With his Munsters DRAG-U-LA replica, David Scott realised a childhood dream. It even scored the tick of approval from the king of Kustomisers
This article on Scott's DRAG-U-LA replica was originally published in issue 16 of Street Machine's Hot Rod magazine
MEMORIES of our youth. It’s a fairly common inspiration for car builders to tap into those long-branded visions of what jaw-dropped us as kids. Maybe it was your Dad’s car, something seen at a show or a mate’s brother’s ride that etched a permanent memory because of its sound or look. My inspirations were a tyre-smoking Landau on Halloween in ’83 and the local mechanic rowing through the gears of his barely muffled V8 panelvan sporting a Trans Am front and murals, all caught as a speechless kid sitting on my BMX.
"George Barris was impressed with the attention to detail and gave the car glowing praise, even stating it was the best replica out there,” David says. “The car has been so popular. It is a fantastic feeling.”
Seriously, how cool were TV execs back in the day. TV featured some awesome cars and the sitcoms of the 60s, 70s and 80s spawned the best. The Monkeemobile, Batmobile, airborne General Lee and Knight Rider’s KITT all left an indelible mark, and at close quarters to a number of the higher profile builds was custom legend, George Barris.
The bubble top is remotely operated and was sourced from the same family that made the original, while the steel tombstone was hand painted by Vick Pattison who used feathers to replicate the marble finish
“I grew up on a steady diet of television and big screen cars,” says movie car aficionado and feature rod owner, David Scott. “As an 8yo I was taken to the 1970 Melbourne Show and sat in the Batmobile — I was blown away — and so began a love affair with star cars. I have long been a Barris fan and really dug the styling of his Munster cars — the ever popular Munster Koach and coffin-based DRAG-U-LA.”
DRAG-U-LA made two appearances in The Munsters, firstly in the TV series when it was created by Grandpa for Herman to win back the Munster Koach in a drag race, then later in the feature movie Munster, Go Home where it reappeared as a cross-country race car.
Fast forward a few decades and David realised that it was time to turn his childhood dream into reality and build a star car of his own. “I was knee deep in the build of a yellow MFP Mad Max Interceptor sedan. I had the car and all the correct accessory pieces including the sirens and fibreglass kit to build a details-perfect replica. But there were quite a few popping up on the scene — both good and bad versions — that I decided to step well outside of the box. I had researched the DRAG-U-LA too so figured I’d build my own as it is far less common, especially here in Australia.”
A 350 cube small-block Chev crate engine was slotted in place of the original Barris car’s Windsor donk, purely after David was unable to locate a cross-ram intake for the Ford engine
About six years ago the build was swung into action with the purchase of two steel coffins from a funeral supplies company. “I said to the lady I was building a car so needed a certain style. She casually replied with: ‘I’ve had stranger requests’. I became friends with Keith Dean in the US whose father, Dick, worked for Barris back in the day. Keith was able to supply me with a brand new original-style bubble dome and the correct alloy air cleaner scoops!”
The same 60-degree design and close confines of the engine bay make the Chev a near-undetectable substitute
With the bubble dome taking a slow boat from the ’States, David along with good friend, Glen Pearce, got stuck into DRAG-U-LA’s chassis. The original DRAG-U-LA ran a Windsor mill but it was the need of a cross-ram intake that steered David towards a small-block Chev. “Trying to find a cross-ram for a Windsor was impossible so I went with the easier option. Choosing Chevy power had a marked effect on the build; the car was lengthened 24 inches to cater for the engine change and switch to an automatic transmission, as opposed to the original car’s four-speed manual.”
Thankfully, David is a devil for research so this was nutted out before any metal was cut. The additional length comfortably adds to the rods lairy proportions.
Two lengths of RHS were custom shaped to form the basis of DRAG-U-LA’s rolling chassis, to which a suicide-style T-bucket front end and solid-mounted Hilux diff were added. A Strange steering box and Competition Engineering column gave the roller some direction, while a hidden Wilwood master cylinder and Toyota rear drums do the stopping. Sixteen-inch Star Wires support the front end while the rears measure in at 15x8 with David selecting Radir Tri-Ribbs as a loving nod to the Batmobile.
The tailight housings are outdoor lamps sourced from the US and fixed to horizontally mounted brass lampstands, while the lenses were made by David with the help of Matt at Mr Plastics
A GM Performance 350 crate donk made easy work of the engine build, tweaked with a mild Comp Cams lumpy stick and twin 350 Holley carbs on a vintage Edelbrock X-C8 cross-ram intake. Block-hugger exhaust manifolds boom the exhaust noise via eight 2.5in chromed organ pipes while an MSD ignition and Mooneyes leads keep the fire lit. An Aussie Desert Cooler radiator and electric fan keep temps viable while extra coffin pieces were chosen to construct the grille shell, aptly lined with mausoleum mesh. Transmission is a B&M-sourced Turbo 350 running a 2500 stall and backed by a minion-sized tailshaft.
The FED-inspired driver location and interior features a Kirkey race seat, Simpson harness and Pro-Werks butterfly steering wheel, while Mooneyes gauges report the goings-on of the vitals under the forward casket lid
The aforementioned two steel caskets were brought out of storage and custom made into a single length body that doubles as an engine cover and FED-styled cockpit. The ornate coffin dressings are a story in themselves which involved serious input from some of the build’s key players. “It was a mission,” David says. “Keith Dean supplied the vertical corner wreaths to which we matched wooden picture framing material around the base. The upper curved surfaces were tricky due to their complex shapes and need to be bendable; the floral ribboning was clay sculptured by Shannon Weaver at DreamWeaver FX then moulded in resin.”
The remaining surfaces were covered in purple satin to ooze a true coffin feel
Shannon also supplied the rope garnish at the base of the bubble dome and remoulded some of the additional fittings that were brought in from the ’States but found to be unusable. The steel handles are genuine coffin items supplied by Final Touch Australia but spaced away from the body using 3mm acrylic scroll-sawed by David’s Uncle, Trevor Rook, then flame finished by Matt Humenik at Mr Plastics. “The spacers stop the handles from hitting the body and gives them a floating appearance. Josh Cardno from Swains Motor Body Repairs and myself got busy fitting and clamping the pieces into place before Josh laid down multiple coats of HOK Pagan Gold Kandy.”
Sourcing and creating the ornate dressings was a serious team effort, but it was pivotal to the success of the build and made all the stress worthwhile
The bubble dome lifts to reveal the drag-inspired interior that features an old school Kirkey race seat and Simpson harness, fronted by a Pro-Werks butterfly wheel. Mooneyes instruments and a B&M Bandit shifter were the last selections before Shane from Image Trimming wrapped all remaining surfaces in purple satin and stitched up the leather parachute pack.
“The handles are genuine coffin items and fitting the ornate detail work soaked up more than half of the time spent on body prep. The belts are stirrup straps — yep, bought from your local Horseland!”
“This build was always going to be a challenge with so much of it made from scratch, but the glowing praise from George Barris at MotorEx this year made it all worthwhile. It won the Barris Hot Rod Award and he gave permission for me to fit Barris crests which left me speechless. The interest generated with general punters has been amazing too; they either just smile, shake their heads or mouth ‘what the fuck’. One of those three things happens every time.”
Colour: HOK Pagan Gold Candy
Make: Chevrolet 350
Block: Factory cast
Camshaft: Mild hydraulic Comp
Intake: Edelbrock X-C8 cross-ram
Carbs: Twin 350 Holleys
Exhaust: Block hugger headers, custom 2.5in organ pipes
Gearbox: Turbo 350
Convertor: 2500 stall
Diff: Hilux, 4.3 gears, LSD centre
Front: Tube axle, hairpins
Rear: Solid mounted
Brakes: Nil (f), Toyota drum (r)
Steering: Strange steering box, Competition Engineering column
Rims: Cragar Star Wires 16in (f), Radir Tri-Ribb 15x8 (r)
Tyres: Firestone 3-16 (f) Firestone Dragster 10.00-15 (r)