You can take it with you, if the grave is deep enough

Sometimes apocryphal, often outrageous: stories of car lovers who were buried with their prized possessions. (Photo: NYTimes)
Yes, people can and do get buried in their cars. But you cannot always accept the claims at face value. A viral story in 2018 told of a Nigerian man who had buried his father in a BMW. According to The Standard, a Kenyan newspaper, it was “a dignified send-off befitting of his status.”اضافة اعلان

A few years earlier, The Standard said in its telling, another wealthy Nigerian buried his mother in a Hummer, which he covered with cash. The photos of the episode are fuzzy, but this story, too, went viral in Africa and Asia. People love to read about the excesses of the rich, and when they are tied in with luxury cars, all the better. The stories, alas, are often light on details.

With good reason, it turns out.

The BMW burial was for a scene in the movie “Social Club,” according to AFP Fact Check. “The movie preaches against ritual sacrifices that are performed in Nigeria by people seeking to join the ranks of the country’s wealthy elite,” the fact-check says. The veracity of the Hummer story is unclear.

Similarly anticlimactic was the social media announcement in 2013 by Chiquinho Scarpa, a wealthy Brazilian businessman, that he was going to bury his Bentley so he would have a comfortable place to rest in his next life. He said he had been inspired by accounts that ancient Egyptians were buried with their possessions. Scarpa posed by the hole with a shovel. Predictably, the photo went viral.

Reporters assembled in Sao Paulo, but Scarpa stopped the proceedings just as the car was being interred. An ad agency had helped create this stunt to promote organ donation. “It is absurd to bury bodies, which can save many lives. Nothing is more valuable. Be a donor, tell your family,” Scarpa said, according to The Irish Times.

But these bizarre burials are not always so dubious. Sandra Ilene West, a flamboyant Beverly Hills oil heiress, was reportedly buried with her baby-blue 1964 Ferrari, California license RBM 362, in 1977. Her grave is next to her husband’s at Alamo Masonic Cemetery in San Antonio, and it has become a tourist attraction.

The story has everything necessary to remain internet fodder decades after the fact: The apparently also-Egyptian-obsessed West was buried in a lace nightgown “with the seat slanted comfortably.” At 38, she was both beautiful and rich, and the car — while not the rarest of Ferraris, and possibly damaged — was still a collectible.

Photos of the burial show not the car, one of several Ferraris in West’s stable, but the slate-gray wooden box in which it was stored. The burial car is not a 300 America, as some online posts assert, but the 34th 330 America built, chassis No. 5055.

According to Bill Orth, writing in a 2017 edition of the Ferrari Club of America’s Prancing Horse magazine, the 330 was West’s favorite, but shortly before her death, it was reportedly badly damaged in an accident. Could this be why the car was given a “closed casket” burial, sealed in concrete? A stated reason was to deter anyone from digging it up.

West’s handwritten will stipulated that, her husband having died before her, her brother-in-law, Sol West, was to carry out the car burial. If he failed to do so, he was to be mostly disinherited. Sol West “had other ideas for the Ferrari,” Orth wrote, but in the end, the box went into the hole, and a pair of cement trucks went to work and encased it.

“The story is true,” said David Williams, Prancing Horse’s editor. “She was buried with her Ferrari.” Ferrari register confirms that the owner of left-hand-drive chassis No. 5055, Sandra West, was “buried in car in San Antonio.”

People continue to be buried with their cars, or at least facsimiles of them. In 1984, Willie Stokes Jr. of Chicago was interred in a coffin styled like a Cadillac Seville with functioning headlights and taillights, an event immortalized in song by Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Another Cadillac fan was Aurora Schuck, a native of Cuba who was buried in Aurora, Indiana, in 1989 with her red 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. With the top down, the coffin was placed over the rear seats. Sixteen grave sites were required to fit the car, one of the largest Cadillacs made.

George Swanson of Pennsylvania had his ashes interred with his 1984 Corvette in 1994. And in 2009, Lonnie Holloway and his 1973 Pontiac Catalina went into the ground together in South Carolina. “It’s something he always wanted to do, but I didn’t like it,” Holloway’s sister, Sallie Harris, told WIS-TV.

At the very least, cars that are buried in the earth should have their fluids drained to reduce environmental issues. Swanson’s Corvette had the fluids removed and, cued up in the cassette player, an Engelbert Humperdinck tape.

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