We’ve all seen funeral coaches (that’s industry-speak for ‘hearse’) navigate their way to the cemetery but what do we really know about these souped up station wagons? From their super simple roots to the latest in funeral livery, we cover the spectrum.
The earliest funeral coaches weren’t coaches at all. Rather, they were flat wooden platforms that were used to carry the deceased by hand. Nowadays, biers are made of lighter materials (typically aluminium), feature wheels, and are referred to as church trucks. They’re used to transport and/or support caskets to, during, and from a funeral service.
Just Add Wheels
Somewhere along the line, someone realised that biers would be best carried by horses. So they switched over to wagons, often featuring elaborate carvings, to carry the casket. It wasn’t until 1901 or so that these wagons were motorized, making things a lot easier for everyone involved. Funeral directors were a bit slow to make the switch since horses were significantly cheaper but as technology improved (and prices dropped), they changed their tune and the gasoline-powered coaches became de rigeur.
The Coach as We Know It
In the 1930s, the Sayers and Scovill Coach Company introduced the long, sleek vehicles that are best recognized as funeral coaches Nowadays, building a funeral coach is a rather complicated affair. Coach vehicles are most often built from Cadillacs and Lincolns but neither manufacturer (or any other car company, for that matter) has a designated funeral coach facility. Instead, a third-party company is hired to retrofit existing vehicles to accommodate caskets. The process is long and messy. The original car has to be sawed in half, stripped of its electrical and vital fluid lines, and then reassembled on a new, longer chassis. Next comes the extras like the bier pin plates (the latches that keep the casket from sliding around), curtains, doors, and so on. So what does a fully-loaded, totally retrofitted funeral coach cost? In or around $110k, making them a pretty significant investment.
WWEMD (What Would Elon Musk Do)?
While Lincoln and Cadillac still have the funeral coach market cornered, a few surprise contenders are making their way into the ring. In the last few years, car companies like Maserati, Tesla, Maybach, Rolls Royce, and Nissan have had their vehicles reconfigured into coaches. Given the rapidly changing funeral services industry, where does the future of funeral coaches lie? As cremation services become increasingly popular, fewer people find themselves requiring the use of a coach. That being said, traditional funeral services still have their place and families have become more and more focused on arranging a personalized funeral that reflects the life lived. So in the instance of a forward-thinking connoisseur of fine design, what better way to take one last ride than in a Tesla?