Mike Esch, Albuquerque native and car enthusiast, is doing something Batman would be proud of: Esch is taking his super-cool, working-condition Batmobile replica out for charity events and granting wishes for the Make A Wish Foundation. Esch, a former engineer, gives rides to sick children and teens, picks returning soldiers up from airports, and hands out Christmas gifts from his snazzy vehicle.
Esch’s Batmobile took two years to create, and was built up from a 1970s Lincoln Continental body. Hours upon hours of work went into the vehicle to make it what it is today. This Batmobile boasts a parachute, television, compass, wings, lights, and—for a little while—flames, Esch said in an interview with New Mexico Entertainment. The car is fully operational, but it does occasionally break down, and when it does, there’s never a shortage of donations or volunteers to get the car up and running again.
Esch says he has experienced many incredible, heart-wrenching moments in the Batmobile. He recounted his meeting with sick teenager Natalie Hill, who rode with him in the car not long before her death, to the Associated Press: “She stood up and did the Titanic thing, and sort of crying, she said, ‘I wanted to feel the wind in my hair one last time.’ Things like that happen to me all the time, and it humbles you.”
In addition to the charitable works Esch does with his car, he also gets a lot of attention just from people passing by. Children sometimes come running over for pictures, he says, and once Peter Mayhew of Chewbacca fame asked to sit in the car with him. But Esch doesn’t do his charity work for money or fame. He takes the car to charity events with people who own replicas of the RV from the television series Breaking Bad or the Scooby Doo van—just for fun.
Esch encourages anyone who wants to do something like build a Batmobile to do it for the same reason. The car is expensive to maintain, but he prefers charitable giving anyway. “As long as you’re not thinking about money, you’ll be compensated beyond belief,” he says.