The Munster Koach
In September 1964 two particularly bizarre sitcoms launched on the American airwaves.
On Friday the 18th ABC premiered The Addams Family, a 30 minute black and white comedy based on the characters in Charles Addams’ New Yorker cartoons. On the 24th CBS released their own version of supernatural comedic weirdness, The Munsters: characters based on classic monsters of Universal Studios horror films from the 1930s and 1940s dropped into a blue collar setting and following a Leave it to Beaver sitcom formula.
Download Video Clip or Watch the Full Munsters Episode Here
|The Munster Koach was introduced in episode 4 on October 15, 1964 as a birthday present for Herman (Fred Gwynne) from Lily (Yvonne De Carlo); in the script she actually picks out two cars from a used car dealer (Diamond Jim), a T-Bucket built by Erv Campbell of Santa Ana, CA. and what appears to be a 1920 Cunningham Funeral Coach and tells him to “take them to a custom builder”. In reality that custom builder was George Barris who provided the Koach in a 21 day deadline. Tom Daniel did the original designs; Tex Smith and Dick Dean reportedly handled the build working from 3 Model T bodies assembled on a hand-made 133″ frame. The final machine is 18 feet long.|
|Build photos from the Barris shop|
The Munster Koach is powered by a 289 Ford Cobra engine built with Jahns high compression pistons, ten chrome plated Stromberg carburetors, an Isky cam and Bobby Barr racing headers. Bodywork includes a hand formed brass radiator and fenders with a dropped axle, split radius rods and T springs on the front end and 500 hours of hand-made rolled steel scrollwork. The drive has a four speed manual transmission and a power rear end.
|George Barris, driving|
The Munster Koach appeared in over twenty episodes throughout the series’ two-year run and was also used in Munster, Go Home! with different wheels.
The Munster Koach proved to be a big hit – and a valuable marketing tool in the Kustom crazed ’60s. So when Herman lost it in a drag race during episode 36, “Hot Rod Herman” (OAD May 27, 1965) Grandpa (Al Lewis) whipped him up a real dragster to win it back. The producers turned back to Barris, who sent Korky Korkes around to knock on some funeral home doors and sort a fiberglass coffin. They dropped that on a tube frame, added a 350HP, 289 cubic inch Ford Mustang V-8 with dual four barrel carbs on a Mickey Thompson Ram-Thrust manifold. Custom bodywork included 10-inch Rader aluminum & steel wheels with spiders on the hubcaps, Zoomie style organ pipes for exhaust and antique lamps on the front and rear. The driver sat in the rear of the vehicle behind the engine under a plastic bubble.
|DRAG-U-LA displayed at Al Lewis memorial service in NYC 2/18/06|
While the working class Munster family was building dragsters and acting all badassed, over on ABC the Addamses were still being chauffeured around by Lurch in a fairly stock (for the times) 1933 Packard V-12. Somebody over there caught on to the CBS custom bug but it was too little too late: they commissioned The Druid Princess from Ed Roth but the show was cancelled before the car was finished.
Druid Princess (named by Robert Williams) was one of Roth’s last heavy custom jobs; it would be two decades before he turned out his next sizable four-wheeled concept, L.A. Zoom in 1989.
Built out of plywood covered in fiberglass on a rectangular steel tubing frame by Dan Woods and “Jake” Jacobs, the design owed nothing to aerodynamics: it was all about style and faux elegance. Druid Princess had coil spring live axle suspension with drum brakes at the rear; power was supplied by a B-series Dodge 383 and a Torque-Flite automatic. Roth included a 6-71 Jimmy blower with Hilborn injection system, but it was a fake and simply covered up a Carter AFB four-barrel. The deco pieces come from a picture frame manufacturer in Hollywood.
|Ed Roth’s original Druid Princess|
Roth insisted that the luggage trunk be a child-sized coffin: not just something that looked like a coffin but the real deal. That took some doing since undertakers didn’t sell coffins except to contain remains, but he followed Barris’s lead and finally found the son of an undertaker who was willing to slip one out the back door for $200: the battery and a surplus North American Aviation aircraft gas tank were interred in the sarcophagus. The Princess was completed as a show car and was featured on the cover of Rod and Custom in January 1967 before being dispatched on the show circuit. It was Roth’s last magazine cover car.
|Darryl Roth’s purple incarnation|
Roth’s son Darryl tracked the car down in the early ’90s and began a restoration, changing the color scheme to predominantly purple with white accents. Ralph Whitworth bought it in 2006 for inclusion in his hot rod museum in Winnemuca, Nevada, and in 2007 commissioned Roth aficionado Fritz Schenck to conduct a complete frame-off restoration; it was completely restored to the original colors, including the complex veiled paint process.
|Fred Schenck restoration|
The Mistress of the Dark (Cassandra Peterson) has her own classy ride of course, and it’s another George Barris custom. Legend has it that she needed a car for her 1988 film “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark” and pulled a black ’58 Ford Thunderbird off Melrose Avenue. Barris turned the hardtop into a convertible -with a chainsaw- and added a few decorative embellishments such as a custom spider web grille.
Sometime later a second car was commissioned for promotional purposes, this time a ’59 T-Bird. The cars are almost duplicates, and both were built by Barris.
|No info on the Harley shoot above, possibly an impersonator. Anybody know anything?|
Sorry, got off topic a bit but she’s insanely hot. (BTW, Cassandra Peterson (out of character of course) also did a number of softcore nude shoots prior to her current gig, including sets for High Society and Juuggs magazines. )
Built by George Barris’ son Brett, Kargoyle is a roof chopped 1967 Cadillac Miller Meteor hearse. Used for one of Playboy’s “Girl Next Door” shoots/promotions, it was one of over 70 hearses that helped set the Guinness World Record for the mile long ‘Longest Hearse Procession’ in October 2005.