SO YOU WANT TO BUY A HEARSE... NOW WHAT WHY A HEARSE?
Before you buy a Hearse, you must understand why you want one.
1. Don't buy one just because you can or because it might be the latest fad.
2. Don't buy one if you're easily spooked
3. Don't buy one if you're into satanism or any other goofy cult, you're already wasting your life.
4. Do buy one if you're into Halloween and spooky fun.
5. Do buy one if you appreciate the quality and work put into a professional vehicle.
6. Do buy one if you love to attract attention to yourself.
7. Remember, anyone can fix up a Mustang, Camaro or any other common production vehicle. A Hearse is more rare than any of those. Also, even a beat up Hearse will get more looks than a fixed up or restored common production vehicle.
8. Remember, parts are hard to find for the most part.
There are several different styles of Hearses.
1. Traditional Landau - This is the most common today. It has the Landau bars on the sides near the rear, 2 doors on each side and 1 in the rear
2. Limousine style - This one looks the most open all the way around. It has windows on all panels. No landau bars on this style usually.
3. First Call Car - This usually starts as a station-wagon from the manufacturer. Then it is stretched somewhat. Sometimes the conversion company just extends the rear part from the wheel well to the taillights. Other times they just stretch the rear-side door leaving the curve in the door to clear the rear wheel well. We've even seen a few that are just mini-vans with side window landau bar inserts. They all have rollers and some have gurneys. The primary function of these cars is to remove the body from morgue or home to the funeral home. Some smaller funeral homes will use these as Funeral Hearses also to save money.
4. Combinations - This is the Hearse that can also be used as an ambulance. Smaller communities use these or used to anyway. They serve as both Hearse and ambulance. Some smaller towns and hospitals could only afford one vehicle, so this was a great idea. The inside has fold down seats that sit flush when not in use. They also have bier pins and rollers and gurney mounts. They sometimes were Limo style with Landau bar removeable panels, that were removed while being used as an ambulance.
1. Sayers & Scovill (S&S) - They are the oldest coach maker that still exists today. They started building horse-drawn Hearses in 1876.
2. Miller - Meteor (M&M) - Known for their more boxy style Hearses, still nice though. It was a merger between the AJ Miller company (started in 1917) and the Meteor Motor car company (started in 1915) in 1956 so they could stay in business. They went out of business in 1979. They started up again in 1984.
3. Henney - A very old Hearse builder that is no more.
4. Flxible - Started out building motorcycle side-cars then later buses. They entered coach building in 1925
5. Eureka - They started out in 1871 building furniture. The started Hearses in 1887. They stopped building Hearses in 1964. A Canadian company (AHA) bought them up and began building again in 1981. They moved back to America (Ohio) in 1989.
6. Superior - Started building buses in 1923 and added Hearses and Ambulances in 1925. A very fine Hearse maker that ended in 1980 due to poor business. They were started again in 1995.
7. Federal - A fairly new company that still builds today.
8. Krystal - Another newer company that still builds today.
9. Comet - The Comet Coach Company usually built Hearses from Oldsmobiles. They sold the name to Ford in 1959 and renamed it Cotner & Bevington. Miller-Meteor later acquired them.
10. Memphian - A very small Hearse maker
11. National - Another very small Hearse maker
12. McClain - A Hearse and Ambulance distributor that built and sold Flower-car convertions from standard passenger cars.
13. Eagle - They are a newer Hearse maker.
14. Siebert - Started in 1933 and ended in 1964. They built mainly economy Hearses.
15. Cunningham - Started building in 1838 and ended in 1936. Another victim of the depression.
16. Leo Gillig - They built the first automobile Hearse in 1909. They still build buses today.
COMMON THINGS TO EXPECT AS FAR AS COACHES GO
1. All coaches will rust. They don't get the same paint and metal protection that the automakers put on the production cars. Unless it's been restored recently, you will see some form of rust somewhere.
2. Most of the them have leaky windshields. Again, it's from the conversion of a coach maker, not on purpose of course. This can be fixed.
3. They don't get good gas mileage. They typically weigh 5,000 to 7,000 pounds. The later model (1980 and up) small V-8's (around 5.0 to 6.0 liters) are decent though.
4. Parts will be hard to find from the dash-board to the rear bumper. The dash to the front is usually easy considering you have a newer coach.
5. They are targets for vandals, thieves and Hearse haters.
6. Your neighbors will really show their true colors by either shunning you or trying to get the city involved with your business (they're not illegal** surprise). Or they will come forth and really like them.
COMMON REACTIONS TO EXPECT FROM OTHERS
The first thing you'll have to get used to is that you'll never please everyone.
People will have many different reactions to a coach. They will call you names such as "Sickos" Weirdos" What the hell is wrong with you". You will also get many compliments and good reactions. We've gotten "thumbs-up" and "flipped-off" in the same day.
Some folks are really funny. They pretend not to see you, yet you'll see them peeking anyway. Alot of folks jump and actually run.
At stop lights you'll attract alot of looks from all corners. Folks will drive by and keep staring instead of paying attention to the road (we've never caused an accident yet).
The police are funny on 2 fronts.
1. They really don't know what to make of it , so they will assume it's illegal in some way. We've had "Hearse Harassment" from several officers. The younger ones (you can tell them from the pimples they show) will play "Billy Bad Ass" and play on your being nervous and limited knowledge of all laws. Don't let them win if you are innocent, in the same turn, don't be an ass yourself. Let them play Texas Ranger and then call for a supervisor or take them to court. We've had several try to push us around. The lights we have on our coaches are not illegal to have on as long we are in a procession, parked or on private property. Some have even claimed that mine are "blue" and resemble a police car (come on and get a grip). They have said "blue or purple, what's the difference?" Duh!!!!! lets go back to kindergarten and answer that question.
Some of the older ones will try to intimidate us by asking "are you a funeral director?" it doesn't make a difference if we are or not, we have every right to have and drive these fine coaches. They usually back off , because they have enough experience to realize that it's not worth their time
NOW DON'T CONFUSE "HEARSE HARASSMENT WITH BEING CAUGHT DRIVING OR ACTING LIKE AN ITIOT.
2. They will treat you like a human being and give you a compliment. We've had them give us the "thumbs-up" and say "that's the coolest thing I've ever seen". We've gotten the good nod and sometimes a wave. I've even had an officer tell me "I saw this (the coach) the other day and I was gonna pull you over just to take a look" by a Grand Rapids female and male officer.
INSURANCE - WATCH OUT FOR THESE GUYS
With insurance, you're gonna need to be alert. We've had insurance companies really screw us on claims.
Always use commercial insurance for a Hearse. All other policies will treat the coach like a standard car.
I had a broken windshield and made a claim. They (Nationwide) had no idea it was a Hearse even though they had pictures. The windshield was $1,000 and $100 shipping and $100 install fee. They charged my insurance over $2,000. I found the windshield for them, they had no idea where to look, so I know the prices to begin with. The normal car windshield would've run $150 installed. Needless to say they canceled my policy.
Another insurance company (Farm Bureau) had me get an appraisal then still played dumb when I got robbed.
Commercial insurance will classify it as a HEARSE as it should be anyway. The claims process will be almost nil. We are not trying to sell you an insurance policy by any means, just letting you learn by our hardships and sucesses.
So far, Progressive insurance has treated us great. Their commercial policy requires a one year term instead of the usual 6 months. It's really reasonable and the claims we made are so simple and FAST. Also State farm is a good company.
PARTS - YOUR GONNA NEED THEM
Parts parts and more parts, remember that when you shop for Hearse stuff.
Some things to remember also are, alot of Hearses up to about 1964 do not use the same front clips as normal cars. They won't fit due to the commercial glass. Coaches up to 1976 were pure commercial chassis and require commercial parts (Super Heavy Duty). Coaches newer than that are usually easy to find suspension parts, as long as you choose limo items for the most part. The body panels from dashboard forward are usually the same as normal cars, but dashboard to the rear of the coach are from whatever conversion company that made it. Door locks and handles are usually the same as normal cars. If you need any parts and are at your wits end, then feel free to write us or Ronnie Grubbs at "Phantom Coaches Hearse Club" this guy has tons of stuff.
FIXING THEM UP OR CUSTOMIZING YOUR COACH
If you want to convert one to a limousine, remember to do a great job. Because a bad job wll only get laughs and snickers from on-lookers. Seat belts are required to make it legal for renting and leasing along with commercial insurance for the coach and the liability insurance for the passengers.
Cutting the floor up to put speakers in will only ruin the value it and look stupid later on. We have 12 inch and 15 inch sub-woofers in ours and you can't even see them. They are mounted behind the seat and we use the under-side of the casket area as the box. Some one way screws and razor blades keep the crooks away.
We have fixed them up in a spooky way and a clean normal way. Both ways look excellent. Take your time and do the job right the first time. A speedy job will only embarass you later on down the road. Whether you're stranded on the side the road or someone noticing the really crappy workmanship at a car show.
If your gonna go wild, then go wild, but keep it classy not ghetto trashy (like the plastic stick-on crap that you can buy at any store) Make sure it gets the looks you want by making sure it goes with the style of your coach.
Remember, no one has ever given nice compliments for a sticker or cheap plastic job.
1. End-loader - This type of Hearse has the casket loaded from the rear door only. Some of them have an extend table that slides out to meet the pall-bearers for ease of loading.
2. 3 way or side loader - This type of Hearse can take the casket from the rear and also either side. The doors on the side will open, the front one normally and the rear side one opposite (or suicide style). This was originally designed so the pall-bearers wouldn't have to stand in the road. The casket would come out to the curb. It has a table that the casket attaches to and slides out either manually or electricaly. As far as our records show, the last 3-way was produced in 1984.
3. Flower car - These have no roof over the casket area. Instead they have a lowered flower deck which holds flower arrangements. The deck can be raised flush or lowered to accept more flowers. The deck is usually stainless steel. These sort of resemble an El Camino