Cool Hearses

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Looking for Something Original? Consider a Customized Hearse

If you’ve ever been interested in buying one of the hearses for sale that you see in the paper or at a dealership, think about what kept you from making the purchase.  Sure, a nice hearse is pretty much a ready-made statement piece but maybe you thought there was something missing.  After all, traditionally there hasn’t been a whole lot of artistic diversity when it comes to hearses.  When looking at the local secondhand market for hearses, older ambulances and other similar cars, you can often start to feel like if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

That’s where customization comes into plaMotleyCrueHearsey.  Having a hearse customized can be a bit more of a challenge than your average car customization.  But any company that offers high-end car customization will be able to discuss plans for a hearse just as they would any other car.  Custom car shops are often home to some of the most creative artists and technicians who can hook you up with a one-off paint job, state of the art sound system and even car wraps designed for hearses.

 

If you want to take it to a real extreme, though, consider working with the amazing team at MacNeille.  The MacNeille team started customizing cars back in 1912, almost as soon as they were rolling off the assembly line.  With such a long history in the industry it’s no surprise they’re one of the most well-respected customization companies in the world.  One of their more noteworthy services is armor plating.  They’ve plated ambulances as well as police and military vehicles.  They don’t say if they’ve ever customized a hearse with armor plating, but there’s a first time for everything, right?

Customized hearses have become a great way for private owners to express themselves but some progressive funeral homes see them as an investment as well.  After all, when you can offer clients the chance to take their final ride in a motorcycle hearse or even a bicycle hearse, you’re bound to attract some extra attention.

 

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Funeral Cars, Urban Legends and Hauntings

Many people are superstitious about funeral cars. Like all items that are associated with death, hearses and funeral cars have developed a bit of a reputation as symbols of evil, darkness and sadness. Accordingly, many urban legends have developed around the cars.

Haunted Hearses
Like graveyards, it seems that virtually every town has a story about a haunted hearse in the area. Some of these cars are owned by haunted houses or other companies with an interest in sharing ghost stories in order to boost business. Others are owned by funeral car enthusiasts who have a love of all things macabre. Still others are owned by those who would rather not be associated with ghost stories and find the whole situation most unfortunate.

Room for One More
Whether or not you believe in ghosts, a haunted hearse makes a rather chilling campfire tale. However, even spookier is the famous urban legend generally titled “Room for One More.” According to Snopes, the legend dates to at least 1912. It is so popular that it has been used in a Twilight Zone episode and in the 1945 film Dead of Night.

Urban Legend: Room for One MoreIn the original version of the tale, a girl is spending the night at the home of friends. She awakens to the sound of horses’ hooves and goes to the window to investigate. She sees an old-fashioned horse-drawn funeral car driven by an old coachman. Rather than a coffin, the hearse is filled with people. The coachman sees her watching and says, “There’s room for one more.” She is chilled by the offer and retreats to her bed.

The next morning she awakens, unable to decide whether the encounter was a dream. She heads to town to do some shopping. On the top floor of a department store, she considers taking the elevator. However, when she approaches, the elevator is almost full. The elevator operator catches her eye, and she is horrified to realize that he was the coachman in her dream. He says, “There’s room for one more,” and terrified, the girl declines. She turns away as the doors close. Suddenly there are screams and a rush of air followed by a crash. The elevator has fallen and everyone on board has been killed.

Whether or not you believe these stories, it is easy to see how they developed. Funeral cars and other items associated with death are considered taboo by many people. A fear of death is quite common, and it is easy to associate the items with the fear.

 


Types of Funeral Cars – An Overview

 

When most people think of funeral cars, their minds automatically go to hearses. However, funeral directors are aware that there are actually several distinct types of funeral cars, each with a unique job function.  Professional car enthusiasts clubs generally admit those who own any or all of the following vehicles.

First Call Vehicles

Technically, this is the least standardized type of funeral car. Its purpose is simply to retrieve the deceased from the place of death and transfer them to the funeral home. Some funeral homes use their hearse for this purpose, but most find that it saves wear and tear on the hearse.  As a result, many choose to reserve hearses strictly for funerals.  A work van has historically been one of the most popular options, but many funeral homes prefer to use an older hearse or an SUV instead. Custom fittings can be installed to secure the casket or stretcher.

Hearses

These are the fancy cars that carry caskets during funerals. At one time, they were generally horse-drawn buggies, but now are usually based on strengthened car chassis. Hearses are available in a variety of styles and colors, though many funeral homes stick to traditional understated colors such as blue, black and dark grey.

Flower Cars

Flower cars were once a popular part of funeral processions but are infrequently seen today, due to the increased expense. A flower car is similar to a hearse in design, but features a back that is open like a pickup truck.  Some flower cars carry only flowers, while the casket rides in a traditional hearse. Other flower cars carry the casket as well, surrounded and topped by flowers.

Combination Cars

Not in use today due to modern advances in ambulance-carried medical equipment, combination cars were capable of serving as both hearse and ambulance. In many towns, it fell to the funeral director to make ambulance runs for the town, and in the interest of practicality, combination cars were developed. The most famous example in modern times may be the Ecto-1 of Ghostbusters fame.

Funeral car enthusiasts often collect multiple styles and types of funeral cars. Each has played a unique role in the history of funeral transportation.

 


Ecto-1_HoodOrnament

Who Ya Gonna Call? The Ectomobile!

 

Who can forget the 1980s classic film series, Ghostbusters?  The film, originally released in 1984, has become an American icon.  More than 30 years later, the franchise has been rebooted and a whole new generation will gain an appreciation for proton packs and, of course, getting slimed.

The Ecto-1

Every bit as famous as the guys themselves is their car, the Ectomobile or Ecto-1. Strictly speaking, the Ecto-1 is not a funeral car at all. Instead, it is a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ambulance that the Ghostbusters inherited along with their fire station base. Nonetheless, as we have previously discussed, ambulances and hearses were largely interchangeable until the 1970s in many towns, with the undertaker often making ambulance runs for the city. Besides, since the vehicle was used in the final dispatching of the dead, or undead, the case could be made that the Ecto-1 was a funeral car of sorts.

Ecto-1

So What Happened to the Cars?
The original Ecto-1 actually died during the filming of Ghostbusters II.  The car sputtered to its end on the Brooklyn Bridge, making headlines as it tied up traffic and resulting in a fine for the filmmakers.  For a long time, the Ecto-1a, the upgraded model from the second film, was housed at Universal Orlando, but the car eventually fell into disrepair.   In the end, both Ectomobiles were eventually restored by a group of die-hard Ghostbusters Fans.

The new Ectomobile
In the 2016 reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise, the team keeps true to their roots and the new Ectomobile an old school classic.  The new team of Ghostbusters, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, answers their calls in a 1980s Cadillac Fleetwood Station Wagon decked out with the gadgets and paint from the original 1980s Ecto-1.

If you would like to create your own replica Ecto-1, as many fans have done, why not contact our convenient funeral car dealership, where we have new and used hearses for sale? We would be happy to recommend a funeral car that would make an excellent base.


HistoricHearseMuseum

The National Museum of Funeral History – A Haven for Historic Funeral Car Enthusiasts

Discussing historic and otherwise noteworthy funeral cars is one of my favorite topics on this blog.  Looking at the modes of transportation used throughout history as well as the evolution of funeral traditions and practices brings it all together for me.  But writing and reading about these cars is one thing, seeing them in person is quite another.  That’s why I’m adding the National Museum of Funeral History onto my summer road trip Wish List.

Location
You might expect a museum dedicated to funerals to be housed in a picturesque Victorian manor house, perhaps surrounded by a white picket fence and a few tombstones.  But you’d be wrong.  So pack some sun screen and be sure to keep an eye out for a nondescript building.  It turns out, the museum is located in what appears to be an old industrial park. A bustling town home community of young families constitutes the area today, located in a largely shade-free area of Houston.

What the building lacks in curb appeal, it makes up for once you step inside.  The building is enormous, with a display room easily large enough to park an airplane. There are meeting rooms and classrooms as well, although these are off-limits to the public.

The Collection

The permanent collection at the museum is impressive to say the least.  The museum covers the most obvious base first with their impressive collection of antique and custom coffins which includes everything from a casket adorned with real money (who says you can’t take it with you?) to Fantasy Coffins from Ghana.  A Victorian funeral parlor, embalming exhibits and the largest collection of Ghanaian caskets outside of Africa are just a few of the many rare treasures you will find.

Of course, when it comes to impressive size, the hearses and funeral cars take the cake.  The collection takes up a great deal of the display space as well as attractive plenty of visitors.  Here you will find authentic antiques sharing space with high quality replicas, although the signage does a great job of letting you know which is which.

Merchandise
Of course, no roadside attraction visit would be complete without the obligatory gift shop stop.  The gift shop in the museum is impressive but it’s the one thing you don’t have to travel to Houston to appreciate.  Their website offers the same merchandise shipped direct from the museum.  You can choose from books about the funeral industry and Day of the Dead merchandise to leather hearse coasters and Undertakers Root Beer.

The National Museum of Funeral History is an interesting place. Part tourist trap, part fascinating historical museum, it is a must-see for any true fan of funeral cars and related memorabilia. If you are interested in the funeral vehicles of today, be sure to visit our convenient dealership. We would be happy to assist you in finding the right car for you.


Victorian_Horse-Drawn_Hearse

Check Out This Horse-Drawn Carriage Collection

In Winnipeg, Canada, RolanCleggHearse02d Emmerson “Rollie” Clegg bought his first horse-drawn carriage to appease his new bride. In those days, the motorized car was quite a new invention, and Clegg’s wife, Gladys, had a disastrous first driving lesson. She wanted nothing to do with the new contraption. A few years later, Clegg was able to talk her into riding in a car, but she continued to drive her buggy on shopping trips until midway through the 1940s.

 

In the 1960s, Rollie, a blacksmith, welder and farmer, began rescuing abandoned buggies from around his area. He lovingly restored the vehicles, eventually developing an impressive collection. His carriages include several extremely rare pieces, such as Canada’s only known surviving ambulance carriage from the First World War.CleggHearse

For many years, Rollie has loaned out his buggies for weddings. The only payment he would accept was a photograph of the happy couple. The carriages have also been featured in films and starred in numerous parades.  His collection was also featured in movies including The Assassination of Jesse James and the Canadian television series Pioneer Quest.

Rollie’s collection also includes two horse-drawn hearses, a black and a white. They have been used in several funerals. One of Rollie’s hearses was used in the funeral of a 104 year old aboriginal woman. It is said that her last request was a horse-drawn funeral carriage.

Clegg passed away in 2012 and his collection has become part of a museum.  His landmark and internationally known collection of nearly 100 carriages has a new home at the Prairie Mountain Regional Museum in Shoal Lake.

If you prefer more modern hearses for sale, we look forward to speaking with you at our dealership. We would be happy to answer any questions you have.Victorian_Horse-Drawn_Hearse