56 Halloweens ago, The Munsters had the ghoulest cars on the block
Fifty-six Halloweens ago, network television launched not one but two sitcoms that were perfect for ghosts and goblins—and, as it turns out, custom car enthusiasts. The Munsters, broadcast on CBS, and The Addams Family, on ABC, ran for only two seasons (1964–66), but they were so oddly outside the norm that we still talk about them today.
The same can be said for their cars. Well, The Munsters’ cars, at least.
On The Addams Family, Gomez and Morticia Addams owned a black limousine that was rarely seen. Perhaps because the car wasn’t a prominent character on the show, many assumed it was a hearse, when in fact it was a 1933 Packard V-12. Sweet car, to be sure, but it was more luxurious than it was frightening—except, of course, when you put 6-foot-9 goth butler Lurch behind the wheel. “You rang?”
The Munsters, on the other hand, had the two ghoulest cars on the block, and both are still celebrated today.
Long before the minivan, there was the Munsters Koach. Much like Herman Munster, the Frankenstein-like mortician played by Fred Gwynne, the Koach was built from cannibalized parts. The creation of legendary Barris Kustom City in North Hollywood, the 18-foot-long, six-door Koach was designed by George Barris and built by Dick and Keith Dean using three Ford Model T bodies and a hearse. The metal scrollwork alone took more than 500 man-hours to complete.
Among the car’s creepy touches: Blood Red velvet upholstery, spiderwebs on the windshield and headlights, gold drapes with tassels on the windows, and twin casket handles on the front fenders. The engine was, appropriately, a beast: a 289 AC Cobra V-8 bored to 425 cubic inches, with 10 chrome-plated Stromburg carburetors and Bobby Bar racing headers. Word has it that the four-speed Koach, equipped with rear racing slicks, could reach 150 mph.
The interior included “Grandpa’s laboratory,” which was positioned between the front and back seats, as well as a few items that may have seemed far-fetched at the time but were actually previews of things to come: a Muntz 8-track stereo, a TV, and two telephones.
Although there was plenty of room in the main compartment for the Munsters—Herman, Lily (Yvonne De Carlo), Grandpa (Al Lewis), Eddie (Butch Patrick), and cousin Marilyn (Beverley Owen for the first 13 episodes and Pat Priest for the remaining 57)—little Eddie rode in style way out back in an elevated rumble seat.
Amazingly, Barris Kustoms built the Koach in just 21 days. The cost was equally amazing: $21,000, which is about $176,300 today.
An entire episode of The Munsters was devoted to explaining the car’s backstory. Here’s a bit of it:
Although the Koach put The Munsters show in a league of its own when it comes to creepy hot rods, Barris Kustoms wasn’t quite finished. After Herman loses the Koach while drag racing for pink slips, Grandpa decides to win it back by building a dragster of his own: the Drag-U-La.
It’s love at first sight for Herman. “I’ve really gotta hand it to ya, Grandpa, this is quite an attractive vehicle,” he says. “Detroit could take a lesson from this design.”
Grandpa wins the race easily, of course, but he struggles to bring the dragster to a stop. Thankfully, Herman’s big feet manage to do the trick.
A one-seat racer with a real fiberglass coffin for a body, the Drag-U-La wore gold flake paint, wire wheels up front, racing slicks with silver spiders on each hubcap, old glass headlamps with candlesticks for illumination, and a marble gravestone in place of a grille with the inscription “Born 1367, Died ?” The driver sat in the rear on a purple seat, under a plastic bubble top.
Drag-U-La’s engine was a 350-hp, 289-cubic-inch Ford Mustang V-8 with two four-barrel carburetors mounted on a Mickey Thompson Ram-Thrust manifold, mated to a four-speed manual transmission. Four organ pipes on each side served as exhaust pipes.
Incidentally, while Barris Kustoms later built a handful of replicas of both TV cars, you can find the real Munsters Koach and Drag-U-La in the Volo Auto Museum, located 50 miles northwest of Chicago. (Unfortunately, the Illinois museum is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Last October, foxnews.com interviewed Butch Patrick about The Munsters’ legacy, and although he didn’t mention the cars, Patrick is very familiar with both, having appeared with them many times at shows. There’s even a website dedicated to the Koach, www.munsterkoach.com.
Now 67, Patrick says he isn’t surprised that The Munsters has achieved TV immortality. “I think the show has a lot of quality to it. It’s still funny and timeless. It reflects the ’60s, and anybody who was around during the ’60s still has fond memories of the era. And I think it’s just interesting we can still look back at that era on TV as it was. It’s wholesome and just fun. I think people continue to appreciate that in a series.”