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Preserving the World's Professional Car History™ since 1989.


Visit the different galleries of this exhibit of Professional Cars Through The Years to see an overview of the changes that have occurred to these specialty coachbuilt vehicles from the earliest times to today.
~Click the pictures for the enlarged version~


Passenger-car based ambulances, like these pictured, played a vital role in medical and emergency care for most of the 20th Century, evolving from the days of the horse-drawn ambulances.  The last ambulance produced on a passenger car chassis was a 1979 Cadillac Ambulance from Superior Coach of Lima, Ohio, delivered to a private owner in 1980. It is pictured in this gallery.

The earliest ambulances were horse-drawn, like this re-production. The goal was not medical care, it was to get the sick and injured to the doctor or the hospital as fast as possible.  Although medical care evolved, this theory continued well into the 1970s.

This white Packard ambulance is representative of the ambulances used in the 1930s and 40s.  The white color was equated with crisp, clean and sterile.  The large, powerful cars allowed for the fastest transport to the nearest hospital.  Medical care on the scene was still a generation away.

Not every ambulance was a large Cadillac or Packard.  This 1954 Ford would have done the job at an economy price.

Ambulances were increasing in sophistication and height, as this 54" inside height red-and-white 1964 Eureka ambulance shows.

A low-top ambulance, typical of those used in many communities, in the 1960s and 1970s.  This was a Chicago Fire Dept. unit, in their traditional red-and-black color scheme.

The mid-1970s saw larger and more massive Cadillac ambulances like this last-generation 1976  Miller-Meteor Cadillac Criterion Ambulance.

In the late 1970s, ambulance regulations made a drastic change and spelled the demise of the professional car ambulances.  This 1979 Superior Cadillac ambulance is the very last Cadillac ambulance produced.  Northland Chapter member Dr. David Richards owns this car today.

This is an ambulance, just not a professional car ambulance!  Today's truck platform ambulances bear little resemblance, other than color, and the caring professionals who staff them, to the professional car based ambulances of the past.  (Courtesy, Huntington Beach FD)


The stately car at the head of the funeral procession is usually referred to as the "hearse," "funeral coach," "casket coach," or just "the coach."   Regardless of the name, the obvious function is the same. Master craftsmen and women have, for over 100 years, built special automobiles suited to just this purpose.   Here's a look at hearses through the years.

The era of horse-drawn hearses begins with the era of using horses to pull wagons, and ended with the use and acceptance of the automobile in the late teens and early 1920s.  This 1900 horse-drawn is typical of the solemnity of hearses of that era.

After automobiles were deemed "suitable" for funeral transportation, the manufacturers of horse-drawn hearses began building motorized hearses.

The 1930s and 40s saw changes in automobile design and the design of hearses changed, too.  This 1939 Packard hearse displays sides carved to look like elaborate draperies.

The 1950s brought unprecedented changes to the cars in our driveways, and the cars in the funeral director's driveway too.  This 1954 Eureka  Cadillac displays the landau bows that have come to symbolize hearses today.

1959 Cadillacs represented the height of excess, especially in the fin department.  This Superior hearse shows how creative coachbuilders had become with hearse styling.

After the era of the fin hearses returned to a somewhat subdued style. At the end of the 1960s, this 1969 S&S Cadillac in silver and and black shows a popular color choice as funeral directors moved away from all black cars.

1970s-1990s saw a further changes in automobiles as the cars we drove became smaller and were front wheel drive.  This 1988 Eureka Buick hearse is both, but still retains the room and identity need for a funeral coach.

Hearses today can be any color, and not necessarily traditional in design, as this new Eagle Eschelon shows with a painted top, stylized landau bows and uniquely curved windows.  Not visible is the sunroof in the casket compartment.  Price? Nearing $100,000.


The most versatile car in the fleet was usually the combination.  Part hearse : Part Ambulance : All useful!  A simple conversion of the inside of the hearse floor, an ambulance sign in the window, attach a rotating beacon ray to the roof and hit the switch for the hidden under-hood siren, and the funeral home's hearse became the community's ambulance.  The last combination coaches were built in the mid 1980s.  One is pictured at the end of this gallery.

This view of a late 1930s combination shows that washable floors and walls were not a concern.  Burgundy mohair upholstery and drapes lined the interior.

The interior of a 1958 Eureka Cadillac combination set up for ambulance duty, with a a cot and jump seats for the ambulance attendants.

Combination coaches resembled hearses more so than ambulances.  This 1959 Flxible Buick looks more like a funeral vehicle than speedy transport for the sick to the hospital.

This gold C/B combination was built on an 1964 Oldsmobile chassis and offered the same versatility as the more expensive combination coaches by Cadillac.

A combination car with without the landau panels resembles a limousine-style hearse, as this 1966 Superior Cadillac demonstrates.

This 1968 M-M Cadillac combination coach is shown in funeral coach attire, with the landau panels covering the windows and no beacon to top.

The 1970s brought new designs and colors to funeral coach manufactures and to the combination cars.  This 1973 Superior Cadillac is a pink champagne color.

The last combination cars built were a pair of very distinctive 1985 Bayliff Packards, custom built for the Long and Folk Funeral Homes in Wapakoneta, Ohio.


In years past, Limousines were for the wealthy or the mourning.  They were stately conveyances of a premium brand like Cadillac, Lincoln or Packard, and the most expensive cars available.  Limousine use has evolved over the years, and limousines in large cities seldom warrant a second look. Limousines take baseball fans to games, women to bachelorette parties, and kids to proms.  But, back in the day, they were THE car to be seen in.

This Packard limousine exudes the qualities expected:  luxury and privacy.

It wasn't easy to make the flamboyant 1959 Cadillac limousine look dignified, but Cadillac did their best.  Here's a 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Seventy-Five Limousine.

Here's a limousine that is neither a Cadillac nor a quiet, reserved color!  This 1966 Oldsmobile 98 limousine did the work of a Cadillac, but at a more "reasonable" price.

The most visible limousine in the United States is the Presidential Limousine.  This 1961 Lincoln Limousine was a silent witness to the events in Dallas in 1963.

For three generations, the Cadillac factory produced a 4-door limousine with jump seats.  These Cadillac limousines dominated the limousine market, with only a few challengers.  They were stately transportation without being over-done.

Beginning in the 1980s, the Lincoln chassis were welcomed by the limousine builders as an alternative to the Cadillac chassis.

Today's funeral limousines maintain what was started in the mid-1970s:  6 doors, three bench seats, seating for 8+driver.  This 2007 Cadillac in gold no doubt matches a funeral director's fleet colors.

Today's luxury/party limousines are more than just convenient transportation with a driver; they are huge rolling entertainment palaces with bars, mirrors, lights, stereos, TVs, DVD players and sunroofs.  They are still professional cars, though! (photo courtesy of LCW)


Flower cars are among the most rare of professional cars.  In any given year there were only a few produced, some years saw none produced.  Flower cars came into being as an answer to the problem of transporting the floral offerings from one place to another. Some are designed to carry a casket beneath the flower deck but others are strictly cars for flowers. 

Packard Flower Cars were the profession's first and set the standards by which all others were judged.  This 1938 flower car was a first-generation flower car.

The interior of a 1954 Eureka Cadillac flower car, showing the casket compartment.

Funeral Directors who buy floewr cars usually have them painted their fleet color, which is usually not black.  This 1959 Eureka Cadillac flower car is a paler shade of green.

A Superior Cadillac flower car in bronze from the early 1970s exhibits the same basic style as flower cars before and since.

Seven-Up Green is a color used by a Chicago area funeral home.  Their livery is very distinct and they usually have a flower car in their processions.

With the downsizing of the Cadillacs in the late 1980s, flower cars shrunk, too,as shown by this Eureka Cadillac Flower Car.

This 2007 Cadillac flower car is designed to carry flowers only, not a casket.  A Cadillac DTS sedan is modified to accommodate the deep flower well.

A new S&S Cadillac Victoria Florale Flower car in your choice of colors on a Cadillac chassis can be yours for just over $100,000.


Special purpose vehicles like service cars which were made to be used for removals, chair deliveries and other funeral home chores. Sedan ambulances converted from a sedan to a vehicle capable of holding a cot and used as an ambulance. In the last 25 years vans that are based on passenger car chassis, such as the Dodge, Chevrolet and Chrysler minivan hearses and removal vehicles have become more popular with funeral directors.  These vans have become the "service cars" of today.

A 1930s Ford service car looked nearly as dignified as a hearse, but was much more versatile.

This 1960 Chevrolet Service Car was ready for any chore that the funeral home's hearse was too good to do!

An Oakland sedan ambulance, capable of carrying a patient on a cot on the passenger side of the vehicle.

This Chrysler sedan-ambulance is stretched to allow room for the cot to be transported on the passenger side of the car.  It is very well marked with large light/siren pods mounted to the roof.

Some of the most interesting professional cars are the very limited production ones.  Very few of these stretched custom Mercury station wagons, disguised as a Lincoln, were built by Sharpe.

Even the Checker Aerobus is a professional car!  These were designed to take many passengers and their luggage to and from airports in an era before the shuttle buses of today.

One of the most interesting cars of the 1950s were the special Cadillac "Broadmoors;" used by the Broodmoor Hotel in Colorado to ferry their guests to and from the hotel in absolute style.

A new Eagle Chrysler Town & Country funeral van conversion does the duties of a Cadillac hearse, a removal vehicle, a flower car and a service car at a moderate price.


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