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This car is all hearse

An attention-loving teen seals her place in Tampa's Gothic scene after she gets the Cadillac she's always wanted.

By TIM GRANT

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001


CARROLLWOOD -- After earning her driver's license at age 16, Pamela Jeffery asked her parents for a car during her senior year at Land O' Lakes High School.

While browsing the classified ads, she found one she'd always wanted. Her father refused to buy it.

The automotive apple of her eye happened to be a black 1969 Cadillac hearse. The seller wanted $1,500.

"I got really sad," said Jeffery. "And then I came home one day and it was parked in the front yard."

Jeffery, now 18, is an assistant manager at Blockbuster Video at 14446 N Dale Mabry Highway; but she still lives with her parents in Brooksville. The daily commute isn't practical for the gas-guzzling hearse, so Jeffery also owns a 2000 Toyota Echo.

Recently, though, Jeffery's Carrollwood co-workers got a chance to see her unique automobile. Some sat up front, which is roomy enough to seat four comfortably.

Others were brave enough to crawl in the back, where coffins were once transported.

As they stood around the car and smoked cigarettes, Jeffery and her friends got several curious looks from passersby at the Shoppes of Carrollwood.

Jeffery likes the attention. She earned a reputation for being different in high school. She had a reputation for wearing black clothes and black makeup. She dyed her hair black and styled it like Morticia Addams of television's The Addams Family. The car completed her dark, mysterious image and solidified her place in Tampa's Gothic scene.

The first time Jeffery drove it to school, she said, several classmates gave her dirty looks and yelled obscenities. She sat on the hood and laughed.

"It's not so much a fascination with death," she said. "I like to be eccentric. I like to get looks and it's a great way to get attention. I love to be the center of attention at all times."

Her father, David Jeffery, is a former truck driver. He said he bought the car from a man in Tampa who was planning to restore it. The man told David Jeffery he wanted a boat and since his wife said he only could have one, he sold the hearse.

David Jeffery said the hearse came from a funeral home in Sebring and before that, it was owned by a funeral parlor in Ohio.

Jeffery's mother, Darleen, 46, initially wouldn't go near the hearse. Although they had reservations, Mrs. Jeffery said they decided to buy the car because their daughter was a good student.

The couple said they've always encouraged their daughter to be an independent thinker. They raised her as a Christian, but allowed her to explore and make her own choices, they said.

The hearse was a choice her new boyfriend, Chris Schober, didn't understand. The 23-year-old, who also works at Blockbuster, refuses to get in, saying, "I'm only going to ride in a hearse one time in my life."

- To reach Tim Grant call 226-3471, or e-mail him at grant@sptimes.com.

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