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.

 


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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.


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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.


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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


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Funeral Car Enthusiast? Plan Now for Next Year’s HAuNTcon

If you are into funeral cars, the chances are good that you are also interested in Halloween and itsHAuNTcon associated events. Perhaps you have a favorite haunt that you make an annual trek to each year. Or maybe you prefer to do as my father and I did last year, making the rounds of a section of the country to visit as many different haunts as possible. Either way, have you ever wondered what goes into the behind the scenes creation of a haunted attraction? HAuNTcon is your chance to find out.

This annual event takes place each spring at a carefully selected location somewhere in the United States.   In 2016, it was held in Birmingham, Alabama at the end of January. While the venue changes, the attractions and guests feature many familiar faces.  The convention is filled to the brim with owners, designers, actors, makeup artists and others who are dedicated to perfecting the art of the scare.   The the general public is invited to attend for a rare behind the scenes look at the creation of these Halloween masterpieces.

A funeral car rally is always part of the festivities, allowing those who own hearses and other funeral cars the chance to show off their babies. Costume contests, dinners and both lights-on and lights-off tours of local haunted attraction are just a few of the regular events.

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The convention also offers numerous classes on topics that are hard to find elsewhere. This year’s lineup included classes entitled “Monster Mouths Made Easy,” “Styrofoam Masonry IV,” and “Airbrush Makeup for Haunts,” among many others. No experience is required for these hands-on seminars, and you need not be affiliated with a haunt to attend.

If you are still in the market for the perfect funeral car, we invite you to visit our convenient dealership for hearse sales. We will be happy to help you select a car that you will be proud to take HAuNTcon.


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Looking for Some Creepy Fun? Try a Funeral Car Convention

Many cars today elicit strong emotional responses. Exotic car fans may stop in their tracks at the sight of a Ferrari or Lamborghini. Muscle car buffs feel a strong connection to the vehicles they restore. Funeral cars, however, elicit a decidedly mixed response.

Many people feel creeped out or afraid at the sight of a hearse or other funeral car. The connection to death, which is heavily feared by many, draws a strongly negative feeling from many people. However, to others it is just the opposite. Whether they are drawn to funeral cars precisely because of their morbid connections or because of their beauty and power, there is a large contingent of funeral car enthusiasts around the world.

Funeral car lovers, like those who enjoy any particular type of car, love to get together and show off their vehicles. While some of these meetings are private, most are open to the public. Public funeral car rallies are often held near Halloween, playing up the spookiness that many feel is associated with the vehicles.

A funeral car convention can be an exciting event. There may be music, games, movies, celebrity appearances and numerous other activities. Some of the cars have been customized and are nothing short of spectacular.  Local communities will often host these gatherings and advertise them through local groups and online listings.  There are also some which garner national attention, such as the Halloween Classic Car Show hosted by the National Museum of Funeral History.

Whether you are a funeral car enthusiast or not, a funeral car rally is a great way to get the family together for some unusual entertainment that you are sure to remember for years to come. You can easily find a show in your area with a simple internet search. Should your rally experience inspire you to find a used hearse for sale, be sure to visit our friendly dealership, where we will help you find the car of your dreams.


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“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.


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The Pink Funeral Car from the UK That Made Headlines in the Cross-Europe Road Rally

As a general rule, funeral car enthusiasts love to fix up their cars and show them off. Some prefer to restore their vehicles to their original condition, others soup them up for racing purposes. Another group, however, prefers to turn their funeral cars into showpiece works of art. A British pair has done just that and then entered their car into a cross-Europe road rally.

The car in question is a 15 year old Ford Dorchester mourners’ car that was purchased for 100 pounds. The three man

team has customized the vehicle around a disco theme, complete with disco ball, pink paint and flashing lights. They entered their modified macabre masterpiece in the 2008 Ramshackle Rally. The Rally crosses central Europe and ends in Krakow, Poland.

The rally is a popular see and be seen event, which the team entered in order to raise money for charity. Their charity of choice was the Cauldwell Charitable Trust, a group organized by friends of one of the team members that helps sick and disadvantaged children.

The trio will drove approximately 3,000 km in four days from the city of Calais, France to the finish line in Krakow. None have ever competed in an event on this scale, but all were eager to get started and excited about the prospect of making the 2008 Rally one to remember.

If you are a funeral car enthusiast, you probably enjoy taking your car out and showing it off. A road rally is a great place to meet others who share your interest in unusual vehicles. Rallies take place around the world on a fairly regular basis, and are easy to find online. If you are still in the market for the perfect funeral car, be sure to stop by our friendly dealership.


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Drunk Driving Programs Are Increasingly Realistic

Drunk driving awareness programs have been extremely popular in recent years. Groups like SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions, formerly Students Against Drunk Driving) and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) regularly stage scenarios that attempt to shock teens with the stark realities of possible drunk driving consequences. These scenarios usually take place around prom season, as groups attempt to ensure that teens will make wise choices on prom night.

In decades past, these demonstrations have largely consisted of static displays placed on school lawns.

A student production of a staged accident.

Wrecked cars and funeral cars are generally a part of the display.   Newer versions of this type of real life display also include plays or demonstrations that include local police, fire department and medical workers in order to lend some authenticity to the recreation.  If a student has recently been involved in a non-fatal accident, his or her car may be used to help bring realism.

In recent years, these static displays have been supplanted or reinforced by live demonstrations. These demonstrations are often sponsored by police and fire departments, and may include ambulances, police cars and even funeral cars. Live actors play the roles of the injured and dead.

A group in Dracut, Massachusetts recently staged a noteworthy and realistic display in 2008.  The promotion created an impact that made headlines in the local paper, the Valley Dispatch. Held on school DrunkDriving03grounds, the scenario placed three students in cars that had just been involved in a head-on collision. A fourth student lay on the pavement, the victim of a gushing head wound. As the girl was declared dead, her mother rushed onto the scene, screaming in agony. One of the drivers, a popular student, was arrested for vehicular homicide as liquor bottles were pulled from the car. The girl was zipped into a body bag and loaded into a funeral car as her mother was physically restrained.

Later, students filing into an assembly were met with an open coffin bearing a mirror inside. A chilling note read “This could be you.” The mother of a student killed in a drunk driving accident then addressed the somber group.

Although demonstrations like the above could be considered too graphic for students, proponents believe that these programs make a difference. Student drinking statistics are down, and some groups partially attribute this to these realistic anti-drinking and driving displays.

If you would like to donate your funeral car for use in a school display, contact your local chapter of SADD or MADD for more information.


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Funeral Car Enthusiast? Check Out These Hearse Clubs

If you are a funeral car collector or enthusiast, you may want to consider joining the Professional Car Society . This international society was founded in 1976 to encourage the restoration and preservation of professional cars. A professional car can be virtually any customized vehicle that is based on a passenger car and used in livery, funeral or rescue services. Special attention is given to dual-function vehicles such as hearse/ambulances and invalid coaches.

The society is a gold mine of information for anyone attempting to restore, maintain or preserve a car that fits within its guidelines. A quarterly magazine, The Professional Car, is distributed free of charge to members. The magazine carries numerous articles and advertisements that are of particular interest to professional car enthusiasts. Each issue also provides a free Classifieds section, which can be quite helpful in obtaining needed parts for your funeral car.

An international meet is held each summer, always in a colorful and interesting location. This is wonderful opportunity to meet and mingle with others who share your hobby, and to trade valuable information and tips.  The society also maintains a significant web presence. Here you can find information on your local chapter, learn about the society’s history and plans for the future, submit details about your car for possible display at future events, and keep up with ongoing events.

There are also clubs that focus on hearses specifically.  These clubs offer local chapters so it may take some digging to find one in your neck of the woods.  But many are active online as well, making it a bit easier to network even if you don’t find one locally.  The Nightmare Cruisers, Phantom Coaches and Just Hearse N’ Around Hearse Clubs all maintain updated web pages and social media options.  The Denver Hearse Club even hosts an annual convention – HearseCon – devoted to fans of hearses.

If this piqued your morbid curiosity and you’re in the market for the perfect funeral car , we invite you to visit our convenient dealership. We can help you find the funeral car that is right for you.