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Early Modern Age of Funeral Cars

May 06, 2008 | | Comments 0

1920s HearseThe funeral cars of today are quite striking and distinctive. Many car enthusiasts also consider them to be among the best made vehicles in the world. Yet the modern hearses and funeral limos are extremely different from their predecessors. Yesterday we discussed the earliest horse-drawn hearses and the early attempts at switching to the automobile chassis. Today we will explore the early modern age of funeral cars.

The 1920s
The earliest known example of the commercially available automobile hearse dates to June 1909. Over the next decade, as automobile technology continued to improve, this type of hearse became increasingly accepted by the general public.

By the 1920s, metal was beginning to replace wood as the preferred material for hearse construction. At this time, hearse designs generally changed completely in cycles that averaged 10-15 years. To curb costs, funeral cars that could be used for other purposes as well became increasingly popular.

During this period, combination coaches were popularized. These versatile vehicles could be used as both funeral car and ambulance. This was important, as it often fell to a town’s funeral director to make ambulance runs for the people of the town. Often the funeral car was the only car in town long enough to carry a person who was lying down.

Another major change that funeral cars underwent during this time was the addition of side doors that allowed curbside loading and unloading of caskets. The roads of the time were still largely unpaved, and curbside loading and unloading was preferable for reasons of both safety and cleanliness.

Although elaborately carved hearses never completely disappeared, they became much less common during the 1920s. In fact, by the end of the decade a major complaint was that it was difficult to distinguish the hearse from the limos and other funeral cars in a procession. This all changed in 1929, when coach manufacturers reintroduced the carved hearse to the mass market.

Tomorrow we will discuss the trends on the 1930s and beyond. In the meantime, why not take a look at the funeral cars for sale at our friendly dealership? We are glad to answer any questions you may have.

Filed Under: Funeral Cars

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