Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hearse pictures for Black Friday

Black Friday. Depending on your perspective, that term either makes you excited or scared to death. Do you like fighting the crowds to get the best deals of the year, or do you hate taking your car into door ding and shopping cart hell to save a few bucks?

Personally, I do not enjoy the feeding frenzy that is Black Friday, although there are occasionally some good deals online that I can get behind.

The term “Black Friday” has a couple of different origins, depending on who you ask. In the early 1960s, it supposedly referred to the day that retailers were “in the black.” They’ve always sold a lot of stuff the day after Thanksgiving. But others say it has something to do with the traffic and congestion that occurs as a result of huge sales that take place when most people are off work. Of course, maybe it’s a black day because once you get out in it, you want to kill somebody.

Oh, and speaking of wanting to kill people, I would hate to throw a story out here without a little automotive history, so here we go. I decided to do a little thing on hearses, because, you know, most of them are black. Work with me here, people.

The first motorized hearses appeared in the U.S. in about 1909, although horse-drawn carriages were still preferred. I can’t tell you much about them, so we’ll set the calendar up a few years.

Modern hearses are actually kind of interesting if for no other reason than the way they’re made. I’m sure most of you are aware that Cadillac or Lincoln sells an incomplete vehicle to coachbuilders to convert into a hearse. They’ll be a long wheelbase DTS or Town Car or whatever without a back end on it sitting atop a heavy-duty chassis.

The companies that finish the hearse conversions are some of the same ones that built opulent, custom-built cars for the hyper-rich in the 1920s and ‘30s. The same company that may have crafted a one-off Packard Town Car for Gary Cooper in 1936 could be the same one that built the hearse at your local funeral home. And the methods used to build these cars are not all that much different today. You still have small staffs of people working and painting sheet metal by hand, and you still end up with a very fancy, very expensive, and very rare vehicle.

Hearses are sort of a strange subset to the collector car hobby. On one hand, they’re rare, exclusive vehicles made in the old-world style. Plus, they’re usually in pretty nice shape, because they aren’t typically abused much. But on the other hand, they are kind of creepy, and they take up a lot of room in the garage. Even the nicest one in the world wouldn’t be for everybody.

Occasionally, some kook’ll want one, though. NASCAR driver Tony Stewart had an ’84 Cadillac hearse customized by Unique Whips a few years ago, complete with giant stereo speakers where the dead people used to go.

They also turn up in movies sometimes. The “ECTO-1” from the Ghostbusters movies was made out of an old Miller-Meteor hearse. Probably the most famous hearse that wasn’t really a hearse was the Barris-built Munsters Coach, which was basically a giant Model T hot rod that carried the hearse look.

I’ve gathered up a few promotional photos of old hearses, and am including them in the slideshow below. Or click this link for a better version of the slideshow. Be careful out there.


  1. The hearses of today are ugly hunks of steel.

    The horse drawn hearses of years long gone had style. They had sweeping curtains for the windows and lanterns on the outside with woodworking done by real craftmans of their trade. For what those units cost would sure think they be better looking than they are.

    I do believe thats why you don't see to much an after life for them, because they is just plain ass ugly. Cremate me I don't want to ride in one of the ugly things. Better yet haul my ashes in the Munster Coach.

  2. Craig:
    Now here is a something you DON'T come across every day...the history of hearses.
    I find this marvelous, and not in some macabre way.
    I think the engineering that went into such vehicles was good for the day, and evolved as times changed.
    Interesting that once we had scores of automakers producing them,, but have settled in for ONE (perhaps two) manufacturers these days.
    Then OLDER models had some style, from the 1930s.

    Granted, they're all not real "lookers", but considering the service they performed, it's wasn't about STYLE as much as functionality.

    Excellent post.

    Happy Motoring out there.