The Munster Koach and the Drag-u-la
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)