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PALM LATITUDES

CLIQUES : Riding With the Reaper

August 29, 1993|January Anderson

In this town, you can't drive anything stylish without getting hit on by somebody. If the on-ramp panhandler doesn't get you, the local carjacker will. What's a discriminating driver to do?

Well, you could bury the BMW and get a used hearse. "People holding signs asking for money see me drive up, and they just wave me on," says Guy Thorpe, vice president of the Los Angeles Hearse Society, a group of 70 or so fans of the coffin carriers. Like many of the group's members, his hearse is his only car.

Sure, hearses are scary at the gas pump, averaging 13 m.p.g. And washing the 22-foot-long monsters can nearly tire a person to death. But according to Catrina Coffin, the president of the society (and, no, that's not her real name but it's the only one she gives), hearses have their advantages. They can be real bargains; a used one can go for as little as $1,500. And they're great for hauling building supplies or helping folks move, she says, even if mystified onlookers have been seen to snap a picture or two.

Society member Ronnie Grubbs cites yet another advantage: "Go to the mall at Christmastime and try to find your car in the parking lot," he says. "The hearse sticks up and sticks out. It's always easy to spot."

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