Saturday, February 28, 2004

Fans deadly serious about Bengals



[photo]
Jonathan Downs and his father, Billy, spent three months turning a hearse into an homage to the Cincinnati Bengals. They say they were inspired by the improved record of the football team.
The Enquirer/STEVEN HERPPICH

[photo]
The Downs duo replaced the interior carpeting with Astroturf. Football jerseys were pulled over the headrests of the Caddy.
The Enquirer/STEVEN HERPPICH


Tell us what you are driving
Tempo/What Are You Driving?
The Cincinnati Enquirer,
312 Elm St.,
Cincinnati 45202;
fax: 768-8495;
e-mail mfuqua@enquirer.com
Thanks to his father's 32 years as a Bengals season ticket-holder, 30-year-old Jonathan Downs of Middletown has been going to games for as long as he can remember. In recent years, there was little reason for Bengals fans to celebrate.

But this past season - when the Bengals finished with their best record since 1996 - was different. At home games, Downs and his dad, Billy, would often see firetrucks painted in tribute to the team. They decided they, too, wanted to pay homage to the Bengals - in their own way.

"We'd always talked about doing something like that," said Downs, who is a deputy sheriff for Warren County. "We thought, 'Well, a hearse is different.'"

So, about two months ago, they bought a 1986 Cadillac hearse from a Cincinnati dealer. Then they enlisted Maaco Auto Painting & Bodyworks in Fairfield to paint it orange with black stripes, with helmets and Bengals logos. Inside, they ripped out the carpeting and installed Astroturf. Jerseys were pulled over the headrests.

When they take the car out on the road, reactions range from cheers to strange looks.

"It turns some heads," Downs said.

Later this year, they'll be sure to turn more heads when they drive down to Paul Brown Stadium with their tailgating equipment.

"I can't wait till next season," Downs said.

First car: A Suzuki Samurai, when Jonathan Downs was 16.

Dream car: Hummer H1, "the original Hummer."

Lauren Bishop



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