Motorcycle-powered hearse to give bikers their final ride
By PETER SALTER
Feb. 24, 2018
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The funeral home is offering motorcycle rides now — $400 for a one-way ticket.
But you'll be going out in style. Custom curtains and upholstery, diamond-plate steel, a paint job as smooth as glass — all of it harnessed to a three-wheeled, 1,600-cc Harley Davidson.
A hearse fit for a biker. For any biker.
"You don't have to be hard-core Hell's Angel to use it," said Bryan Block, family service manager at Butherus, Maser and Love. "We hope it will be something well-used by the motorcycle community."
The longtime Lincoln funeral home chose ABATE's 32nd annual bike show to unveil its newest service: a 2009 Harley trike attached to a casket-toting trailer, fresh from a 2,000-hour makeover at a custom build shop.
Nothing like it in a 500-mile radius, said funeral director Andy Elliott.
"It's not something that's common in the Midwest," he told the Lincoln Journal Star . "We're pretty square here."
The idea grew out of the funeral home's presence at the bike show, Block said, which is part of its marketing philosophy. To reach new customers, it gets involved in the city, introducing itself to clubs and communities. In this case, motorcyclists.
"Because it doesn't matter what the group is, everyone is going to need our services," he said.
The funeral home raised eyebrows the first year it set up a booth at the bike show, Block said. It raised them higher the second year, when it returned with a coffin.
"They were like: What the heck? But now we've been out there eight years and they're welcoming us back."
At the same time, its customers are increasingly trying to personalize their services, he said: Planning funerals that reflect their interests, blurring the traditional rites and rituals of visitation, church, graveside.
And the funeral home realized a Harley hearse could serve its motorcycling customers. It bought the used trike in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and the bare-bones carriage from a manufacturer in Michigan. One of its owners approached Xoctic Customs in south Lincoln.
"He called and said he wanted to build a Harley trike hearse," owner Derek Spitsnogle said. "He was like, 'You ever build one of them?' I said, 'Not a chance.'"
The trike was biker black, the carriage nothing but raw wood, wheels, glass panels and bare-metal bottom. Spitsnogle and his crew spent weeks adding a domed top, diamond-plate floor panels and new upholstery. They gave the bike and carriage matching blue-and-silver paint jobs — the funeral home's colors.
Spitsnogle was always aware this project would soon deliver the departed. "Every time we looked at it," he said. "It was pretty eerie when I looked over and my dad's laying inside there, working on it."
He added his own touch — a double-sided picture frame on the back of the trike to display photos of the passengers taking their final ride.
The funeral home will charge the same $400 fee as its two traditional hearses. Block doesn't expect it to be heavily used, maybe during a dozen funerals each year, even though it's available to anybody — not just bikers.
"If I die and I got the choice between the hearse and the motorcycle hearse, put me in this."
Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com