By DAVID PORTER
Rantoul Press columnist
I’m not really a "car guy," but sometimes, I think about all the different cars I’ve had and wish I had most of them back.
I had a couple of clunkers that I don’t miss, but I bought them to try to lower my insurance costs. My agent back in the day told me that I should do that after I bought a sporty car. He reasoned that the more-expensive car could be listed as a secondary vehicle with my primary insurance on the clunker. So I bought a $300 car and my insurance,went up $35.
Who doesn’t remember their first car? I paid $45 for mine in 1984. That was a memorable car. Seems everyone in town remembers that car.
I like things that are different, and that car was different. I don’t think there was another one like it anywhere.
It had been a hearse and possibly a combination ambulance hearse. After that, it had been used as a Shriner parade car. The Shriners had part of the roof removed to make the casket area open like a truck. The state made me put truck plates on it.
It had been repainted but not professionally — you could see the brush strokes on the hood. But, it was still a Cadillac Fleetwood. Regardless of what it looked like on the outside, it rode like a Cadillac on the inside. An old, worn-out, ugly Cadillac.
When I first looked at it, it wouldn’t start and one of the tires was flat. The guy who had it wanted $100, but he quickly dropped the price in half. I reached in my pocket and counted out the bills. "All I’ve got is $45," I said.
"I’ll take it," he said.
It was only a block from home, so my dad walked over with a gas can. He put a little in the carburetor and the rest in the tank, and the Caddy fired right up. We limped it home and filled the flat with air. And just like that, I had wheels.
Now, normally, being 19 years old, having wheels is vital to getting dates. But I can tell you from experience that not just any wheels will do. A brush-painted clown car is not exactly a chick magnet.
But I loved that car and drove it for a year until I could afford the aforementioned sporty car, which was about a third the size of the Cadillac. I still wasn’t getting dates; apparently, personality is also important to members of the opposite sex.
The old hearse had a good afterlife. It ended up chopped in half with the front end painted pink and used as the deejay booth in an oldies rock ’n’ roll bar.
When my current car broke down recently and had to spend a few days in the shop, we decided to start looking around for its successor. With 223,000 miles on the odometer, it’s just a matter of time, and we decided it would be better to buy a car before we had to buy a car.
I’ve always wanted another hearse, so I suggested that we should look for one. They typically have low miles, are garage kept, are well-maintained; and, because not everyone wants them, they aren’t terribly expensive. Plus, it could haul a lot of newspapers.
Old limousines are similarly affordable because people who want limos tend to want newer ones. But a limo doesn’t have the cargo space that a hearse does, so we limited our search to hearses.
We soon located one in Southern Illinois. It’s 22 years old, but it has less than 70,000 miles on it, and it runs like a Cadillac should.
We got it home, and within a day, neighbors were calling wanting to know who had died and where should they send flowers. It’s sitting outside on the driveway because the garage isn’t big enough for it; we’re not exactly incognito.
The previous owner had intended to use the hearse with a haunted house during Halloween, so there are a couple of ghoulish stickers on it that will come off when the weather warms up. With a nod to its new career as a newspaper delivery vehicle, we’ve renamed it — what else? — William Randolph Hearse.
© Copyright 2019 by David Porter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. As a bonus, after I keel over one of these days, the hearse can make one final delivery.