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Hearse! Yes, I have a hearse...

... well, sort of. Recently, bluebuddha moved from Lawrence, leaving behind his sort-of non-running 1973 Cadillac hearse. It's been sitting in a field for years, not getting any better, and they decided not to take it with them when they moved away. So he offered it to me with the proviso that I make it live again.

(By the way, I had to take some "before" photos: before it runs, before I drive it home, before I restore it... so you'll find them behind the cuts.) It looks more like the Ghostbusters emergency vehicle than a hearse, really.
"Before" photo:

Yes, it really does live in a field right now.

So! I have been doing my damnedest to fulfill my part, despite some obstacles:
  • The car is currently sitting in a field off a gravel road several miles outside of Lawrence.

  • I don't have the ignition key.

  • I can only take the time off during Thursday and Friday afternoons to work on the car.

  • The tool that you discover need the most is always the one you didn't bring.

The first few times I went out to the car, I asked for rides because I (silly me!) thought I might be driving it home and didn't want to leave my car parked way out there, blocking the gravel road, tempting passers-by to steal or ram into it. Thanks to amjhawk and jamer_31 for those rides and for the company.

The first time I visited the hearse, I discovered the key issue (which included missing a key for the locking gas cap). The second time, I returned with the suggestion to try using the keys he sent "upside-down" and instructions from the local auto-parts store for how to drill out a locking gas cap. On the third return trip, I returned by myself with some other plans... including replacing the ignition switch. On the fourth trip, I brought a drill for the ignition and a number of other tools, too, and got to meet the realtor selling the land on which the Caddy rests. I also discovered that battery-operated drills run out of power long before you finish drilling out an ignition switch (they're really hard steel.)

No, I don't have the car running or home at my tool-filled garage yet (which would solve 90% of my problems!), but I have managed to do these things:
  • Titled, insured, and licensed it to legally operate in Kansas.

  • Removed and replaced the gas cap.

  • Poured several gallons of fresh gas into the tank.

  • Replaced the spark plugs, ignition wires, cap, and rotor.

  • Filled the (nearly empty) radiator.

  • Removed the steering wheel, blinker unit, flasher unit, and other hardware in an effort to remove the locked and un-removable ignition switch (for which I have no key).

  • Killed the colony of ants living inside. Ew. Ether (starting fluid) is a fine pesticide, as it turns out.

(Another "before" photo. It's really lovely out there:)

Things left to do in order to get it home:
  • Finish drilling out the existing ignition. Turns out you can't just replace an ignition switch by following the instructions you'll find in a new switch... you need the damned key. So why would you replace a switch if you already have the key? Grrr.

  • Replace the ignition.

  • Prime the fuel system. That gas is at least three years old according to the license tags.

  • Make sure the tires are full enough to drive.

  • Surely lots more surprises!

Wish me luck! More updates to come as I have them. Hopefully I'll have some "during" photos up soon.




( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 20th, 2006 09:55 pm (UTC)
Hmmm...you should start a "Pimp My Hearse" pool so we could pitch in to have it towed to your garage full of tools.

It is just so freakin' cool to be fixing up a hearse.

Sep. 21st, 2006 06:09 am (UTC)
Yes, "pimp" is definitely one way this project could go. Other potentials include any of a number of types of "art car," "Ghostbusters' car replica," or "devil car" with color-shifting flames on black with a flame-red interior.
(no title) - geekmom - Sep. 21st, 2006 01:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 20th, 2006 11:44 pm (UTC)
I so wish I knew something about cars (other than, y'know, press that pedal to go forward). Let me know if you need any help in the repair process -- I'm sure I could learn a ton.
Sep. 21st, 2006 05:50 am (UTC)
Hey, that'd be fun - I've worked on cars and cycles with friends interested thus, so they could learn a bit about the basics and see how things are done. I'll let you know the next time I'm working on stuff.
Sep. 21st, 2006 01:11 am (UTC)
AAA tow?
Sep. 21st, 2006 01:30 am (UTC)
Excellent! That looks like a fun project.

If you have the steering wheel pulled, why can't you pop out the ignition cylinder and replace it?
Sep. 21st, 2006 05:52 am (UTC)
Well, there's a locking mechanism hidden behind a steel firewall... harumph.
Sep. 21st, 2006 02:38 am (UTC)
But I don't understand. What will you DO with it? I mean, after it is all fixed up and such.
Sep. 21st, 2006 06:06 am (UTC)
Sheesh, what kind of question is that? I mean,
a) it's a hearse! Cool!
b) it's a super-wagon, so it's practical!
c) it's unique.
d) um, did I mention it's a hearse?

Sep. 21st, 2006 03:25 am (UTC)
Dent Puller, screw it into the ignigtion and it will come out. Then a screwdriver is all you need to start the car.

Sep. 21st, 2006 05:15 am (UTC)
Great tip! I'll get one tomorrow.
(no title) - woadwarrior - Sep. 21st, 2006 07:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 21st, 2006 03:38 am (UTC)
Very cool--very Harold & Maude. Good luck getting it up and running! I'm guessing you've already checked online and locally to see if you could find anothe Hearse ignition key, in the hopes it would match? Any chance you can call Hearse, explain the situation, and ask them for suggestions--or a key?
Sep. 21st, 2006 06:10 am (UTC)
Yeah, it's a security key like any other ignition key, darnit.
Sep. 21st, 2006 04:10 am (UTC)
You certainly have your work cut out for you. Good luck with that.
Sep. 21st, 2006 06:10 am (UTC)
Indeed, but it'll be fun!
Sep. 21st, 2006 04:13 am (UTC)
Remember the old adage: When you are up to your ass in alligators, it can be difficult to remember that your original objective was to drain the swamp.

Good luck! ::makes some popcorn and flops down on the couch, because this is my favorite show::
Sep. 21st, 2006 04:38 am (UTC)
Okay, I have to ask more about to what you are referring. You intrigue me, miss!
(no title) - weaselmom - Sep. 21st, 2006 05:59 am (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - mckitterick - Sep. 21st, 2006 06:04 am (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - weaselmom - Sep. 21st, 2006 04:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - mckitterick - Sep. 21st, 2006 04:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - edichka2 - Sep. 21st, 2006 04:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - mckitterick - Sep. 21st, 2006 05:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - mckitterick - Sep. 21st, 2006 05:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 21st, 2006 02:04 pm (UTC)
That's awesome. Good luck! I'd help if I knew anything about cars but how to drive them and appreciate their beauty. But... I don't!

Can't wait to see it steaming down Mass.
Sep. 21st, 2006 04:39 pm (UTC)
Your word choice - "steaming" - gives me all manner of ideas. Just think of the possibilities if one starts combining genres: Steampunk, Victorian art-car, Devil Car....
Sep. 21st, 2006 06:56 pm (UTC)
While it's a slow start, this project sounds like much fun and I'm so happy to see this hearse get a new home! Hearses are just kinda cool.
Sep. 24th, 2006 04:17 am (UTC)
Man, you have really been busting your butt... I am really sorry about the keys... I am at a loss... I wonder what all those keys I sent you actually fit?

Once you actually start work on it, I have several hard won tips to share, specifically about stripping off multiple layers of paint on a car with a truly stupid surface area...

Funny story about that particular car...

Not long after driving it back to Kansas, the clutch went out in my truck, leaving the hearse as my primary transport for about a month... During the dead of winter (2000-2001) and a really bitching ice storm... she does great on ice, BTW, better than my truck.

Anyways, the heat was working, but barely, and it was _really_ f'in cold one night when I decided to go to the Replay (Sunday or Monday night, so I had the place almost to myself). Anyways, as it was really cold, and the heat took about 10 minutes to even start warming the car (at least when the outside is in single digits), I managed to park it directly in front of the Replay and parked myself at the Mass st. window so I could keep an eye on it and let it run for about 3 hours while I drank and hung out... It was toasty warm when I got in... probably burned about four gallons of gas in the process... Global warming seemed like a good idea at the time...
Sep. 25th, 2006 01:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Man...
I have no idea where those keys go! Perhaps the doors... haven't needed to check that.

I love that story; thanks for sharing it. Feel free to share any more, too.
Sep. 24th, 2006 04:19 am (UTC)
Oh yeah
Reason number 5 to own a hearse...

It provides a ready means to loose one point off of your "Purity Score" (i.e. performing a certain act in a graveyard or conveyance of the dead)...
Sep. 25th, 2006 01:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Oh yeah
The thought has crossed one's mind....
( 33 comments — Leave a comment )

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