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The Munster Koach and the Drag-u-la

Image1  Two hilarious monster-themed TV shows, The Addams Family and The Munsters, premiered and expired the same two weeks of the same two years in 1964-1966. Both were in black and white. Each had their audience, and you were either a Munsters fan or an Addams Family fan, or both. I liked them both, but I guess I was more of a Munsters fan, primarily because they had The Munster Koach.

George Barris is a genius. He created custom cars like the Batmobile, Monkeemobile, and The Beverly Hillbillies' truck; if a studio wanted a cool custom vehicle for a TV show or movie, Barris Kustom Cars was the place to call. Barris was also wise enough to retain ownership rights to some of his vehicles and just rented them to the studios, guaranteeing him rights for displays, models, and other rewards.

Image2  Built in less than 30 days from three fiberglass Model T Fords, the Koach has the driver's seat up front for Herman and Lilly, a center laboratory for Grandpa, and a rear overhanging couch for Eddie and poor Marilyn, the only "abnormal" one of the bunch. Total seating is eight, though Herman in costume was seven feet tall and could not enter or exit the car on camera. He had to drive it in regular shoes instead of his costume.

The Koach also has a brass tombstone-shaped radiator, carriage lamps, landau bars, a 300-horsepower 289 Ford Cobra V-8, Anson Astro wheels with Mickey Thompson rear slicks, and a 133-inch wheelbase, nearly identical to the Maybach 57. Casket handles on the front, step bars, parlor curtains, and the family crest on the second of the three doors complete the comically creepy car's character.

Image3  Here's a couple of stories from the archives: One time during filming, Fred Gwynne (Herman) hijacked the Munster Koach with the whole cast, with everybody in full costume of course. They drove down the freeway and onto Lankersheim, into the heart of Hollywood, and got many looks from the public. I can't help but wonder if that happened today, if anybody would notice.

Another time, they were in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with George Barris driving the Koach. Fred and Al Lewis (Grandpa) were riding in back, and it was so cold that Fred had a bottle. There was a point in the parade when they rounded a corner next to a TV camera, and Fred's comment to that live camera is not printable on this page.

Image4  In an episode titled "Hot Rod Herman, Herman lost the Koach in a bet with a faster drag-racer. To win the family car back, Grandpa built a dragster out of a coffin. In the end, they wound up with both cars, and the Drag-u-la is seen in the closing credits of the second season.

The Drag-u-la has a Dragmaster chassis, a 350-horsepower 289 Mustang V-8, four-speed stick, and dragster slicks mounted on polished Rader five-spoke wheels. On the front, English Speedsport wire wheels have mounted Italian motorcycle tires. With the upturned organ pipe exhaust, Grandpa says it's the only dragster in America that can play Oh, Promise Me in second gear.

Getting the casket for the car was, well, another story. Seems the crew went to buy a damaged casket, but the undertaker would not sell one to Barris since he wasn't dead. As soon as the funeral director left, Barris "appropriated" a casket, leaving the cash behind for payment.

Image5  CBS thought that after only two years and 70 episodes, monster humor had ran its course. Judging by more than 40 years of "Munster" sequels and countless reruns, CBS might have been mistaken. The Munsters made a 1966 movie, Munster Go Home in color. It flopped. Somehow the green skin makeup just was not believable.

A TV movie was made featuring most of the original cast and, of course, the Koach. The Munsters' Revenge premiered on Feb. 27 1981, and was, well, not received. That attempt to bring the show back to the small screen was not successful.

Other Munsters productions have been made with new stories and new actors. In 1988, The Munsters Today (aka The New Munsters) premiered, and ran for three years and 66 episodes, almost as many as the original. 1995 brought us a Halloween TV movie Here Come The Munsters, and a year later, The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas.

Somehow, I don't think we've heard the last of the residents of 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

As usual with popular Barris Cars, several copies (four total) of the Koach were made. In 1984, one of them sold for $36,000. The latest one was made for in 1995 for Here Come The Munsters".

Here's a rare color photo of The Munsters and their Koach. Please enjoy! All photos and most technical information for this post are from Stephen Cox's "The Munsters - A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane", and a few bits I remember from the show. Wikipedia was a source as well.

--That Car Guy (Chuck)

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oops The credit for the Monkeemobile should go to the talented Dean Jeffries.

According to MunsterKoach.com, the original 289 was bored to 425 cubic inches. That sounds like a lot for a Ford smallblock of the day. The first coach had 10 carburetors, while the second one built had at least 11, but 10 of them were ornamental. I suppose balancing 10 Stromberg carbs was too much of a chore on the first one. Still, of all the TV custom cars, I can't think of one I'd rather have than the original Munster Koach.

Anyone remember watching Munsters Go Home? They wrecked a Ferrari 250GT California Spider while making it. I wonder if it was repaired. Today, those cars can sell for up to 8 figures, and they didn't use a replica like with Ferris Bueler's Day Off.

Well, CBS's biggest mistake was making a Munsters show in color in the first place. It works much, much better in black and white, even if the script is weak.

I suggest the use of scaled-down thumbnails with links to the full-size ones - in all views, not just the one-article one. Because on the main site view? Not so much with the thumbnails.

That both saves bandwidth and means that the entire rest of the site isn't mal-formatted.

Like the Batmobile, similarly created on a time (and probably money) budget, the Munster’s Coach is a work of genius, Barris at his best. For the Batmobile he reworked an obsolete show car into something special, for this one, he used what was at hand…the fiberglass Model T bodies meant for hot rods. Brilliant.

I recall the old model kit (Revell? Monogram?) a friend had one and as I remember, it came with a small container of red paint for the interior. Seeing his inexpertly finished model, swathed in bright red paint approximating where the seats were, put me off of the red & black color combination to this day.

I saw the original car a couple of years ago at its museum home in England. Its owner told me he bought it from a closed museum in New York years ago when he was looking for another car. It’s in great shape and is very attractive in person. Here’s its webpage… www.carsofthestars.com/cotspg3t.html

As mentioned, in the 60s you were either a Munsters fan of Addams Family fan. Sorry to say, I watched the Addams Family. I think they drove a classic 30s town car. Anyone remember that?

Great article! I loved both The Munsters and The Addams Family, and I loved how even "monsters" would drive cars that were too-cool for regular people. Cheers!

Drag-u-la...any word on this being the inspiration for the Rob Zombie song of the same minus hyphens) name?

Tommy's Dad: Well, Wikipedia says "Dragula" was released in 1998 and based on that episode!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragula_(song)

The movie may have flopped, but it was REALLY funny. I can still hear Grandpa explaining what he did to prepare for the great race. "I took the family car, and put in a high lift cam and a blower!" "Yayyyy, Grandpa!", shouted Herman and Eddie.

Poor Eddie had "tomahtoes" (English pronunciation of tomato) thrown at him througout the movie by rotten little English kids. At the big race, sitting up in the grandstand, he saw one coming, and ducked so that it hit a man behind him. The man exclaimed, "What on earth was that?" To which Eddie replied, "A toMAHto, sir!"

What was great about the Munsters is that they only looked totally weird and had a totally weird house. But deep down they were the most standup, honorable people in the neighborhood.

Not long before he passed away, Fred Gwynne said in an interview that "he really liked that fellow" when asked about Herman Munster.

I liked him too.

Great post Richard!

I have some great photo's and a copy of title for the Munster Dragula.

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