Coffin Cars Are A Thing

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Since it’s Halloween, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on a persistent subculture in the hot-rod community: the coffin car.

The mixing of coffins and hot rods really isn’t that shocking. There’s a conceptual and aesthetic link between coffins and the danger-courting aesthetic of many hot rods, plus, for many builders, I imagine a coffin just seems like a pretty decent shortcut to a body. I mean, there’s not a whole hell of a lot of difference between a coffin and, say, an old Model T body tub. Except a coffin may be more aerodynamic.

Perhaps the most famous of the coffin cars was Drag-U-La, a coffin-based dragster built for the Addams Family television knockoff, the Munsters. Drag-U-La was built by George Barris, which actually means that Tom Daniel, working for Barris’ company, designed and built it. The body is a real fiberglass coffin, and the story is that the funeral home wouldn’t sell one to the show, so it was “acquired” out the back door of the funeral home, with the money left inside.


The coffin-dragster was powered by a 350 HP Mustang V8, and had a novel radiator disguised as a tombstone and, in an inspired idea, exhausts designed to resemble a church pipe organ.

People are still building coffin hot rods, as this forum post from 2006 suggests. Macabre associations aside, where else are you going to get a pre-made roadster body with full satin upholstery?