Taking the highway to heaven in a Corvette

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The Independent Online
NINE hours before he passed away, George Swanson turned to his wife and reminded her that he was absolutely serious about his final wishes. She must not forget, he said, to bury him inside his white Corvette sports car.

If ever America's infatuation with the car needed further illustration, it will come this Wednesday when the 71-year-old's cremated remains are placed on the driver's seat of his beloved dollars 15,000 car, a model more associated with young men with medallions than pensioners, and then lowered by crane into an 8ft pit.

'It was the speed that he loved,' said his widow, Caroline, from North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. 'He liked to go fast. He always said he would be buried in the Corvette, from the moment he got it 10 years ago. He was absolutely serious.'

But Mr Swanson's decision to take the highway, rather than the stairway, to heaven was not easily carried out. He died in March, of heart problems, but it has taken weeks of lawyers' negotiations to secure his wishes.

The authorities at the cemetery, where the former beer distributor strategically bought up burial plots before his death, were not enthusiastic. They worried that relatives might be upset to know their loved ones were at rest only a few feet from Mr Swanson's glittering bumper, complete with its personalised number-plate: 'HI-PAL'.

Such was Mr Swanson's passion for the car that he bought a 1993 'Vette for his wife, who now shares his views. 'Have you ever driven a Corvette?' asked the 60-year-old widow. 'You only understand the power of it when you are behind the wheel. He even had mine up to 120mph.'

The grave will be marked by a large granite headstone bearing his name, and a carving of his car. 'I was planning to be buried alongside him,' said Mrs Swanson. 'We were going to have a pipe put in so that my ashes could go into the seat beside him. But there has been such a hassle over this that we decided not to do it. I have just told my children to stick the box beside the car, and I'll somehow sneak my way in.'

She may have difficulty. The car is made of non-perishable, non-rusting fibreglass.