Monday, April 27, 2009

Forever Cars, Part 5

By Dave Molter

My first car was a 1951 Cadillac hearse. No, I am not descended from a long line of undertakers, nor am I particularly morbid. But there is a story behind my purchase. In 1967 I was 18 years old and newly graduated from high school. I was also in a rock band, and it was by no means cool to show up at gig in my father's 1965 Rambler American. One of my friends hauled around his band's equipment in a 1956 Cadillac hearse, and it was love at first sight. I found my ride in a vacant lot behind our singer's apartment. Unfortunately, I never took pictures of my hearse, but it was pretty much the same as the one pictured here, with one big – and, to an 18-year-old, great – difference. The guy I bought it from had a venetian blind repair company, and he had stencilled above the windshield, in huge, white block letters, “THIS DRIVER IS BLIND MAN.”

I paid $35 for what many people called my "deathmobile." Because hearses don't drive very far, it had only 15,000 original miles. It was an eight-cylinder with a three-speed stick on the column. Black leather interior with red leather headliner in the cab, red velvet in the back with rollers for a coffin. I loved the toothy metallic grin of its grille.

My one venture into morbidity – it was unintentional – took place when I parked across from my high school to pick up my girlfriend, who was two years younger than I. I was happily sitting behind the wheel minding my own business when a man dressed in a suit appeared at the driver's side window.
“Perhaps you think this is amusing, but I don't,” he said. “I own this business,” he added, gesturing toward the sidewalk.
I realized that I had parked in front of the funeral home catty corner to the school. I drove away sheepishly, never to park there again. My hearse served me well for more than a year before my mother made me sell it because I could no longer find anyone willing to insure such a behemoth. But I have many fond memories of hauling equipment slowly up the West Virginia hills – this was before I-70 and I-79 had been completed – and of turning heads wherever I drove.


Ellipses said...

That is 100 pounds of awesome right there!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave, Didn't you used to write for the O-R? Where are you now? I hope you're still writing because as I recall you were very good. Loved your car story...did you ever watch Six Feet Under? One of the main characters - a girl in high school - also drove an old hearse.

Brant said...


Good to see you "in print" again. Miss your columns. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Dave M here:

Yes, 'tis I. Thank you, Anonymous and Brant, for the kind words. I still write and I make a living in communications, but these days I'm more into recapturing my misspent youth by playing bass. So far, so good.

Great news is that my son, Steve, who refused to write more than two paragraphs on any topic when he was in high school, has just self-published a 70,000 word fantasy novella and has two sequels ready to go. And he just turned 20! I didn't know he even wrote fiction until he was 18. A lot more ambitious than a 300-word column any day. Thanks again!

randilee said...

Anyone who drives a hearse is OK by me!

Brant said...

Vulture alert! ;-)

Anonymous said...

It can be a huge, um, undertaking ...