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Buried In a Ferrari

As stipulated in her will, millionaire heiress Sandra West was buried in lingerie in the driver’s seat of her powder blue 1964 Ferrari

Sandra West, heiress to her dead husband Ike West’s Texas oil fortune, had requested in her will that she be dressed in her lace nightgown and buried in one of her three Ferraris “with the seat slanted comfortably.”

Because you wouldn’t want your corpse to spend eternity in an awkward, upright position…

West’s body and her beloved Ferrari were sent back to Texas, where a huge grave was dug beside her husband in San Antonio’s Alamo Masonic Cemetery. The car was placed inside a large wooden crate, lowered into the ground by a crane, and then covered in concrete.

And while many gathered for the burial, none were mourning family or friends.

Instead, around 300 spectators and reporters looked on to witness a crane navigate around tombstones and place the box into a grave measuring 19 feet long, 10 feet wide and 9 feet deep.

There are fascinating cemeteries all over the world. A walk through any one of them can be like a living history lesson, taught by those who preceded us and who know where we are all headed. Some cemeteries have given rise to legends of hauntings and curses, while others are of interest simply for the offbeat tombstones to be discovered in them. Each of these tombstones tells a story and every graveyard we whistle as we pass by offers reminders of life’s triumphs and tragedies to anyone who takes the time to read the inscribed words. Sometimes they are words of warning or advice. Some tell tales of earthly woe, while others are actually lighthearted and inspiring.

Many “tombstone tourists” are interested in visiting the resting places of famous people or places which have interesting stories attached to the dearly departed. An interesting story is what has drawn thousands of visitors to the grave of Sandra West in the Alamo Masonic Cemetery on Center Street in San Antonio, Texas.

Sandra was a Beverly Hills socialite and the wife of wealthy Texas oil tycoon Ike West when he died in January 1968. After she inherited over $5 million (almost $36 million in 2017 dollars), she had the family lawyer draw up her will and in that will, she requested to be buried wearing a lacy nightgown inside her favourite powder-blue 1964 Ferrari “with the seat slanted comfortably.”

For the next 9 years, Sandra partied and lived large with the rich and famous in Hollywood, going through almost half of her inheritance. The excesses of her life style reportedly affected her health and she died in 1977 of an overdose of prescription pills. Upon her death, it was revealed that her brother-in-law, Saul West, was to receive $2 million if he saw to it that her wishes for burial were honored. If he did not, he would only get $10,000. Her brother-in-law went to court fighting the demand, but after a judge ruled the will valid and in force, Saul suddenly decided to carry out her wishes.

Sandra West (Jan. 2, 1939-March 10,1977) was a Beverly Hills socialite. When she made her will, she requested that she be buried inside a Ferrari with the seat slanted comfortably.”The heiress, widow of Texas oil millionaire, Ike West, was a wealthy 37 year old Beverly Hills socialite, left most of her $3 million estate to her brother in law, provided he made sure she was buried in her favourite lace nightgown and inside her Ferrari, with the seat slanted comfortably. The Ferrari was surrounded with concrete so no one would be tempted to dig it up and drive away. 

1964 Ferrari 250GT – worth about $2 million in 2017

“Her beloved Ferrari 330 America was lowered into the 20 foot long grave and then covered with cement. The funeral director indicated that the cement was added as the cemetery was in a high crime area and he feared the car would be back on the street in a day!”

After Sandra West died in Beverly Hills in March 1977, her and her favorite car were flown to San Antonio. Crews then began making preparations to bury her that May.

The Ferrari with West’s corpse was prepared in a location not available for public view. According to reports, the body wore an elegant, white nightgown.

“Of course, this is the most unusual funeral I’ve ever handled,” funeral director Porter Loring told reporters at the time. “It’s been a tough battle trying to keep this as unsensational as possible.”

The socialite, who died of a prescription drug overdose on March 10, requested in a 1972 will that she be buried “next to my husband in my lace nightgown by Porter Loring (Mortuary) and in my Ferrari with the seat slanted comfortably,” the report stated.

At the time of her death, she lived among the rich and famous in Beverly Hills and was worth $5 million that was inherited from her husband after he died in 1968.

Pending a court order from a Los Angles judge, her body was temporarily entombed in a mausoleum in San Antonio’s Sunset Memorial Park, according to archives.

The 1964 Ferrari arrived by train on May 18, and was watched over by two armed guards at a private location while workers positioned West’s corpse.

Back in California, the widow left behind a $500,000 stamp collection, $500,000 worth of jewelry, a solid-gold fishing reel, two additional Ferraris and a Stutz Blackhawk, according to an April 13, 1977, Express-News report.

The Ferraris were sold to auction that summer, as well as a 4.97-carat and a 6.98-carat ring, which sold for $305,000 and $110,000, respectively, according to a report from June 15, 1977.

When the box was sealed, crews transported the box to the cemetery, where a crane placed it into a grave measuring 19 feet long, 10 feet wide and 9 feet deep.

More than 300 guests attended the ceremony, although there were no priest or family members present, on May 19, 1977.

“I just wanted to see how it was done,” one guest told the United Press International, according to an article by The Register-Guard. “If you can afford it, why not?”

Once the box was inside the grave, crews covered it with cement to discourage potential looters.

Sandra Ilene West, (nee Hara), attended school in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. Her father, Ezra and mother, Susan, owned and operated a children’s wear store on Beverly Drive. The name of the shop was, “Buttons and Bows”. Sandra lived with her parents in a house located behind the Beverly Hills Hotel, on Carolyn Way in Beverly Hills. Sandra was a precocious child and maintained her quick mind and wit into her adulthood and unto her death.

Sandra was strikingly beautiful and attracted men as diverse as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Nicky Hilton. Sandra met and dated Sol West before she met his brother, Ike, (whom she later married.)

Rumour had it that Ike was sent to Mexico with a bodyguard where he could harmlessly enjoy his pastimes of drinking and partaking of substances that were verboten in the States and be far from the family fortune. Sol treated Sandra offhandedly and she related an experience of going to Sol’s house, being told by the butler that he was not home, but catching a glimpse of a blonde wrapped in a towel, flitting past the front door.

That was enough for Sandy. She was a girl who always got what she wanted, she said. Evidently, this was true because she found out about Ike and his whereabouts and discovered that he was the older brother to Sol and used to take away Sol’s toys when they were growing up. She went to Mexico, located Ike and

with “loving patience” Sandra cleaned up Ike and convinced his family that he had turned over a new leaf and was ready to take the reigns of the company- with of course with her by his side. They were married shortly thereafter and moved to California to live the high life and she was in the catbird seat once again.

With this new life came the trappings of 1960s excess, a Beverly Hills Mansion, flashy clothes and fast cars. Shortly after her arrival, Sandra came to own the car that would make her famous, a 1964 Ferrari 330 America s/n 5055. Her blue America was imported by Chinetti Motors and appears to have been with the West’s throughout their stay in California.

Sandra West was prominent in Beverly Hills and socialized with the rich and famous, and in one report, she is compared to today’s Paris Hilton. She was worth $5 million, which was inherited from her husband after he died in 1968.

This Express-News article was published on May 19, 1977, when “California rich girl Sandra Ilene West” was buried in her Ferrari.

This photo shows the burial site of Texas oil millionaire Ike West, whose cause of death was uncertain, although he did have a history of drug use. He died at the Vegas Flamingo Hotel in 1968.

Ike West Jr. was, the scion of one of the first families of Texas. The West’s came by their fortune in the “traditional” Texas manner. The Brothers West (George, Ike Sr. and Sol) were Cattlemen and carved out their fortunes in the great cattle drives of the 19th century and enhanced their wealth by investing in oil in the 1920s and 1930s.

Like many Texas millionaires, Ike and Sandra followed the “family business” and dabbled in oil but eager for a change they moved to Southern California in 1963. Ike began a securities trading syndicate and Sandra (by this time a mother of two) entered the Beverly Hills social scene. With the new life came the trappings of 1960s excess, a Beverly Hills Mansion, flashy clothes and fast cars.

The West’s lived the 60s fast life but it didn’t last for Ike Jr. He had a history of drug use and health problems caused by rapid weight fluctuation. He died under mysterious circumstances at the Las Vegas Flamingo Hotel in 1968. With his demise, his widow now became known to the press as “Sandra West, Beverly Hills Socialite and Heiress”.

This photo shows Sandra West’s grave site, located near her husband. After he died, Sandra West was known as “Sandra West, Beverly Hills Socialite and Heiress.”

The burial sites of Texas oil millionaire Ike West (left) and Sandra West (right), in 1977.

40 years later, the site has been visited by thousands of history buffs and sightseers hoping to catch a glimpse of the grassy patch that covers the mysterious coffin.

Today that description prompts images of Paris Hilton and Sandra began to exhibit the bizarre behaviour that we now expect from her modern day equivalent. She dated a slew of entertainers (including singer Engelbert Humperdinck) and generally lived the high life. During the 1960s she was known as fun loving with a fondness for attention grabbing behaviour. Never one for subtlety, she was seen about town dressed in large amounts of jewelry and a mink coat or in a “Texas Rodeo Queen” ensemble complete with rhinestones and a stylish hat. She motored to society events and dinners in one of a fleet of cars that included a Stutz Blackhawk and at least three Ferraris, the 330 America, a 1969 365GT 2+2 and a 1973 Dino. On one occasion she drove in all her finery to Chasen’s, the landmark Beverly Hills eatery frequented by Johnny Carson and the Reagan’s, where she made a grand entrance, and then ordered a hamburger to go and sped away.

Though Ms. West’s behaviour would seem to be that of an extrovert, her associates (sadly, mostly doctors, nurses and lawyers) described her as lonely person with few true friends. She was known to give extravagant gifts to those who provided some small service to her. Shortly before her death she presented a $250,000 platinum and diamond cross to a part time nurse. Most gifts were unconditional, but she saved her most sizable gift, a gift worth millions, for one who would render a service to her and her favorite Ferrari.

Sandra became obsessed with the ancient Egyptians and their practices of being buried with their world possessions. She thought if they could do it- she would as well! So as she became more a recluse inside of her house and cut the outside world from her presence, she began to create a will that would one-day shock the world.

Perhaps it was the early demise of her husband or her fondness for the study of Egyptology that influenced her decision in 1972 to create a rather unique will. In a handwritten document she wrote that her desire was to be buried “in Texas, where the money came from”. That in itself was not unique, but what followed was. She listed Sol West III (her brother in-law) as her sole heir but only if he successfully completed her final request. That request was that she “be buried next to my husband in a lace nightgown seated in my Ferrari with the seat comfortably slanted”.
It was a request worthy of the Egyptian Pharaohs she so enjoyed studying. King Tutankhamen was buried 3300 years earlier with the best conveyance of his age, two golden chariots. Ms. West intended to journey to the hereafter in equally supreme style.

Unfortunately that journey was not too far in her future. Her loneliness deepened and her desire to be seen diminished. Far from being the socialite about town, she retreated to her home. She devoted much of her time to the continuing study of Ancient Egypt and to her extensive stamp collection. Her physician stated later that he believed that the change in Ms. West’s behaviour was a result of psychosis and drug abuse.

Far from being of “sound mind and body” Ms. West drafted a second will in 1976. Interestingly, the will named the West’s family attorney Fred Semaan as the primary heir and made no mention of the Ferraris. Soon after that will was completed in November 1976, Ms. West suffered serious injuries in a traffic accident while driving the America. Such was the fear that she would abuse medication that even the most basic drugs were required to be administered by a nurse.

Ms. West seemed to be recovering, but on March 10, 1977 she complained to her nurse of stomach pain. Unfortunately soon after Sandra wrote her will, she passed away from a mix of her previous injuries she had sustained from a car wreck and her abuse of drugs. She was only 38 years old.

She had retired to bed and died during the night. It was originally believed that she had died from complications of the traffic accident, but the coroner’s report indicated that she had overdosed on a combination of barbiturates and codeine, though how she obtained these drugs in light of her doctor’s instructions and in the presence of a nurse was never determined.

When her will was discovered, Sol West (her previous lover and now brother-in-law) was charged with the commission to have her be buried in her favourite powder blue Ferrari, in her white lace nightgown with the seat comfortably reclined. She also wanted to be buried next to her husband in their family cemetery plot in San Antonio, Tx. And if he did not follow these instructions he would not inherit the rest of their fortune. Sol was furious he had to comply with his sister-in-laws ridiculous will, so he went to court.

Then two wills were subsequently found amongst her papers. The 1976 will was drawn through in red lines and void was written across each page. With millions at stake, a legal battle between Sol West and Fred Semaan predictably ensued. Until a California probate court ruled, Ms West’s body was returned to San Antonio and her Ferraris secured to await her final disposition.

The decision was delivered in a Los Angeles court on April 11, 1977 that the wishes of Ms. West’s 1972 will were to be followed to the letter. The court instructed that the damaged America not be repaired prior to the funeral and that it be placed inside a large wooden box to “preserve Ms. West’s dignity”. A detailed budget for the elaborate funeral was included in the court order with an estimated cost of $15,000.

The 1964 Ferrari arrived by train on May 18, and was watched over by two armed guards at a private location while workers positioned West’s corpse.

Back in California, the widow left behind a $500,000 stamp collection, $500,000 worth of jewelry, a solid-gold fishing reel, two additional Ferraris and a Stutz Blackhawk, according to an April 13, 1977, Express-News report.

The Ferraris were sold to auction that summer, as well as a 4.97-carat and a 6.98-carat ring, which sold for $305,000 and $110,000, respectively, according to a report from June 15, 1977.

Sandra’s body was dug up from a temporary grave in California, dressed in her white night gown and seated in the front seat of her Ferrari, with the chair comfortably reclined. She and the car were put into a large wooden box that was then driven on the back of a semi all the way to San Antonio, Texas.

On May 19, 1977 Sandra Ilene West finally received the funeral she desired in the glare of television lights and in front of over 150 spectators. The box containing Ms. West (dressed per her instructions and seat adjusted accordingly) and her beloved Ferrari 330 America was lowered into the 20 foot long grave and then covered with cement. The funeral director indicated that the cement was added as the cemetery was in a high crime area and he feared the car would be back on the street in a day!

Sandra West’s estate consisting of over $3 million in cash, the Beverly Hills estate, mineral rights, stamp collection and jewelry were passed to her brother in-law Sol West III as stipulated in her 1972 will. The two other Ferraris were sold at public auction in Los Angeles. The blue Ferrari, the 1964 330 America s/n 5055 and its owner rest together under a simple stone at the San Antonio Masonic Cemetery, likely the most bizarre if not the most famous Ferrari owner/car combination of all.

The blue Ferrari, the 1964 330 America s/n 5055 and its owner rest together under a simple stone at the San Antonio Masonic Cemetery, likely the most bizarre if not the most famous burial in San Antonio’s history.

Husband and wife are spending eternity side by side in section 1-2 of the cemetery. Sandra’s simple grave marker doesn’t give a clue to what is underneath.

And now, almost 40 years later, the grassy patch that covers the “bizarre” woman and her cherished Ferrari is visited by thousands of history buffs and sightseers each year. The cemetery is a stop on a number of tours, including the San Antonio Neighbourhood Tours, Eastside Cemeteries Tour and Go! Historic SA Guided Running and Walking Tour.

On this day in 1977, socialite Sandra West was buried in her Ferrari in …

Thousands still flock to Sandra West’s grave site where the socialite …

Sandra West: The Woman Who Was Buried in Her Ferrari – Cult of Weird

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Sandra West – Wikipedia

A Texas Woman Is Actually Buried In Her Ferrari – Jalopnik

Sandra Ilene Hara West (1939 – 1977) – Find A Grave Memorial

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A Texas Woman Is Actually Buried In Her Ferrari – Jalopnik

Meet Sandra West, The Socialite Who Was Buried In Her Ferrari

 


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