Around Halloween, when the atmosphere is filled with reminders of mortality and what lies beyond the grave.
For most people, that doesn’t include their vehicle. No matter how much you love that T-bird, Camaro or Grand Prix, you’re eventually heading off into eternity without it.
Some diehard auto enthusiasts are opting to make that forever slumber in a car-themed casket instead of the traditional box.
Cruisin’ Caskets of Sun City, California, says you’re “goin’ out in style” in one of its products, a fiberglass car-shaped coffin available in styles reminiscent of muscle cars and other classics. Base models start around $5,500 and fit into oversized adult cemetery vaults; whitewall tires and gold or chrome rims are extra.
On a practical note, the company’s website says people who buy “pre-need” can put the empty coffin to other uses, like cooling beer in the garage in the optional ice chest liner.
Even if you don’t need a full-size model, you still can opt to ride out the next few million years in a container that reflects your taste in vehicles.
Sheldon Weaver, a second-generation funeral director in Martinsburg, Pa., also describes himself as the biggest car nut on the planet — he recently got his hands on the ’62 Dodge Dart of his dreams — and got into the business of car-themed receptacles for cremated remains. He was helping a friend with pre-need planning and got the notion to send his buddy off in an urn featuring the pal’s orange 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird.
He found a local truck-chassis maker to create the diamond-plate aluminum shell of the urn, and Mennonite craftsmen to add the wood. He shops for the manufacturer emblems and die-cast cars that adorn the $200-and-up AutoUrns, as the product is called — doing his best to match the deceased’s beloved vehicles.
“I started going to swap meets and such, figuring people could buy ’em now and use ’em later,” Weaver said. “I get a lot of ‘atneed’ business. Sometimes someone will want a blue ’71 Gran Torino or something at the last minute — I try to get as close as I can.”
The Miller family in Mesa, Ariz., gets to know a lot of gearheads through their auto repair and restoration business, and now they’re applying the same skills to their Cool Kustom Coffins line of automotive-themed caskets. Customers choose from a basic selection of metal models, and the Millers take it from there.
“We take out all the frou-frou stuff,” said Robbie Miller, who runs the company with husband Mike Sr. and son Mike Jr. “We line them with auto carpet and leather, vinyl, door paneling material — whatever we need to do.
“On the exterior we can match the color of people’s favorite car, the pinstriping, the air brushing — whatever they want.” Cool Kustom Coffins are more of a pre-need item, she added. “We do need at least a few weeks’ notice.”
Replicas aren’t enough for some car lovers, though. Miller recalls a ’57 Bel Air coming in for restoration. To get it, the new owner had to agree to the previous owner’s stipulation: Some of the former owner’s ashes would always stay with the vehicle. The new owner complied and, when the restoration was done, the ashes — which had resided in Robbie Miller’s office — went back into the car.
That’s no surprise to Weaver of AutoUrns, who is at work on a new product: lug nut key chain fobs designed to hold a small portion of human ashes.
“So if Dad leaves you his car, Dad can be along for the ride on your key chain,” he said. “I’ve sold quite a few.” Other new products include a license plate frame that attaches to the urn so that people can rest in peace beside their vanity plate.
“I recently had a family with five daughters; they each got a tiny replica of their dad’s urn with a little bit of ashes and just room on top for a Hot Wheels Mopar version of their dad’s car. They loved it,” Weaver said.
Indeed, the car-themed urns seem to be real family pleasers.
“It’s cheaper than being buried in your real car,” Weaver said. “Like a friend of mine pointed out, your grandchildren will still want to play with you.”