Funeral Hearses

A Review of Funeral Car Evolution – Part 3

hearsesHere is the conclusion of our three-part series of the various styles and appearance that hearses and funeral cars have had over the last 100 years or so.

The Eureka-Cadillac Three-Way Landau Hearse
If you like the automobile style that was so popular in the 1950s, you would like this type of hearse. It had the rounded edges and unique taillight styles.

Superior-Cadillac Royale Coupe de Fleur
This unique flower car made an appearance during the late 1950s and was a very popular addition for many funeral homes and mortuaries. You could put flowers in the back and there was a latch that allowed you to lift up the back cover so to load the casket. It was easy and classy all in one!

Superior-Cadillac Crown Royale
This is the style many people think of when they think of older hearses. It has the fins on the back with the curtains in the side windows and a sleek black appearance that only a hearse can have.

We hope you learned something or at least enjoyed these last three posts. You can learn more about these classic hearses by keeping up to date on our blogs.  Subscribe today!

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A Review of Funeral Car Evolution – Part 2

funeral limousine dealerIn this series, we are continuing to look at the evolution of funeral cars through the ages.  Here are several more examples of how hearses have changed through the decades.

Buick Limousine Hearses
These funeral cars typically had carved windows and ornate decorations that resembled the horse-drawn carriages of decades past. These models generally had white-walled tires for extra class and a touch of sophistication, too.

The Model A Hearses
Model A funeral cars had elaborate carvings that you simply do not see on today’s hearses. The sides of these cars had carvings that looked like rippled curtains and decorative scrolls to give them a truly unique appearance.

Gothic Hearses
During the 1940s, gothic hearses and funeral cars were becoming fairly popular. The sides of the back of these cars looked like stained glass windows from an elaborate Catholic church. They had a reverent appearance that is hard to find these days.

Carved Flower Cars
Although they are called flower cars, these funeral cars were rare and they were designed to carry caskets rather than flowers. They did not have the typical appearance of a hearse, but they still had ornate panels and the sleek style of funeral cars.

Henny-Packard Flower Car
These flower cars were popular toward the end of the 1940s and included a platform in the back designed to carry flower arrangements. Underneath that platform was also a place where the casket could slide in and out.

In our next installment, we will have a few more brief descriptions of styles for you. Be sure to come back for more!


A Review of Funeral Car Evolution – Part 1

hearse dealersJust like anything that has changed over the years, funeral cars have evolved in the last hundred years or so. They have come a long way since the days when pallbearers would carry the casket from the church to the burial grounds.  In this three part series, we will take a brief look at how funeral cars and hearses have evolved over the years.  Here are a few of the different styles that funeral cars and hearses have experienced throughout history.

Auto Hearses
Once the idea of the automated vehicle caught on, funeral cars began becoming more and more automated, too. However, for many years they still looked like their horse-drawn counterparts complete with lanterns and woodwork on the sides.

 

More Sophistication
As funeral cars evolved, they became more sophisticated. One style had a tray that came out of the side of the hearse because there was not a back door. It was called a side-servicing casket table and it swiveled out of either side and then swiveled back in for more ease of loading and unloading the casket.

 

The Town Car
Some hearses and funeral cars became long and sleek to display even more class. On some, the driver’s area was open and the back part of the vehicle was closed in and covered with curtains to give the casket some privacy. The tires typically had white walls to give it an extra touch of class.

 

Those are just a few styles that funeral cars have evolved through over the years.  We will be adding onto this series in a new installment soon.  Come back for a brief description of more!


Tesla Model S Hearse Concept

Eco Friendly Hearses Offer a Greener Goodbye

Have you ever worried about what the planet is going to be like after you die? If so, there are things you can do to contribute your little part to its sustainability.  Consider making eco-friendly hearses and funeral cars a part of your pre-need funeral planning.

Many funeral homes are already turning to greener alternatives for their growing fleet of cars.  But, in the end, change in the professional sector is often driven by consumer demand.  More and more people are asking about funeral options with a smaller carbon footprint and, for many, that means discussing cleaner running cars for their own funeral as well as funerals family and friends plan for someone who has recently passed away.

Several companies have stepped up to help funeral directors modify their fleet or make a smart investment in greener cars.  Of course, when you’re talking about electric cars the first company most people think of
is Tesla.  So it should come as no surprise that Tesla has already unveiled their own fully electric hearse.   Engineers cut the Tesla in half, stretched the wheel base by 30 inches and then repositioned the battery.  The Dutch limo company RemetzCar worked with Vander der Lans & Busscher to put the finishing touches on with a specially designed funeral carriage profile.

The concept car was unveiled at the 2016 Funeral Exhibition in Gorinchem in the Netherlands and has been making headlines ever since.

And it’s been drawing plenty of attention at the 2016 Funeral Exhibition in Gorinchem in the Netherlands this week.  But it’s not the first – or only – greener hearse people can use for their final road trip.

The Hearse & Limo Company out of the Netherlands, for example, has made a name for itself as a premier dealer of hearses and one that has made eco-friendly hearse options a priority.  They now offer  hearses with hybrid technology, options that run on green gas and even fully electric models.

And let’s not overlook the other major player in the world of hybrid cars – Toyota.  When Toyota unveiled the Prius it was a game changer in the auto industry.  Strong interest and sales proved that there was a real and dedicated market for hybrid cars and the Prius became the industry’s flagship model.  Made – and priced – with the wider market in mind, Toyota has become a major player in the world of hybrid cars.  Way back in 2009 they announced their Toyota Prius hearse which boasted an impressive 49 mpg.

A shift for greener, more energy efficient cars has been growing for more than a decade now.  As we adapt the cars we use every day it makes sense that we also design new specialty cars and other forms of transport to be in line with a greener, cleaner and more Earth friendly approach.  After all, there’s something to be said for doing what we can to leave the world a little nicer than we found it.


doubleyellowlines

Funeral Cars – Are They Above the Law?

Anyone who has been a driver for more than a few years knows what it is like to deal with parking laws.  Stopping outside a shop on a busy street, double parking while you run back into your house to grab something or even just misinterpreting the hourly restrictions on a side street – every driver has a story about an epic parking issue.

We rarely think about hearses or funeral cars with respect to parking laws, but a story out of the UK made headlines when those two worlds came together.  A parking attendant working in Marlborough ticketed a funeral director who had parked his limousine at the street curb to wash it before a funeral.  The curb was painted with double yellow lines, designating it a No Parking zone but, as it was the curb outside his own funeral home, the director didn’t think twice about it.

The parking attendant didn’t think twice either – and issued a ticket on the spot.  The director became so upset about it that he splashed the attendant with water from the hose he was using to wash the car.  The attendant responded by adding assault charges to the paring ticket.

Do you think parking officers should be more lenient on funeral cars and hearses when they are parked somewhere where other cars are not allowed?  Was this a case of simply enforcing the letter of the law or an example of someone abusing their position of power?

The ironic part of the story is that David Hunter, the funeral director in question, asked the city to make the area outside his funeral home a “no parking” zone because other cars were parking there and blocking his hearses from getting in and out of the parking lot. He claims he was only partly parked on the double yellow lines and he said he was not blocking anybody in where he was parked. He went on to say this: “I know the wardens have a job to do but they should use their discretion.”

How do our readers weigh in on this story? Should the funeral director be allowed to park in the “no parking” zone in front of his facility to wash his hearses or did the parking warden do her job correctly? Let us know your thoughts below.


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.

 


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


jaguar-xk-hearse

“Ever Drive a Hearse, Harold?” Funeral Cars in the Movies

Funeral car collectors may seem odd to those who are on the outside looking in. After all, who would want to drive around in such an obvious symbol of death? That same confusion or distaste does not, however, seem to carry over to film. A surprising number of films from cult classics to beloved Disney movies feature funeral cars as supporting characters. Here is a brief guide to some of the more popular funeral car films.

Harold and Maude – This 1971 cult classic is possibly the greatest funeral car film of all time. It ranked #45 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Funniest Movies of All Time. Harold and Maude are possibly the unlikeliest pair of all time, and their hilarious exploits in a stolen hearse will not soon be forgotten.

Munster Go Home – Who doesn’t love the Munsters? As would seem appropriate for this unusual family, Herman travels with his carpool in a 1950s limo style hearse.

Some Like It Hot – This classic film features a scene in which a funeral car is pursued by Chicago police officers. After a great deal of gunplay, the hearse arrives at The Funeral Parlor. The funeral parlor turns out to be a speakeasy, and the deceased is a case of bootleg liquor.

The Brave Little Toaster – Even kids movies are in on the trend.  This cute kids’ movie features a singing hearse and limo duet.

A Goofy Movie – Disney doesn’t shy away from themes of death either.  This 1995 Disney film features a scene of a hearse complete with singing corpse.

Of course, the above are just a few of the many movies in which hearses and funeral cars are prominently featured. Funeral cars have played an important role in film history, and the Hollywood ties are one of many reasons that collectors value these fascinating vehicles. If you are in the market for a new or old funeral car, why not stop by our friendly dealership? We can answer any question that you may have.