Finding a truly unusual and unique vehicle can be a challenge, but thankfully human ingenuity and creativity is limitless. If you think a hearse wagon just isn’t unusual enough for your tastes, but is headed in the right direction, may we suggest taking a look at a Carved-Panel hearse? Until today, we had never even heard of such a thing and there is almost no information about these fascinating vehicles out there. We had to do some serious digging to learn much about what a Carved-Panel hearse even was. Our interest in this unique type of hearse came about after stumbling upon this 1935 Cadillac Fleetwood V12 here on eBay out of Show Low, Arizona.
So what made a Carved-Panel hearse different from a regular hearse? Well the difference was in the Carved-Panel inserted into the side of the body work. This style was also called the Damascus Hearse and featured panels that were carved to resemble curtains or drapes, that were inserted into the exterior of the car. The goal was to give the hearse a more gothic look and to regain some of the appearance of the old horse drawn hearses. Sadly, this Cadillac’s carved panels are no longer with it, but more on that later on.
This hearse was powered by Cadillac’s 368 cui V12, which produced around 150 ponies. In its day, this was not just a master piece of technology, but was also a statement of cosmetic style. When one opened this engine bay up, they would find a beautiful glossy piece of machinery that had all its wiring and hoses concealed. While it looked great, it added to the challenge of diagnosing and fixing problems. The seller claims the engine and drive train are intact, but as you can see the engine has been partially dissembled. Finding parts for this motor could be a challenge, so let’s hope everything is still there.
Now for the bad news, this car is missing just about everything that makes it such a rare hearse. The seller claims it set in a walnut grove in Northern California before they discovered it and as a result of the years outside, much of the wood is gone. This meant the rear section of the metal body was not being supported and in an attempt to keep it from being damaged, was cut off. This section of the body is still with it and is included, but it will be a massive project to build a new wooden structure and weld the body back together. They are also missing the carved panels that give this hearse its status as ultra-rare. We are sure new ones can be made, but are going to be expensive to recreate.
We haven’t been able to find any information about any Damascus style V12 hearses being built in ’35, but the Cadillac registry shows that there were two commercial chassis V12s built that year. The commercial chassis were the most popular for hearse coachbuilders to start with, so it is possible that it is the real deal. Restoring a regular ’35 Cadillac V12 would be tough, so we would imagine that restoring this would be a massive and costly headache. Given the lack of information out there, it would be hard to even know what it once looked like. This S&S built 1938 Cadillac is likely to be the closest reference for what it should look like.
It would be sad to see such a rare vehicle turned into a roadster or some other type of custom hot rod, but it might be the only way to get this back on the road. What do you think? Should it be restored or modified? Let us know what you think below!