Lenny B. Robinson was driving back from a West Virginia car show Sunday night when his engine began to give him trouble. Robinson pulled over on Interstate 70 in western Maryland and got out of the vehicle to take a look. That’s when, at around 10:30 p.m., a Toyota Camry crashed into Robinson’s car, which subsequently crashed into Robinson. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
In the United States, this type of tragedy is not uncommon. In 2013, nearly 33,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents, or more than 90 per day. But Robinson was not common. And neither was his car.
He was Batman, or a good approximation, at least, and the black with red trim, 20-foot-long vehicle that killed him was the custom Batmobile that he had spent untold hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars perfecting.
It was his masterpiece: the engine a 5.0L Mustang Cobra, its carburetor a 4-barrel Edelbrock, and the seats, the doors, the tires and the steering wheel stamped with the superhero’s emblem. The brake pedal, too, was red and Batman-shaped. It had no air conditioner, but it was a convertible and Robinson, who was rarely spotted without his 35-pound custom Batman suit, which caused him to lose several pounds of water weight with each wearing, was surely used to the heat.
“I went old school with the engine and old school with the car,” he explained once, “because I think it’s the best Batmobile that there was.”
And it had a purpose: to transport Robinson to and from children’s hospitals, where he donned his costume, lowered the pitch of his voice, and provided welcome distraction and happiness to the ill.
“I owe it all to my son, Brandon,” Robinson said of his hobby. “Who, as a little boy, dressed up as Batman, and he and I went to a hospital in Baltimore and as we were walking through we knew we were making a difference.”
The wealth which enabled his hobby, according to The Washington Post, was made in “the cleaning business.” On Facebook, he listed himself as “President of Superheroes for Kids, Inc.” and “President/CEO at LBR Enterprises, INC.” He said he was from Pikesville, Maryland, but lived in nearby Owings Mills.
In a 2013 speech, accepting an award for his work with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, Robinson introduced his smiling son.
“You see, like many young boys, Brandon was obsessed with Batman,” he said. “Wherever we went, he would don his costume and cowl. His mom and I got divorced when he was little, and Batman became our bond. We even built a Batcave, equipped with lights, furniture and cable TV. Then, one day it happened: his obsession turned into my obsession. Then, my OCD kicked in.”
The crowd laughed, and Robinson waved a finger in the air. He joked, “OCD, OMG, this is crazy.”
Together they went, he said, to Mount Sinai in Baltimore, like “Batman and Robin.” It was then, he said, that it “clicked.”
It wasn’t until 2012 that Robinson became widely known for his alter-ego. On March 21, police pulled him over on Route 29 for driving a black Lamborghini with a Batman symbol for a license plate.
“He’s got no tags,” an officer could be heard saying in police footage. “But he’s got Batman on it and he’s dressed like Batman.” When Robinson pulled over, the officer joked, “You can send me Robin if you wish.”
He exited his vehicle, his cape delicately waving as he walked, and shook the two officers’ hands. After retrieving his registration and telling them his name, one of the officers asked, “Lenny, do you mind if I take a picture?” He replied, “No, not at all,” and characteristically placed his hands on his hips. The officer sang, “Batmaaaaaan. Da da da da da da da.”