From the Car Guy - Oct 10
“Your Last Ride”
By Lance Lambert
My wife thinks I’m unique. My friends thing I’m a bit odd. The Journal staff says I’m lucky they allow me in the building. So if I think someone else is odd, then they must be very odd.
Recently the VINTAGE VEHICLE TV SHOW crew and I were in California to film a hearse gathering hosted by the Phantom Coaches Car Club. Yep, hearses; that big black station wagon that most of us will ride in on our last day. Where would you expect a hearse show to happen? Where else but at a graveyard. The Fairhaven Cemetery in Santa Anna was host to the event and it was the perfect location. Before us was a beautiful southern California day and an assortment of 1959 to 1972 Cadillacs lined up next to a huge mausoleum. About a half dozen of these Grim Reaper rods were in very good condition. Others ranged from a little rough, to something that should have gone into the ground with it’s last customer. I have a strong respect for hearses due to their honorable place in our society, and to the quality of their construction, but I expected the owners to perhaps be a bit peculiar, and I wasn’t let down. Several owners sported the attire of 1880’s funeral directors. There were lots of shirts and signs with sayings like “Pass me on the curve; I need the business.”, and “Are you dying for a ride in my car?” Yes, many of the owners were a bit odd, but they were extremely cordial and as excited about their cars as any other collector car owner.
Several of the hearses came complete with coffins and corpses. Not real corpses of course, just excellent reproductions. One driver had a corpse sitting up next to him in the passenger seat and another had one looking out the back window and waving. Andy, the name of one deceased rider, was sitting up in his coffin watching television. A thoughtful couple, I think their last name may have been “Munster”, had two car seats attached in the back so their twin daughters could safely ride along. The paint jobs ranged from original black to being covered with hot rod flames. I think it’s a bad omen to take your last ride in a flamed hearse. One hearse was painted in green scales and had dozens of lizards painted on the exterior. They told me many stories of people’s reactions to seeing the cars that varied from receiving single digit salutes to top awards at car shows.
My impression of these people was positive. They showed a lot of imagination, excellent senses of humor and a healthy acceptance of all of our short times in history. Would I ever own a hearse? My wife is not that tolerant. Would I voluntarily ride in one? I have several times and will again. Did I think these people were odd? Of course, but it’s not often that I get to hang out with people as odd as me!