Whaddya Think, Buy An Old Hearse? (And Talk About Odd Vehicles)


#1

I’ve always been fascinated with odd vehicles. TWICE over the years I have owned right-hand drive postal Jeeps (DJ5D) circa 1970’s. Cars on my “fantasy list” if such a thing exists would include the Checker Marathon, Pacer, Gremlin, Matador, VW Bus, maybe even a DeLorean. When I was young, I couldn’t afford to buy these kinds of money pits, and as I have aged, my common sense outweighs my fascination. (Far and away my favorite was the old boxy right hand drive postal jeeps, who knows, I may even be stupid enough to buy another one someday) But I digress.

When I was a kid, I knew a guy who owned a local convenience store who had an old hearse he used to haul supplies for his store, like a big station wagon; I always kind of thought it would be neat to own one. So now there’s one for sale near me. The sign on it says 1987 Cadillac hearse, 94500 miles, runs good, $3,500 obo. I walked up and took a look at it today. $3,500 seems like an awful lot of money for a car that’s almost 30 years old, with limited appeal. I mean, yeah, its a CADILLAC, but its also a HEARSE for crying out loud. And if I recall correctly, those mid-80’s Cadillacs weren’t the best built motors in the world to begin with, were they? ALSO, the car has one of those “body wraps” with the name of the guy’s business and graphics all over it that I would have to paint over. Up close, the car looks like its spent years and years sitting in the sun, the wrap and the hearse top is dried out / cracked.

I haven’t actually talked to the guy, usually someone selling a car that old, the first thing they say is, “Well, you don’t have to have the state safety inspection because its old enough to put historic tags on it.” Me, I would insist on having my mechanic check out the car. . . So what say ye, what do you think something like that would be worth, I’m thinking $1,000 to $1,500 --IF-- it doesn’t have any serious mechanical problems. I’m not thinking about a restoration, I’m thinking more like, paint it over with a few cans of black krylon and have a nice old beater / hauler / conversation piece for a few years. As long as it doesn’t cost too much money, why not? Insurance and registration with historic tags would be next to nothing. If something expensive breaks, just sell it for scrap.

Years ago, I missed out on a Ford Ranchero I drove past every day on the way to work. It was for sale for $1,700 obo. Over the course of about 6 months, it dropped to $1,400, $1,200, $1,000, $700, I finally called the guy at $500 and was going to test drive it, but he sold it that day. I think I may be looking at the first stage of a similar situation, or is there a big demand for old hearses?

Also, I wouldn’t mind hearing stories about odd type vehicles some of you have owned or wanted to own. Didn’t one of the regulars here say he used to own a Citicar? When I was a kid there was a nearby dealer who had one of those for sale (although I didn’t know what it was at the time). I remember it was on his lot for months and months and months before it was finally gone.


#2

There are hearse owners clubs out there. It’s actually a fairly popular cult car. Years ago I read an article about a neat teenager who’d been obsessed with the funeral industry since he was a toddler. When he got old enough to get his license, he bought himself a hearse as his first car. He’d dress up like a funeral director, too. Wish I remembered where I read it.

http://www.hearseclub.com/resources/hearse_buying/buyingahearse.htm

There’s a buyer’s guide for hearses you might want to glance over before getting serious about buying.


#3

Those things are loooooonnnngggg. Do you have LOTS of parking space, outdoors? Probably won’t fit in a garage.


#4

Don’t worry about the engine, it isn’t a Cadillac, its a Chevy 350 or 305. It’ll run forever and its easy to fix.

Don’t worry about the vinyl wrap, you can peel it off with the aid of a hair dryer, the sun and maybe an eraser-wheel on a drill for the stubborn parts. A little goof-off or mineral spirits and the paint may be good and shiny.

Buy it, it should be a blast. $3500 seems like a bit much, though. At least the miles were sloooow!


#5

The old late fifties Caddy hearses were the cats meow,a early fifties Chevy panel wagon makes a neat ride(so does a Divco for that matter.)


#6

@shadowfax “It’s actually a fairly popular cult car.” You know, I probably should’ve figured as much, what with the popularity of goth / steampunk subculture, zombies are very popular these days with shows like The Walking Dead. (Heck, even the Ford Festiva has a cult following, there’s something for everybody these days :smile: ). Thanks for the link, I bookmarked it, there’s a lot of interesting reading / pictures there.

I think the ones from the 60’s / early 70’s with the round headlights and just a touch of tailfin look a lot cooler than, say 1980’s, but hey whattya gonna do? A retired hearse is something I thought would be cool to have when I was a kid, then I grew up and forgot about it mostly, times like this when I’m almost in the market for a vehicle and I see something like this for sale, I tend to get revved up.

(I used to watch stuff like “Taxi” and that movie “D.C. Cab” and I really wanted one of those Checker Cabs. I’ve only ever personally seen ONE of those for sale in my life. It was fully restored, baby blue, “never used as a cab”, and priced WAY out of my range. Then I realized, why would I want a used up taxicab? By definition its going to be extremely worn out, and since production stopped a long time ago, parts would be darned near impossible to find, especially before the internet came along.)

@texases : Yeah, I have a long single lane off street driveway. One thing I wish I had is a garage. Of course, if I did I’d probably already have an old Postal Jeep or some other project car (i.e.- rusted out pile of junk) occupying that space. No homeowners association to harass me about what I put on my own property either.

Hearses used to be almost exclusively Cadillacs, or so it seemed to me. Nowadays it seems like they’re using Chevy Suburbans. Geez, you don’t even get to ride to your eternal rest in a Caddy anymore. Might as well put little wheels on the coffin and tow it behind a Prius, whew!

Anyway, I LIKE it I don’t LOVE it. Think I’ll just keep an eye on it and see if the price comes down. (Heck, if the Check Engine light isn’t on and water doesn’t get inside every time it rains, I’d probably offer to exchange, even-steven, with my Jeep Grand Cherokee, its a PITA vehicle too!)


#7

I guess if I wanted to spend thou$and$, I’d try to get one direct from a funeral home, as suggested in the link. I was thinking in terms of maybe there’s a bargain to be had. Seems to me a hearse would be well maintained (and of course gently driven). The LAST thing a funeral home would want is for the hearse to break down during a funeral procession. That would go way past embarrassing.

The one I’ve found seems to have been used as a rolling billboard for a local business. That seems to be a “thing” too. A local steakhouse has an old firetruck painted hot purple usually parked at the end of their parking lot. A BBQ joint has old military trucks they use for catering and such all painted up with their logo. I saw a hot dog joint with an old VW beetle modified, with a giant plastic or fiberglass hot dog bolted onto the roof.

To me, the logo / wrap reduces the value. I have no connection to the business, so why would I want to leave it on there (unless offered a discount to do so? :wink: ) That’s extra labor for me to scrape off and / or paint over all of that. :neutral:


#8

They aren’t just used for funerals though. Many times they need to go out of town to pick up bodies. Personally, I wouldn’t particularly care to have one parked next door. For me it would just be a constant reminder of folks who have gone before us. Must be that age but I’ve had three funerals in the last couple weeks.


#9

I liked the converted Hearse or ambulance "Ghostbusters"used,seen it go by on interstate one day on the back of a car carrier(or a reproduction)


#10
Don't worry about the engine, it isn't a Cadillac, its a Chevy 350 or 305. It'll run forever and its easy to fix.
Gee, don't take this the wrong way (I actually like the SBC) but I'd be hoping it had a 425/472/500 series Cadillac motor, just for the novelty of it!

#11

@meanjoe75fan no offense at all… I completely agree with you, a big Caddy engine would be my preference, too! Torque! Bucketfuls of Torque! Be fun to run at Tune and Test night at your local dragstrip.


#12

Hearses used to be very popular with college students. More mature people tend to shy away from them.

In the late sixties there was a hilarious movie starring Jane Fonda nd Tony Francioso, called Period of Adjustment, about a newly a married couple.

One of the actors has a black hearse as his wheels and keeps claiming it is a limousine. Jane Fonda disagrees.


#13

Watch the movie “Harold and Maude”…then decide.


#14

The price seems about right for one in clean condition. If you are serious, get the prepurchase inspection. Anything it needs, including refreshing the exterior, should be deducted from the asking price. If the owner says no, leave your name and number and tell him to call if it hasn’t sold.


#15

I can’t believe anyone would ever buy another right side drive postal jeep. I owned one for a while and it was a terrible piece of junk. Primitive design, mechanical components that were not up to the job, not a stitch of safety considered in its design. Noisy, drafty, and it jumped all over the road if the pavement was not perfectly smooth.

About the hearse - I am a person who is inclined to buy odd things, and I learned long ago that the best way to deal with sellers is to be straight with them. I just tell them straight out that I like odd things and I’m a cheapskate about it, and to me it’s worth $???. What number I’m willing to pay. If they tell me that the book says it’s worth more, or they saw one sell for more at an auction, or whatever, I just shrug and say “Good luck. I’ll pay you X”.

Sometimes I end up bringing something home, sometimes not.


#16

Do you have to ask if it has a “good body”?

My wife dated the son of an undertaker before she met me. They went out on a date with the hearse. He reportedly told her “If you want a flower, just reach back”.


#17

A florist here used to have one as a delivery vehicle. That seemed a bit premature, though I guess carrying flowers is something they’re designed for. Better than those dorky bud vases in the New Beetles.


#18

@wentwest - I agree completely. Those Postal Jeeps were awful awful vehicles. Like an oven in the summer, an icebox in the winter, the so-called heater did little more than make a lot of noise. Handled like a Conestoga Wagon. Wheels would lock up with the slightest touch of the brakes. Got 11 m.p.g. on its best day, and with a 10 gallon gas tank meant you could only go about 80 miles between fill ups. Short wheelbase made it incredibly tipsy. I don’t know how the postal service ever used them to reliably deliver the mail. . . . but. . . .

As a little kid I became so - fascinated - with those odd looking vehicles; the flat roof with the wraparound rain gutter and top vent; all the oddly placed mirrors bolted on at odd angles; the sliding doors; and, especially, the right-hand drive. When I was a kid they used to advertise in the newspapers how you could go to the surplus vehicle auction and buy them for as low as $43.

By the time I came of age, the postal service had largely disposed of all these Jeeps in my area. I did attend one of the last public auctions in my area. They had about 15 of them in extremely rough shape, they opened the bidding at $300 and one guy bought all of them. I was told he was part of a business that re-furbishes them and sells them to rural carriers.

My first one was a rusty old hulk I paid $800 for. To make a very long story short, it had a problem where it would stall out totally at random. I had 4 different mechanics work on it, had the carburetor rebuilt twice, couldn’t get to the bottom of it, eventually gave up and sold it as a parts vehicle to a rural carrier.

My second one was fixed up NICE. Got it off ebay for $3,000. It had a seat mounted where the letter tray would be so you could have a passenger. Trying to keep a long story short, I really enjoyed it but it wasn’t a useful vehicle, for the reasons above. Had a couple of close calls in traffic where I got cut off and had to slam on the brakes and almost rolled the thing. And it began to deteriorate quickly too. Water would pool in all the nooks and crannies every time it rained, and it began to rust again. Wasps kept trying to build nests where the doors closed against the body. So I sold it, BUT, I think if I had a garage or an indoor place to keep it nice, I would have mothballed it instead. (I actually did look into having a little garage built for it, but when I started adding up the costs, my fiscal prudence overruled my emotions).


#19

I have a story about a postal truck but I’ll refrain. Suffice to say that our affirmative action officer was scared to death of a guy because he drove a postal truck. She thought he would be violent and go “postal”. Sheesh. She finally left for Georgia.


#20

I actually had a personalized tag, “GO PSTL” on my second one. “Historic” tag. It was actually painted white with the postal stripes on it. People always asked me if it was legal for me to have those stripes on it since I don’t work for the post office and wasn’t using it as a postal vehicle. I said, well, its a historic vehicle fixed up to its historic appearance, except for having a seat where the letter tray would be. At any rate, I never got stopped by the police, and the real mailman saw it every day sitting on my driveway for almost 5 years and nobody from the post office ever contacted me about it.

The GO PSTL tag created a lot of buzz amongst my co-workers. I’ve never quite fit in with my peer group. . . again, long story short. . . sometimes its better if the people around you think there’s just a shadow of a chance you may just “go postal” someday. Makes 'em less inclined to harass you. . . . but I just loved the irony / double entendre of it, being on a (retired) postal vehicle, me being considered to be a little “off” by my co-workers. :smiley: My second choice was “NO MAIL”

What would be good for a hearse? “NO BODY” “HOPNBAK” “TIMESUP” (I think you only get 7 characters) Come to think of it, it would really re-enforce my “reputation” if I started driving an old hearse to work, but it would have to be a bargain. I could play the morbidity of it against the cheapskate angle. Heh heh heh!