“Nobody with a good car needs to be justified.”–Ministry, Jesus Built My Hot Rod
Today is 1/3/13, or “1313.” Even casual purveyors of pop culture will recognize this as the street address of America’s favorite monster family, The Munsters, who lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Two things stand out in my mind when I remember the Munsters, the first being the unforgettable theme song closely followed by their car. I watched every episode hoping to get a glimpse of that crazy hearse, hot rod monstrosity. So on this “1313,” let’s take a look at the gas-guzzling monsters lurking in the Munsters’ garage.
The Munsters’ iconic family-mobile, the Munsters’ Koach, originated in Season 1, Episode 4: Rock-A-Bye Munster. Lily plans to surprise Herman with a new car for his birthday, although Herman and Grandpa mistakenly guess that Lily is hiding the fact that she is pregnant, and hilarity ensues. At the car dealership, Lily can’t decide between a vintage hearse and a hot rod Model T for Hermie, so she asks the body shop to combine the two, creating a Frankenstein ride for her Frankenstein man.
In reality, the Koach was designed and built by the custom car pioneers at Barris Kustom Industries and used parts from more than two cars. Three Model T’s and a hearse were used to create the body on top of a hand-built frame. A four-speed transmission was linked to a Ford Cobra 289ci V8, though there is some disagreement over the power modifications that may or may not have gone into this engine. Whether or not it was more “show” than “go”, Barris built the original Koach in 3 weeks at a cost of $18,000, which is about $130,000 today.
When Eddie talks up his dad’s racing prowess in “Hot Rod Herman” (S1, Ep36), Herman channels his inner Marlon Brando, donning a leather jacket and proclaims, “I gotta get out there and drag it with the gassers. Otherwise, doll, I might blow my cool.” In fact, he does blow it, losing the Koach to a racer known as “Leadfoot.” To get the car back, Grandpa, that resourceful old bat, builds Drag-u-la, a hot rod casket with a pipe organ for an exhaust system, and they defeat Leadfoot.
Aside from being the inspiration for Rob Zombie’s famous song of the same name, Drag-u-la is pure bad-assery. Basically a gold-flaked fiberglass coffin with an engine, it was also built by Barris Kustom Industries, sharing the same engine and transmission as the Koach. The tricky part was digging up a casket (isn’t that always the tricky part?). Caskets were not meant to be sold to anyone other than licensed funeral directors, but it was Hollywood, and Barris eventually found someone willing to break the rule.
The Munsters’ Koach appeared in over twenty episodes, drove in the 1965 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and took a run down the strip at the 1966 National Hot Rod Association Nationals in Indianapolis. Drag-u-la even appears as a playable vehicle in 1999’s Twisted Metal 4 under the name “Mr. Zombie,” driven by Rob Zombie, and both cars are available as model kits and die-cast toys.
The original Koach and Drag-u-la have changed hands over the years, with Drag-u-la being in a UK car museum as late as 2011, but the two are currently reunited at the Volo Auto Museum in Volo, Illinois. Whether or not this is their final resting place, the cars of the Munsters’ have been immortalized on film and in the minds of fans of all ages, and will continue burning rubber until the next “1313.”