Cadillac Division General Motors Corporation 1926-1929 - Detroit, Michigan

    In 1926 Cadillac introduced their Imperial line of hearses and ambulances on their own purpose-built 150" wheelbase chassis. Using bodies supplied by Superior, the Cadillac coaches featured an 80hp V8 engine and disc wheels mounted on 33"x6.75" balloon tires. A standard wheelbase (138") leather-backed pallbearer's coach and livery sedan was sold alongside the larger professional car line. Cadillac marketed the coaches without any mention of Superior and claimed to have designed the interior fixtures, but photos show little change from standard Superior bodies.

Two styles of roofs were available, the standard interior height was 50" but a 53" high-headroom was avaialble at extra cost. 

WP McCall claims the bodies were built by Meteor, not Superior.


The Commercial Chassis was the complete chassis and engine, and the front body (fenders, hood, cowl, and items which fit onto same) but it gets sticky from there. Other items that were part of the package were a pair of coupe quarter panels which were cut down by the coachbuilders to fit their bodies, a special rear bumper assembly, and that was about it in terms of major exterior items, though the instrument panel and steering wheel was part of the chassis package too. Small items like the vent window assemblies door handles and window cranks were part of the package, as were tail lights, but doors themselves were NOT.

Even in the event of using vent window assemblies from Cadillac, there were discrepancies. 1959 thru 1964 Eurekas used a smaller passenger car vent window assembly, while the competition used the ones for the Fleetwood 75's, which shared the commercial windshield in those years. Pinner built some coaches on Cadillac commercial chassis between 1965 and 1970, but a photo of a 1968 model shows 1967 Chevy pickup truck vent windows, which were flat glass, along with all flat side glass, and the rear quarter windows were 1961 thru 1964 GM station wagon units.

Naturally, items such as side moldings may have been stock Cadillac items in some cases, but they were probably modified to fit in terms of length because the doors and quarter panels were different in length from any stock Cadillac models. Outside mirrors were usually Cadillac items, too.

Starting in 1977, with the downsizing of the commercial chassis, coachbuilders went to using stock Cadillac sedan front door shells in an effort to save tooling costs, but they seem to have used their own upper door frame assemblies and glass on those door shells. At the back of the Miller-Meteor plant in Piqua, would be the dies used to stamp the doors, along with dollies to roll the bodies around the plant. One of the dollies was actually a Cadillac hearse frame modified for that purpose, while the rest of them were made of boxed steel framework.

Once the downsized models arrived, S&S seems to have used stock Cadillac sheet metal and side doors, because the lengths of those components were the same as those of a Cadillac limousine of the era. This would explain why S&S, which was known for its large doors, would suddenly get away from such convenience and practicality for the users of its products.

Overall, coachbuilders seem to have had access to Cadillac's parts bins to some extent, using different stock Cadillac items at different times.


CADILLAC (US) 1904 to date

(1) Cadillac Automobile Co., Detroit, Mich.1904-1905 (2) Cadillac Motor Car Co., Detroit, Mich. 1905 to date

It has been all but forgotten that this prestigious marque once manufactured diminutive single-cylinder delivery vans. During the five model-years the single van offered each year was a closed affair except for the driver's compartment which was even without windscreen. These were mounted on passenger-car chassis; Model-B in 1904, Model-F in 1905, Model-M for 1906-1908. These were the same designations given the passenger car versions. They all had single-cylinder water-cooled engines, planetary transmissions and single chain drive to the rear axle. All had pneumatic tires and wheel steering. The usable space in the bodies was but 40 in. by 42 in. and the capacity was given between 600 and 900 lbs. From an initial figure of $900 in 1904, the price rose to $1000 in 1908. These prices were the same as the touring model.

Subsequent 4-and 8-cylinder Cadillacs have been widely used for ambulance and hearse bodywork, Cadillac themselves offering a range of such vehicles on lengthened V-8 chassis in 1926. They then reverted to the practice of cataloging a commercial chassis for the benefit of the specialist coachbuilders (Eureka, Superior), this being adopted also by firms such as Cunningham, A.J. Miller, and Sand S who had hither-to made complete vehicles. Though some 12- and 16-cylinder models served as professional cars (as did Cadillac's companion LaSalles up to their demise in 1940), the principal commercial model has always been the 75, top of the V-8 family. Since World War II, deliveries of this type have averaged over 2,000 a year, and in 1975 three major firms (Miller-Meteor, Sand S, and Superior) offered regular lines of Cadillac ambulances and hearses. The lengthened 75 chassis (6 inches longer than standard) was powered by an 8.2-litre ohv V-8 engine developing 190 hp, and automatic transmission, front disc brakes, and power steering were standard. 1978's specifications were basically the same, but engine capacity was down to 7-litres. GMN/MCS


    For more information please read:

The Professional Car (Quarterly Journal of the Professional car Society)

Gregg D. Merksamer - Professional Cars: Ambulances, Funeral Cars and Flower Cars

Thomas A. McPherson - American Funeral Cars & Ambulances Since 1900

Carriage Museum of America - Horse-Drawn Funeral Vehicles: 19th Century Funerals

Carriage Museum of America -  Horse Drawn - Military, Civilian, Veterinary - Ambulances

Gunter-Michael Koch - Bestattungswagen im Wandel der Zeit

Walt McCall & Tom McPherson - Classic American Ambulances 1900-1979: Photo Archive

Walt McCall & Tom McPherson - Classic American Funeral Vehicles 1900-1980 Photo Archive

Walter M. P. McCall - The American Ambulance 1900-2002

Walter M.P. McCall - American Funeral Vehicles 1883-2003

Michael L. Bromley & Tom Mazza - Stretching It: The Story of the Limousine

Richard J. Conjalka - Classic American Limousines: 1955 Through 2000 Photo Archive

Richard J. Conjalka - Stretch Limousines 1928-2001 Photo Archive

Thomas A. McPherson - Eureka: The Eureka Company : a complete history

Thomas A. McPherson - Superior: The complete history

Thomas A. McPherson - Flxible: The Complete History

Thomas A. McPherson - Miller-Meteor: The Complete History

Robert R. Ebert  - Flxible: A History of the Bus and the Company

Hearses - Automobile Quarterly Vol 36 No 3

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Automobile Manufacturers Worldwide Registry

G.N. Georgano & G. Marshall Naul - The Complete Encyclopedia of Commercial Vehicles

Albert Mroz - Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks & Commercial Vehicles

Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark Jr. - Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942

John Gunnell - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975

James M. Flammang & Ron Kowalke - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1976-1999


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