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Death Takes a Holiday

There are many ways to wind up in a hearse. Here are a few.

"When I got there, I could just see it," he recalls. "There were no cars parked around it. There were no kids playing around it. No one wanted anything to do with it."

Especially the woman.

"I'll give you $1,000," Zach offered.

Dressed to kill: Zach Helm and his hearse.
John Johnston
Dressed to kill: Zach Helm and his hearse.

"Can you drive it out tonight?"

"Deal."

And so Zach hauled the hearse home and proceeded to dump $8,000 into it over the next four years. He replaced the engine, transmission, electrical system, seats, tires, rims and upholstery. He also added a few personal touches, such as lavender racing stripes, lavender neon, blue police lights, a 500-watt stereo, a siren featuring animal sounds, a glowing purple skull hood ornament and a plastic storage tube resembling a missile launcher.

"I call her Abby," Zach says. "After the singer in KMFDM. I tried other names, but Abby seemed to fit. I love her. I'd like her to take me to the cemetery when I die. That's my ideal plan."

Even so, there are times when he gazes wistfully across the parking lot at his old '73 Caddy, which his buddy now calls "Charlotte."

"I still have issues with that," Zach admits. "Everything has worked out for the best, but there is still heartache involved. If I could get her back, I would. You never love one like you love the first one."


Speaking of love: Freud should have driven a hearse, Zach says.

"I think we all agree that there's some kind of sexual fantasy thing going on here," he explains. "I mean, these are big, huge, wide cars. They're bigger than anyone else's, and everyone knows it. There's definitely some quasi-sexual relationship here. And not exclusively to men, either."

"It's true," Eric says. "To some women, those exhaust pipes start looking really good after a few beers."

"My car attracts more stares than any other car on the road," Zach continues. "I've been next to Ferraris before, and people aren't looking at the Ferrari, they're looking at the black thing next to it."

"My girlfriend always says, 'Can we go for a ride?'" Jason adds.

"My girlfriend and I have parked most places you can park a hearse, and we've done most everything you can do in one," Zach says.

"I've had sex in a hearse, in a casket and in a cemetery," Eric grins. "But not in a casket in a cemetery. We did it in my driveway."

"Actually, caskets aren't that great," adds Jason, who carries a chrome and black coffin in the rear of his car. "They're not very big. It's kind of awkward."

"To be truthful, the front seat probably gets the most action," Zach admits. "Because of the casket rollers."

"Yeah, the casket rollers," Eric groans.

"You have these big chrome-and-rubber rollers in the back to slide the caskets on," Zach explains. "And no matter how many blankets you pile on top of them, you still have casket rollers pinching you in the ass."

"And if you think carpet burn is bad, try a casket roller," Eric says. "A carpet burn has nothing on a casket roller."

"It's really painful, and it pretty much ruins the mood," Zach agrees.

"But the sex is great," Eric says. "It's dark, and it's mysterious, and it's really different. And the fact that you're doing it where a dead body used to be makes it exciting. It's something you have to try at least once."

"Just make sure the windows are tinted," Zach says.


Speaking of women: "Have you seen that Stephen King movie, Christine?" Jason asks.

Owning a hearse is a lot like that. Take his 1975 Cadillac Superior Three-way, for example. "I have to watch what I say around her," explains Jason, who prefers to use only his first name. "If I say anything bad around it, it will get back at me. It won't start. Or if I really want to go somewhere, it will break down just before I go."

Eric's hearse is like that, too.

He recently bought a 1967 Cadillac Superior, which he calls Jezebelle "because she came from Louisiana and because [Jezebel] is supposed to be this real bad lady in the Bible." As soon as Jezebelle arrived, he put her in the garage and moved his other '67 Caddy, which he calls "The Black One," into the driveway. But the next morning, the Black One refused to start.

"It was running fine up to that point, but then it wouldn't work for like a week," Eric says. "It was totally jealous. It was pissed off at me for buying Jezebelle. But I've never given it a decent name, either, so it was pissed off at me for that, too. Now the alignment is going bad."

"These cars are definitely hellish bitch goddesses," Zach concurs. "If I buy a hearse and it's a junker, no problem. But if Abby thinks it's nicer than she is, there's definitely friction: instantaneous mechanical problems."

Which helps explain why most club members have black fingernails: It's not just nail polish.

"We've been screwed into becoming auto mechanics," Zach explains. " If you own a hearse, you work on it. Period."

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