by That Car Guy
Two hilarious monster-themed TV shows, "The Addams Family" and "The Munsters", premiered and expired the same two weeks of the same two years (1964-1966). Both were in black & 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. By creating custom cars like the Batmobile, Monkeemobile, and The Beverly Hillbillies' truck, if somebody wanted a cool custom vehicle for a TV show or movie, Barris Kustom Cars was the place to call. Mr. Barris was also wise enough to retain ownership rights to some of his vehicles and just rent 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-hp 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, 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. After a while in the parade they rounded a corner, and his comment to that live camera is not printable on this page.
"Car 54, Where Are You?", teamed Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis as Officers Francis Muldoon and Leo Schnauser from 1961-1963. It was based in a fictional NYPD 53rd Precinct in The Bronx. Lilly Munster was played by Yvonne DeCarlo, TV's Marilyn Munster was played by Beverly Owen (First thirteen shows) and Pat Priest. The two have never met. Eddie was Butch Patrick. Spot played Spot, their pet dinosaur who lived under the staircase.
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 289 cid 350-hp Mustang V-8, 4-speed stick, and dragster slicks mounted on polished Rader 5-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 they went to buy a damaged casket, but the undertaker would not sell one to him since he wasn't dead. As soon as the funeral director left, they "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 over 40 years of "Munster" sequels and countless reruns, they may 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 February 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!
--That Car Guy (Chuck)
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.