By on March 4, 2010

The mind can deviate to all sorts of weirdness when it comes to cars. Baby on Board signs. ‘Rims’ that cost more than the actual vehicle. The ungodly use of purples, yellows and lime greens on entry level econoboxes. Then there’s the real deals. Cars that are so hysterically and vomitously ugly that only it’s creator can appreciate the rancid spewage. I see a lot of that at the auctions. Let me give you a few true classics of the trade…

Imagine a Plymouth Prowler adorned with Monopoly dollar bills that are dyed purple with the words, “Mr. Millionz!!!” adorned on every panel and interior part. Is that not bad enough? How about a Harley covered in leopard skin fur on every surface from the seats to the handle bars. We actually tried to remove all that crap from a late model Harley, and ended up with purple fur that was even more hideous. What else?
One unique affectation that I saw in Atlanta a few years ago were ‘bullet holes’. First there were the fake bullet holes with ‘dramatic green’ effects on them. Okay I could deal with that since Neons, Taurus Wagons, and Cavaliers seemed to be the most afflicted. But then I started seeing some really strange deviations of it. The wagon with real bullet holes. Juniors first car adorned with dozens of holes that could only come from a BB gun. Cars with hoods that were punctured with what looked like really sharp rakes since a gun wasn’t available. But then I saw something that was truly hideous a few years ago.

People memorializing their cars in honor of dead people. Don’t get me wrong. I’m probably one of the biggest promoters of having a ‘keeper’ in the family. But the only car that should ever be dedicated to a dead person is a hearse. When I see someone telling the world that they’re dedicating their commuter to the dearly departed, I feel sorry for them. Not just for the loss but for the fact that they’re using their Buick in place of a proper memorial. Or a nice dinner for two. Hell, when I pass on the last thing I want to do is remind a fellow driver that someday soon they will also snuff it. Life’s too short for daily deathly reminders. That’s why when I become the punchline to a Monty Python dead parrot sketch, I want to be shot out of a cannon facing the ocean and have my best friends go fishing with plenty of beer. Maybe they could put the cannon on the boat and shoot me out several times. Hey, life’s short.

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47 Comments on “Hammer Time: Damn!...”

  • avatar

    The mind reels.

  • avatar


    I totally agree with you about cars as memorial. I’ve noticed this starting ever since 9/11, and every time I see this I think, “I don’t want someone using an old Caviler, or any car for that matter, as a memorial for me”. I don’t know, it just seems tacky.

    The worst “moded” car I’ve ever seem was a early 90’s Toyota Camry with gold emblems, and Toyota badges on both rear view mirrors. It was pretty tame, but is was so wrong.

  • avatar

    It is kind of weird to see a car dedicated to some dead dude. I bet anything he died with a couple of bastard kids to his name.

  • avatar

    People memorializing their cars in honor of dead people.

    A common sight in Reading, PA.

  • avatar

    I see quite a few of the “In Loving Memory” cars here in L.A. I don’t get it.

  • avatar

    Anyone driving around with a blackletter R.I.P. decal banner should be shot to death with bullet stickers.

  • avatar
    N Number

    I would hope that a memorial to a loved one would be a bit more permanent than a 2006 F-150. I saw a memorial on the back of a car earlier this week that had date of birth and date of death both in 09. While I’ve never lost a child, the back window of a Wrangler seemed like an inappropriate place for such a memorial, and it made me a bit uncomfortable. That said, folks have the right and the freedom to adorn their vehicle as they see fit, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • avatar

    Ditto around San Diego. It seems they started with plain text and now are adorned with decorative stickers and such. When I see them, I do wonder what the person did that warrants such a shout out but I also wonder why most windows only have one memorial — if you’re the type of person to put a memorial on your back window, why just one? What about that other person who passed away that you know? Were they not worthy?

  • avatar

    But the only car that should ever be dedicated to a dead person is a hearse.

    I almost bought a hearse for my first car. I’m rather glad I didn’t, partly because it was a Northstar-equipped Caddy and would have cost me a fortune to maintain, but mostly because I grew up, got a haircut, and got a real job and that kind of thing is a bit of a drag when you leave the fantasy-land of undergraduate academia.

  • avatar

    Maybe it’s callous of me to say this, but I feel those “in memory of” stickers are inappropriate cries for attention.

  • avatar

    People handle grief and death in different ways.

    My Dad was a model train buff in addition to being the best mechanic I knew…..Mom put his ashes in an LGB freight car…..she gives him a ride at least a couple of times a week…..

  • avatar

    I started seeing the “In memory of” decals around here several years ago in gothic print on a low rider and another on a jacked up 4X4. Now I don’t go a week without seeing at least one. It struck me as strange the first time I saw one and now I just think it’s plain weird.

  • avatar

    Is a memorial vehicle any more troubling than an elaborate roadside shrine to commemorate the spot where a loved one died? There’s a ridiculously elaborate one being maintained along north-bound I-57 just south of Chicago. The thought of someone stopping on a very busy freeway to setup and maintain this shrine is very disturbing, with the real possibility that an additional shrine may one day be needed.

    • 0 avatar

      I can see one difference with roadside shrines. They’re usually placed in the place the fatal accident happened, so they’re a warning to other drivers that there may be some extra hazard there. If there are multiple monuments, case closed. A car-mounted monument is adrift in time and space. It’s sad, especially, as in the one I saw the other day where the birth and death dates were four years apart, but it has no instructive value.

  • avatar

    I had a bullet hole in my beater ’77 Corolla. In the late ’80s, I’d gone away for Thanksgiving, and there’d been a police chase through the Brookland neighborhood in DC where I lived. My car and my tenant’s car got shot. I wore the bullet hole with pride. But several years later, the DC inspection people made me have it repaired. Boy was I pissed.

    I don’t see how a bb gun could put holes in sheet metal. Maybe little dings, but not holes.

  • avatar

    “an elaborate roadside shrine to commemorate the spot where a loved one died?”

    I have three of these on a highway near my home and each of them commemorates some loser who crashed in a single vehicle accident, involving, as the police said, “excessive speed and alcohol”. The largest and oldest trash heap reminds us of a fool who sailed his car off a banked curve and into a house – right in – where two people were sleeping.
    I wouldn’t mind a temporary display, but they never take them done, they just grow year after year, rotting in place.
    I suspect it is an attempt to prove to the world just how much they care.

  • avatar

    Years ago, my friend and I shot his early seventies vintage Chrysler Newport full of holes with a Marlin lever action chambered in .444 Marlin. A few days later my friend was pulled over by the local gendarmerie, who demanded to know the story behind the bullet holes. My friend asked, “Is it illegal to shoot your own car, sir?” The policeman thought about it for a minute, answered in the negative, and let my friend continue on his way.

  • avatar

    I used to have a car with real bullet holes in it, but that was due to the neighborhood I lived in more than any choice on my part. Man, I miss Miami…

    I’ll never understand the “In loving memory of..” decals on car windows. Part of me thinks it’s a cry for attention, but I generally feel it’s just a lack of class. That’s subjective, and I don’t expect agreement but I don’t personally know anybody who would even consider doing that.

  • avatar

    In Lexington, KY I once saw a car with graphics to memorialize a dead horse.

  • avatar

    Two thoughts:

    1. I once owned a Buick Regal that had real bullet holes in it. Bought from an auction. Considering some of the other things found in the car I’m inclined to think they were earned honestly.

    2. There is a guy working at one of the local community colleges around here that has the memorial on the back of his late ’90s Sable…to a DOG!

  • avatar

    There is no quicker way to deflate the ego of someone who wants to trade in a car with any modifications at all than to have the used car appraiser say, “Well, you know it’ll cost a lot of money to put it back to stock…”

    The memorial thing on the back window is big around here too, as is the roadside memorial. There’s one of the latter half a mile from my house, where a teenager driving a carload of his friends ran off a straight road. I’m thinking that these too will pass.

    There was a ’62 Falcon Ranchero that I saw at a local dealer, when it’d just been traded in – in 1980 or so. It was lowered all around, painted bright yellow, apparently with poof-cans, and had a black naugahyde tonneau cover with a yellow Playboy bunny emblem in the center.

  • avatar

    I was actually talking about the subject of being remembered after you die with a former neighbor of mine. I told him that within a few years, nobody would likely remember me, but that some future classic car owner might be happy that the previous owner preserved his or her car so nicely. Unless they all get crushed, my cars are my legacy.

  • avatar

    I’ll add to the list memorial tatoos. I never really got them either, are you tatooing the name or the picture of your dead girlfriend on your arm (or other appendage) so you won’t forget her? To remind me the perfect stranger that she’s dead, or how much you loved her? And how is your next girlfriend supposed to take your memorial tat? Whatever happened to a nice wallet sized photo?

    I can kind of see a heavily customized car or motorcyle as a memorial, but a Chevy Lumina or a Civic? Tasteless, tacky. But this us the USA, and no one will go broke underestimating American Culture.

  • avatar

    I see a fair number of “cruising in memory of” stickers on cars. Usually the span of years indicates a pretty young person. The saddest I saw was a big expedition with graphics all around commemorating the death of their son in Iraq, complete with a larger than life size portrait of the young Marine in blue dress. I think it might have been something of a political statement, but it just made me sad.

  • avatar

    It seemed like the “roadside memorial” thing was in vogue long ago in Texas, primarily driven by the Hispanic community. I would imagine it was the same in California. I see it a fair amount in the north now.

    Never understood why you’d want to memorialize a spot on a road where your loved one made his final mistake (or suffered from someone else’s mistake).

    • 0 avatar

      Celebrating the dead is a much bigger deal in certain cultures. In gringo North America, we’re actually very abstracted and hands-off from death and the dead. It’s probably part of the culture of puritanism, and it’s not necessarily a good thing.

      On the other end of the scale, you have Voudoun.

  • avatar

    +100000, texlovera…the last thing I want my family to remember me by is a spot on the road where I lost my life (whether my fault, or not). Look son, this spot along I-65 is where your daddy bought it…isn’t that lovely? Isn’t that why we have cemetaries?

    And as for memorials on cars…while I understand that some folks grieve differently than others, what happens when they go to sell or trade in their rolling tribute? Do they scrape off the memorial (gee, must not have meant that much to them, after all), or leave it on the car (thereby creeping out the next owner)?

  • avatar

    I have a memorial on my truck.

    In silver Park Avenue script just behind the doors above the crease line is “Father” on the driver’s side and “Mother” on the passenger side of the cab.

    It’s there to honour my wife’s grandparents; two wonderful people who treated me like blood, and in fact with whom I had a better relationship than almost everybody in my own family.

    Grampa had a ’67 GMC pick-up that he used as a daily driver for more than 20 years (he passed away in ’89) and he and Grandma called each other Mother and Father, so it just seemed fitting to me to put their names on my GMC pick-up, which I use as a daily driver also. It is also an inside joke for my wife and I, because anybody seeing the truck assumes the names to be something other than what it is.

    Don’t be so disrespectful of vehicular memorials, or oddly decorated cars, as they have important meaning to the people who decorated them. It’s easy to dismiss them, but until you know the entire story, don’t be so quick to judge.

    • 0 avatar

      Not that you need my approval or validation, but the memorial you’ve described sounds both personal and appropriate. It’s a small, simple, personal reminder to you of two people that meant a great deal.

      The vinyl-decal ones that take up the entire back window the full name, birth/death dates and illustration of the deceased cease to be a personal tribute and have the appearance of an “in your face” request for others to give you sympathy. And given how these decals block outward vision, I wonder if these people have a wish to soon join their loved one in the afterlife.

  • avatar

    Anyway…the worst mod I ever saw? One of the first Mustang 5.0s, the ones with a surplus of body cladding? The owner had gone completely around the perimeter of the car an ever half inch had drilled a hole and attached enough links of white spray painted chain to estend all the way to the ground. There must have been a couple hundred of these things, all dangling down like icicles. And when the car hit a bump they’d clank and rattle. Odd.

  • avatar

    Its’ not surprising to me that people put memorials on their cars. Cars are a big part of peoples’ lives, and in some cases–the son killed in Iraq for example–it seems somewhat appropriate, sort of like having a license plate that identifies you as a veteran. In other cases, well, people approach stuff from such different perspectives. I can understand Steven Lang’s perspective as someone who’s trying to sell the cars, but I’m not, and I just do’nt feel inclined to judge others on this stuff.

  • avatar

    Don’t be dissin’ the wrong moving memorial or el vato loco(s) may make you eligible for your own moving memorial.

    For fun, if owning property along a rural two-lane road, create a phony memorial marking the spot where a fatal wreck occurred and add a cross and a few plastic flowers every couple months until it appears 50 or more lost their life at the place.

    • 0 avatar

      Hmm…you know, I’ve been trying to think of a way to stop those kids from speeding past my house, and I do happen to have some plastic flowers in the attic…

  • avatar

    Here in South Australia, the state roads authority puts it own markers on the spot were accidents have happened. A black steel post for each fatality and a red steel post for injuries. Kind of in tune with “stupidity happened here” mentality, especially when you see a few marked out on straight stretches of roads and not against a gum tree or the like. The steel posts are about 1 metre high. The act of put crosses and/or memorials are discouraged by local councils etc.. Especially when it idolises young teenagers speeding in stolen cars.

    • 0 avatar

      I used to see these when we traveled across the US in the early 50’s. I think some insurance company placed them, white diamond-shaped signs about half the size of a stop sign with big black X’s on them. We saw five or six of them at one curve and wondered if they were all from the same accident.

  • avatar

    The first time I saw one of these memorials, I thought it was acknowledging that the vehicle was paid for with the dead person’s life insurance proceeds.

    I prefer to memorialize my late father and sister by remembering their wisdom and character, as well as the funny, goofy things that both would do. I can only hope that one day a memory of me will bring a smile to someone’s face, and not a tear.

  • avatar

    I thought this was just a red-neck thing, but apparently it’s worse than I realized. What kind of moron does this rolling tribute nonsense?

  • avatar

    One of my worst –

    A late 90s Honda Accord 4-door… Dressed up to look like a Lexus. It had “euro” lights and full Lexus badging. Think about that for a minute. A Honda with Lexus badges.

    The kicker – I saw it parked next to an identical stock Accord. Zing!

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    How it was done for the last few hundred years: mourn in public for a few weeks, preferably with a black band around your upper arm. Honor the dead with a private shrine if you like; commemorate in a semi public place like a cemetary whenever you like and on certain special days.

    How some people do it today: create PSAs/shrines in all kinds of public places, put decals on your car and on your bike, create a web site, hug strangers at the supermarket, chat up people at the cafe, have a tattoo done.

    Tomorrow’s way of mourning? Who knows — maybe dye your pet black, wear the deceased’s blood in a vial around your neck, rent a billboard, paint your house black. I think the amount of energy people can spend on showing how they feel is limitless, and if anything goes, then anything will.

  • avatar
    A is A

    “People memorializing their cars in honor of dead people…”


    Da*m. It is true…

    American culture is an endless source of amazement for me (Do not get me wrong. I am also sometimes positively amazed).

    Here in Europe no one -I mean NO ONE- memorializes his/her car.

    Roadside memorials here are rare and restrained, and maintenance crews remove them customarily if they are removable (i.e., not made of concrete and iron).

    • 0 avatar

      I understand the outrage in your statement, but it’s difficult to say that “American culture” is anything in particular. We’re a melting pot…and trust me, a car memorial does not fit in my own personal culture. Or my manners. Or the culture or manners of most of the other people of the United States who posted comments on this page.

      Now if you notice, I referred to myself as a person “of the United States” to make the distinction from “American,” which I use to include all on this continent. The reason I did this is because – and I think we’ve been tip-toeing around this – the vehicular memorial seems to have originated in Mexican culture, and has been adopted by a small number of African Americans. But it’s definitely not a mainstream thing here in the States.

  • avatar

    Here in the frozen north I’ve yet to see a car memorial.

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