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Latest Batmobile aids cancer fight 0

STEPHANIE IP, 24 HOURS
Alex Agostini, 3, poses with the Batmobile vehicle during a B.C. Cancer Foundation event at Electronic Arts in Burnaby, Tuesday. (CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)

Alex Agostini, 3, poses with the Batmobile vehicle during a B.C. Cancer Foundation event at Electronic Arts in Burnaby, Tuesday. (CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)

Explosions, concrete walls and high-speed collisions - the Batmobile has been through it all. But special effects supervisor and car engineer Andy Smith has survived much worse: cancer.

"You're fit and healthy, life is rocking along and then the rug is pulled out from underneath you and everything stops," said Smith, whose car creation will appear alongside Christian Bale in this summer's The Dark Knight Rises. "You think you'll be given a few pills and sent on your way but it was cancer."

The newest generation of the Batmobile, which debuted in 2005's Batman Begins, was in town Tuesday accompanying Smith on a BC Cancer Foundation fundraiser that saw diehard fans of the Caped Crusader pay $50 for the chance to see the tank-like car up close.

According to the Brit, who underwent intense chemotherapy and is now cancer-free, the Batmobile was driven up from Los Angeles and "caused chaos" when bystanders and border guards stopped to snap photos.

The vehicle can reach 175 km/h and was not built on the frame of an existing car, but is instead modeled after a Lamborghini crossed with a Hummer. While there are several of the cars in existence, each is built to withstand many of the stunts actually seen in the popular films.

Smith, a longtime film veteran who also worked on the 1989 Batmobile when the series was revived, had always wanted to use his Hollywood connections for charity. When he was diagnosed three years ago and received treatment through the BC Cancer Agency and Foundation, he finally had the chance to pay it forward.

"I just wanted to put smiles on faces and if we can do a bit of fundraising, then great," he said, adding the car will make another private appearance Thursday for patients at BC Children's Hospital.

One fan who was all smiles was Tiziana Agostini's son Alex. The three-year-old wore a Batman shirt and was wide-eyed with excitement as he examined the car's front wheel - which was the same height as him.

The mother was diagnosed with cancer in October but has also since been declared cancer-free.

"It's awesome to see him this happy," she said. "The biggest cloud over my head the whole time was whether I'd see Alex grow up or not. Even though he was tiny, he was a big part of the fight."

The original 1966 Batmobile built by the legendary George Barris will also be in town this weekend at the Fan Expo at the Vancouver Convention Centre.


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