1 of 11 Built: 1962 Pontiac Bonneville Hearse

When you see a vehicle like this, you must ask yourself what you would do with it. A lot of old hearses turn up as Halloween decorations or haunted house attractions. But this one is too nice for that kind of duty and I’m not sure how much of a market there is for vintage hearses in today’s funeral home business. So, I guess you would buy it to take to Cars & Coffee and freak everyone out. This 1962 Pontiac Bonneville was one of a small number converted by the Superior Coach Company back in the early 1960s. It’s located in Novato, California and offered here on craigslist for $11,500. Any takers?

Our thanks to local_sheriff for bringing this 50-year-old oddity to our attention. Its roots go as far back as 1915 with the Garford Motor Truck Company which initially was in the truck production business. From that sprung out the Superior Motor Coach Body Company for building hearse and ambulance bodies. Studebakers and Pierce-Arrows were their original donors, and they expanded to using Cadillacs in 1938. With its name abbreviated to Superior Coach in 1940, LaSalle, Pontiac, Chrysler, DeSoto and Dodge would all get in on the act.

According to records provided by the seller from a Superior history book, this Bonneville hearse is one of fewer than a dozen built by them for 1962. It could be the only one to have survived nearly 50 years later. They were apparently roomy vehicles riding on a 123-inch wheelbase, with a rear compartment that measured 101 inches in length, 60 inches in width and had headroom of more than 38 inches. This black and white survivor appears to be quite solid and we’re assuming some or part of it has been restored at some point. But the seller says the vinyl top is original as is the Lucite steering wheel that the Bonneville’s used.

The seller says this vehicle has always been garaged, although we don’t know when it migrated from commercial use to personal service. As an original Black Plate California car, we’re told it’s never experienced any rust. The interior is in spectacular condition, almost nice enough to make you want to be riding in a hearse. This era of the big Pontiacs would have been powered by a 389 cubic inch V8 but – at a reported 100,000 miles or more on the hearse – we don’t know if its numbers-matching. This would be an interesting vehicle to own if you can identify just to right purpose for it.

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    Nice “Talking Heads” reference, Russ , “you may ask yourself”,,,while I have no interest in the car, an early 60’s Poncho hearse/ambulance, still creeps me out. It, a ’63, was President Kennedy’s last ride,,,

    Like 4
    • Bill McCoskey

      Technically, JFK’s last MOTORIZED ride was the 1963 Pontiac from the US Navy. His last ride was on a horse-drawn catafalque.

      Like 10
    • nlpnt

      You may ask yourself, who thought that McMansion’s a beautiful house? You may ask yourself, how did automobiles get so large again anyway…

      (not this one, this one is from before they got not-large in the first place)

      Like 1
  2. Jim

    Hard to imagine a nicer hearse as old as this one. I’m sure it would take a special person to want to maintain such a vehicle, but to the person with an interest in hearses, this is a real find. Seems the engine bay is the only thing that needs some work.

    Like 1
  3. TimS

    I think we’ve seen this one before. Still cool that it exists.

    Like 1
    • local_sheriff

      You have. It has been featured on BF not only once but twice.
      https://barnfinds.com/morbid-mopar-1962-pontiac-superior-hearse/
      Only then it carried a far higher tag and though it’s unique it’s also obvious this kind of vehicle has a very limited following. The current asking is way more realistic for such a limited audience car.
      I’ve long played with the business idea of selling transport services for diseased gearheads, offering a last ride in style with how those guys lived their lives. At least I foresee my last ride in such a classic hearse with rumbling exhausts, a flashing purple Beacon Ray on top with exhaust flamethrowers out back laying rubber outside the church 🤘

      Like 2
  4. Fred W

    Many communities have a well to do funeral director who would love to have this if he had the garage space. I know mine does, and I recently passed on a tip to him about a ’49 Packard Henny that he is very interested in. I wouldn’t mind one myself, as long as I’m behind the wheel. But due to the “creep out” factor for others, I would never buy one.

    • Miguel

      Fred, was the 1949 Packard black with purple mohair interior

    • Miguel

      Fred, was the Packard black with purple mohair interior?

  5. Mike1955

    When I was in high school,(many eons ago) the local small town funeral home had a 59 hearse.(if I remember correctly) After a few years it was used as an ambulance (back when funeral homes did that), then was converted into a flower truck. It blew the engine, so the owner gave it to some of us local boys. After wrenching on it for a summer, not getting it running, we finally scrapped it. It was a V8, but don’t remember the cubes.

    Like 1
    • Miguel

      It had a 390 V8.

  6. Larry

    Love the old hearses.

    Like 2
  7. Jcs

    Seems a Hearse would be equipped with A/C as a matter of course.

    Just sayin. Pew!

    Like 8
    • Bill McCoskey

      Jcs,

      Since the early part of the 20th century, your typical casket, especially one being transported in a motorized hearse, was well built and fully sealed with multiple rubber seals. I worked at a large funeral home in the 1960s, and drove both “first removal” vehicles and hearses. never even heard of a smell escaping from a closed casket, much less experienced a corpse smell.

      The worst smell I had to deal with while riding/driving in a funeral home vehicle, was from a co-worker’s cigarette smoke.

      Like 10
    • Miguel

      LCS, hearses were commercial vehicles. They had the fewest options because the funeral director did not want thinks that would break. Most did not have power windows or any of that either.

    • Miguel

      JCS, most funeral directors did not want anything on the car that could break. That is why the cars rarely had options like power windows.

      Like 1
  8. David

    True story; years ago I was in mortuary school with a fellow from Arkansas. He told us where he had worked they had a Pontiac hearse and one day the owner was standing around with some men who were giving him some good natured kidding about having a Pontiac hearse. He told them, ‘see that,’ pointing to the nameplate. That stands for ‘Poor Old Neal, Thinks It’s A Cadillac.’

    This one will be proudly owned by whoever buys it.

    Like 7
  9. Tort Member

    Always have liked the early to mid sixties Pontiac’s but not this one. You would have to kill me to have me ride in it.

    Like 3
  10. Mike

    Might be a trick of light, but I think I see a face in image 4 of 11, right between the rear view mirror and steering wheel. Boo!!

    Like 3
    • Steve Clinton

      That’s SCARY!

    • Jcs

      That’s that smell I was referring to!!

      Like 5
  11. Sam Shive

    Spent the HIGH School years running around in a Old Caddy Hearse. We even made a casket for it in wood shop. Had a blast. Use to go parking in the cemetery and never got bothered. Would Love To Have This.

    Like 3
  12. Steve Clinton

    I want the ghostly Javelin.

    Like 4
  13. Sam Shive

    Spent the HIGH School years cruising around in a Old Caddy Hearse. We made a Casket for it in wood shop. The girls finished in off inside in HOME EC Class. Middle of the day you could go parking in the Cemetery and no one would bother ya. Would love to have this.

    Like 2
  14. AMCFAN

    For the Pontiac enthusiast that wanted to go out in style this is it. Uses for it prior to the last ride. Trips to the swap meet with your car related items the family cares nothing about. These will haul a great deal and will attract attention. You would be the hit!

    The reason for a hearse is to add dignity to the deceased as most know. In this manor it doesn’t matter how rich or poor (in theory) everyone gets the same send off.

    A good reason Pontiacs did not sell well as a professional chassis is that the standard was a Cadillac. Buicks,Olds and everything else were for very small funeral homes used as a combination ambulance or ordered by Uncle Sam.

    Most were creeped out as few survive when service life was over. The miles on the Pontiac are scary when you think of all the idling and short trips.

    I had a 54 Henny that was on the job and replaced in 1978. It had 36,000 miles and included a log book (that was interesting) In 2003 I bought an 84 Eurika that had 54,000 miles. Very clean but the car was done.

    There was a resurgence in clean vintage 1940’s – 50’s hearses for the larger funeral operations adding to current fleets about 15 years ago.

    Sadly today there are more clean surviving examples then successful funeral homes. Once a thriving industry is no more. People don’t have to work to get money. Don’t have to pay rent and can certainly die without any funeral arrangements.

    America. There is only one.

    Like 7
    • Miguel

      AMCFAN, not to be picky but it is Eureka.

      Eurekas have a soft spot in my heart as my first hearse was one.

      By the way did your Eureka have a removable roof over the driver

      • AMCFAN

        Miguel sorry I fat fingered the keyboard and didn’t check but yes in fact it did have the removable roof. They called them a Town Car. The door frames could be removed as well.

        My car was the first one built and was on a turnstile displayed at a funeral industry convention. I believe (can’t remember correctly) there were only three built total. Had wires just a beautiful car.

        The then owner of the company stated the reason behind it the industry was going FWD. They were not ready and had nothing new to offer. Should have kept it. Last I heard it was in Texas. At the time I sold it the guy tried to buy it at the convention but was already sold.

        A funeral home was doing a pickup and their car burned up. The only white hearse available was the show car. True story

      • Miguel - Mexican Spec

        AMC FAN, I saw that car in a publication back when it was just coming out.

        I had never seen one and wanted it so bad.

        I hope the car is still around.

    • Miguel

      AMCFAN, not to be picky, but it is Eureka.

      I have a soft spot in my heart for the Eurekas, as my first coach was a 1963 model.

      By the way did your 1984 have a removable roof over the driver?

  15. Mutt

    Sure looks nice, if this is your thing.
    I have heard that you must watch out for leaking head caskets…

    Yikes

    Like 15
  16. Michael Hanlon Member

    I would say that it is 59 years old.

    Like 2
  17. Jonathan Green

    I had a 1972 Caddy hearse back in 1990. 472, got 12 MPG idling going downhill with a tailwind or uphill, fully loaded, gas pedal floored. Had a lot of fun with it. Called it “The Doom Buggy”. When I went to law school, I called it “The ambulance chaser”. Too big to fit into the school’s parking structure. Even took my grandmother to the doctor in it. She made me park it in the back, saying “it’s not good for his business to have a hearse up front”. I ended up selling it to a guy who did drywall. Fully enclosed, suicide doors, rollers, and an air suspension? Perfect for him…

    Like 4
    • Miguel

      Jonathan, I have a similar story.

      Quite a while back I had an old fully decked out Pontiac high top ambulance.

      I went to visit my grandmother and I parked it in front of the house.

      She started getting calls from all the neighbors to see if she was alright.

      She asked me to park it around the corner.

      Like 1
    • Miguel

      Jonathan, I have a similar story.

      Quite a while back I had an old fully decked out Pontiac high top ambulance.

      I went to visit my grandmother and I parked it in front of the house.

      She started getting calls from all the neighbors to see if she was alright.

      She asked me to park it around the corner.

      Like 2
  18. Miguel

    This is a beautiful car.

    I am shocked about two things.

    One is they are still running the commercial plates. For the past 59 years, well since the tag is from 2018, it is only 56 years, they have been paying not only the registration fee but the extra weight fee for the commercial plate.

    The second is the milage. Most cars like this have very low mileage. I know nobody used it for their daily driver so where did the miles come from

  19. Miguel

    This is a beautiful coach.

    I am shocked about two things on this car.

    One is that it is still wearing the original commercial plates. That was the first thing I did was ditch those. For the past 56 years, the owner has not only been paying the registration fee, but also the extra weight fee.

    Second, the miles. How did it get to over 100,000. Most of these cars are very low mile units. I am sure nobody used this as their daily driver, so where did the miles come from?

    Like 1
    • Dan Baker

      Surprised that no one mentioned the story of a British rocker in the ’60’s who drove a hearse. Story goes that he parked it close to Buckingham Palace and the Queen was not happy. She had it towed. Can’t recall who the performer was.

  20. Rex Grizzle

    Had one in OD Green at the mortuary at Oakland Army base in the early 70’s. I was assigned to the mortuary there.

  21. Steve Clinton

    I’m not sure why, but this reminds me of the movie “Harold and Maude” with the Jaguar X-KE hearse.

    • Bill McCoskey

      Steve, This is my second favorite movie of all time, second only to It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

      True story about Harold & Maude:
      I was in basic training at Ft. Knox. Due to contracting double pneumonia, I was in a hospital ward in Ft. Knox’s Ireland Army Hospital. I had passed out on a forced march with full pack, even tho I had a high fever. [Drill Sargent said “No one’s getting out of the march today by claiming they are sick”].

      I passed out and was picked out of a field by helicopter [my only ride in a helicopter, and I was not awake to enjoy it!], I woke up in an Oxygen tent, one of those old types made of clear flexible vinyl sheeting that covered the entire head area like a clear box. Problem with those tents was the vinyl was really flexible, and distorted the patient’s view everywhere. Everything was really wavy.

      Well they were showing Harold & Maude in the ward when I began to come back to some semblance of a conscience state. Now I’ve always been a Hearse and Ambulance nut, and for at least a decade I thought I had imagined the whole thing about Harold building the E-type hearse! It wasn’t until years later when I saw a movie poster showing the E-type hearse. Of course now I have Harold & Maude on the original VHS tape & DVD.

      Like 4
      • Steve Clinton

        Bill, I swear we must have been separated at birth! ‘It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World’ is my favorite, followed by ‘Harold & Maude’. Number 3 for me is a tie, ‘Airplane’ and ‘Blazing Saddles’.

        Like 1
      • Miguel - Mexican Spec

        Bill, a friend and I went to a video store because he was called that his copy of Harold and Maude came in.

        We drove his 1958 Eureka, which had only 28,000 miles on it and was rumored to be the coach that took Buddy Holly away.

        We parked the car outside the video store and the employees were discussing the car as we were waiting for the video.

        We did have a casket in the back, and Oh Yeah, it was the day Ruth Gordon died.

        Everything came together that day.

        Like 1
      • Bill McCoskey

        Miguel – Mexican Spec,

        And from what I’ve heard about Ruth Gordon, she would have loved to hear that story. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Bill McCoskey

    Steve, #3 and 4 are also my favorites too [in that order], but stop calling me Shirley, because “food makes me sick”!

    • Steve Clinton

      ‘The sheriff is near!’
      “No consarn it, the sheriff’s a…”

      And my favorite scene (aside from the campfire) is ‘Candygram for Mongo, candygram for Mongo.’ ‘Mongo like candy!’

    • Steve Clinton

      And from Airplane ‘Joey, have you ever seen a grown man naked?’ and ‘I picked a fine time to give up smoking…’

      Like 1
  23. Steve Clinton

    We sure got off topic!

  24. Steve Clinton

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m getting tired of the double comments.

    Like 2
    • Miguel - Mexican Spec

      Again,

      I am sorry. I was posting not logged in on a new lap top.

      When I posted the message, it disappeared if I posted another one so I posted it again.

      I then remembered my login, so I was able to then get into my account. I didn’t know both messages would show up, as I couldn’t see any of them.

      Like 2
      • Steve Clinton

        No problem, Miguel, I was just being cranky. ;-)

    • AMCFAN

      Something has changed in the Matrix.

      Like 1
  25. Steve Clinton

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m getting very tired of the double comments.

    Like 1

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