from Burbank and they asked what was going on because I was doing the odd birthday party. They were very worried about what Batman would say to kids. It's obviously a very protected character. There's things you can't say as the character of Batman. You can't be inappropriate in any way.
"I had to be the right height, I could do the accent. Batman is over six foot, so that was important," Zac said.
While the company tends to look the other way with people performing at birthday parties as Batman, the fact Zac has such a legitimate-looking Batmobile lends his work an authenticity that would generally only come from people affiliated with the movies.
Zac reveals more about the interesting life he's had thanks to his Batmobile, such as the time he was confused for a big-name Hollywood director, and the eye-popping dollar figure he turned down from a man who wanted to buy the Batmobile, on this week's BATMANLAND podcast.
You can contact Zac via his Batmobile Australia website.