1-of-12: 1934 Sayers & Scovill Hearse

It isn’t often that you get the opportunity to describe a hearse as being flamboyant, but that is definitely the case with this 1934 Sayers & Scovill “Olympian” Hearse. After its active duty in the funeral industry had ended, it found a second life (for want of a better term) as a parade vehicle. It then sat idle for several decades before the current owner returned it to a roadworthy state. After countless hours of hard work, he has now decided to part with the unique classic. It is located in Eastlake, Ohio, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $16,400, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

Sayer & Scovill was a company that was formed in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1876. The company specialized in the production of funeral vehicles, although they also produced ambulances as part of their range. Their offerings generally featured ornate decoration, including Corinthian columns, scrolling, and carved drapes. This particular vehicle is a Sayer & Scovill “Olympian,” which was one of the automobiles in the upper end of the company’s range. It still wears many of the design features that I have mentioned, although they now lay hidden below the bright and colorful paintwork. The hearse was retired from active duty in the 1940s. It was at this point that it was converted to a parade vehicle by the KAABA Shriners. Part of this process included removing the rear roof, so that section of the vehicle is no longer weatherproof. The seller located the Olympian in around 2011 and undertook the work required to return it to a roadworthy state. He has not attempted to perform any form of cosmetic restoration, and its appearance is exactly as he found it. The hearse is rust-free, and while the panels are straight, the paint is showing the wear-and-tear of age. I suspect that it would have been tempting to restore it to its former glory, but the owner has chosen to retain the vehicle’s character.

Finding photos of the Olympian during its life as a parade vehicle was not easy, but the seller did provide this single shot. This was taken during a parade in Chicago in 1963, and you can get a real sense of the numbers of people that these parades can attract. It isn’t clear whether the owner has any other photos of the vehicle in action. However, he says that he does hold some interesting documentation, so there is the possibility that more photos do exist.

Below the surface, the Olympian is an interesting vehicle. It is also a very rare one. This hearse is one of only twelve Olympians built during 1934. It sits on a bespoke chassis that was designed and constructed by Sayer & Scovill. Power is provided by a Buick straight-eight engine, which produces 118hp. The hearse’s horses then find their way to a truck rear end via a manual transmission. Sayer & Scovill were very canny when it came to vehicle construction, and did their utmost to disguise the lineage of their mechanical components. By doing this, they were able to offer a vehicle as a current model-year example, when it could potentially have been more than a year old. When the owner purchased this Olympian, it had been sitting idle since the 1980s. He claims to have invested hundreds of hours in the quest to return it to a roadworthy state. He has been sympathetic with his work, and it remains in the same mechanical configuration as when he found it. It now runs and drives as it should, although I would sound a note of caution about the tires. He has reason to believe that these might be original, which could mean that they are also now potentially quite fragile. This is something that I would be inclined to check before I hit the open road.

I believe that the Olympian’s interior is original, and has remained untouched since it served as a hearse. The painted surface on the dash is showing some wear-and-tear, but the rest of the interior presents well. If the buyer is seeking perfection, then repainting the dash would be a straightforward proposition. The sunvisors are also showing some edge wear, and these would need to be restored, as they are unique to the vehicle. Otherwise, it seems to be a case of sliding behind the wheel and having some fun.

You can’t say that we don’t see some eccentric vehicles here at Barn Finds, and this 1934 Sayers & Scovill Olympian Hearse fits that description perfectly. A hearse usually represents a dark time in people’s lives, so to see one undergo a transformation like this feels extremely good. My problem here is that I’m not sure what you would do with this vehicle now. It is complete enough to make a full restoration a possibility, and its rarity could seem to justify it. However, the world can be a pretty serious place, so I’d be inclined to leave it as it is and let it bring a smile to people’s faces. After all, the Shriners do say that they are dedicated to fun, and this vehicle perfectly encapsulates that philosophy.

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    I think it’s a really neat truck,,,if you’d lose all the circus junk. I read, they used a Buick chassis, and made their own bodies. They tried hard to disguise it from brand makes. The insides of these were incredibly ornate inside. Kind of foolish for who’s inside, but they were elegant vehicles, not some clown wagon, as what it turned into.. If hearses creep you out, and they do me, I’d make a period correct tow truck out of it. That clown on the side, I’m gives kids nightmares,,,

    11
    • don

      Yep, hearses creep me out, and clowns ? , well they creep me out even more !

      8
      • Ken Jennings

        Worse yet, it shows great disrespect. Some things should be sacred.

        3
  2. David M. Sawdey

    Now it’s used at clown funeral’s

    7
  3. Spud

    I think a clown hearse is a neat idea. When it pulls up to the cemetery, dozens of tiny coffins are wheeled out?

    16
    • Andy

      And an unending connected string of colored crying tissues.

      3
      • Mike

        They lower the coffin into the ground on top of a whoopie cushion

        5
  4. Geoff

    I wonder what “KAABA” stood for?

    • Ed P

      It is the name of the Shriners lodge.

      2
  5. Kenneth Carney

    What a car to cruise at Old Town! The
    crowd there would love it. Since the kids
    started taking me there in 2017, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Reminds me of the ’59 Caddy hearse the
    local Shriner’s used as a PA system and
    calliope. That thing saw service in every
    parade they had. Dunno whatever became of it, but I still recall it 50 years
    later.

    3
  6. E

    Next Stephen King film: painted (flat) black and driven slowly through neighborhoods.

    3
  7. Sam

    Next Stephen King film: painted (flat) black and driven slowly through neighborhoods.

    2
  8. Jcs

    Outstandingly well researched and well written write up on this one Adam. Kudos.

    I have heard the term “clown car” in the past but realize that I didn’t really know exactly what it meant. Now I know. Personally, I think that it is pretty cool.

    4
  9. jbbush

    It’s cool, but it’s also nightmare fuel.

    2
  10. Lance Nord

    I think I would restore it back to original and rent it out for funerals. In SoCal, there are plenty of people who would be interested in being buried in style.

    4
  11. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    I know a lot of people were traumatized by clowns as children, but to me I loved them, they represent humor and having fun. I really don’t see this hearse as a clown car, those were tiny little cars being driven by oversized clowns. This thing is huge, you’d have to park it in a warehouse, it certainly wouldn’t fit in any regular garage.
    God bless America

    2
  12. Dave

    Thanks, now my nightmares are mobile. This thing will be chasing me and running me down sometime around 2am.

    2
  13. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Betcha this hunka hunka Buick wouldn’t fit in any suburban garage built since the 1960s. I agree it should have the clown stuff removed (maybe sold to a Shriners museum) and the cab and chassis be used to build an awesome tow and recovery vehicle. There is one similar to this in the Towing & Recovery Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

    1
  14. everett

    How many clowns can you fit in a hearse ??

    1
    • KARL

      not enough !

      1
  15. Keith

    Super Creepy!

    1
  16. tony t

    Those speakers will raise the dead!

    3
  17. LIL RED VETTE

    good lord ,, you wousie weenies need to get a good tight grip on yourselves. you were 4 years old when the circus clown scared you. haven’t you grown up yet ? and a car or truck scares you , geez…. when you croak, maybe your family will just call the rendering company that picks up dead cows at the feed lots and dead deer along the highway to protect your sensibilities …

    4
    • don

      When I’m dead I wont care what they do to me , but while I’m alive I’ll stay away from the creepy cars

      1
  18. Miguel

    I hope somebody buys this and returns it’s dignity to it.

    A carved hearse is very hard to find and seeing one looking like this hurts.

    5
    • grant

      I’m with you. They built 12 of them. Are there any others left? This should be returned to it’s original configuration as gently as possible.

      2
    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      No pun intended, but the ornately carved hearses seem to be coming out of the woodwork lately. I didn’t know they existed until I started trolling eBay, Craiglist and Barn Finds for unique professional vehicles.

      1
  19. Gray Wolf

    Ice cream truck, maybe an Icee truck?

  20. Mitchell Member

    Pennywise would love to know this car’s location

    1
  21. Bob McK Member

    I bet this is one of one!

  22. David M. Sawdey

    Good God, look what I’ve started. Its just when I saw it,I started laughing,and the clown jokes started coming out. (Im laughing so hard right now ,I’m crying)

  23. David M. Sawdey

    Wait,wait , one more—– I wouldn’t be caught dead driving that!!

  24. Kenneth Carney

    Depends on how much spicy food you eat
    before turning in for the night. For me, it’s
    a pizza with everything but anchovies. If
    I eat it too late, who the hell knows what I’ll see that night! Last time I ate it, I dreamed I had sex with Nancy Pelosi!
    After that, I don’t do pizza after 8:00 PM.
    Talk about a nightmare!

    2
    • Ken Jennings

      I don’t know your age, but at my age, getting it on with Nancy doesn’t seem all that bad. Remember, with age comes wisdom in many areas. We all like old cars, do we not? Why not “experienced” women?

      2
  25. Kenneth Carney

    Ken, I’ll be 66 next month and as for experienced women, I have no problem with them– just her. My last date was 73
    and I didn’t mind at all. Hey, that’s what
    we need, vintage women to go along with
    our vintage cars! As for your nightmares
    Dave, better take some hay to bed with you so that they can have a midnight snack too.

    1
  26. Gray Wolf

    She is a “sack of whoa”!

  27. Kenneth Carney

    Right you are Gray Wolf. That’s why I don’t do pizza after 8 PM. Tacos and
    burritos are no problem. And Chinese,
    it’s fine and I sleep like a baby. But pizza with everything, big no no! Older women?
    Wouldn’t turn any of ’em out of my bed but that one. If there are female douche
    bags, she’s all that and more. Hey Dave,
    how’d you sleep last night?

    1
    • Stevieg Member

      Kenneth Carney, your Nancy Pelosi comment made me spit out the soda pop I was drinking. It has been a while since I had that good of a laugh! Thank you sir!

      As for this vehicle, I am a bit of a hearse-o-phile. I am also a history buff. I would probably keep it as it is until it needed to be refurbished. At that point I would tear it down & do my best to put it back to original. If it were too far gone & never going to make it back to original, I would probably go a different route & make it into a roach coach (lunch truck).
      I would have “finger” foods, head cheese, tongue, maybe even have a “Dahmer special”, probably roast beef with mashed spuds & gravy (get it…grave-y?).
      Either way, I think it is creepy awesome! I love it!

  28. Brian Weyeneth

    I’d convert it to a fire rescue unit, drop a 455 in it with 700R4 and posi. Get rid of the roof top speakers, clown graphics, etc. Subtle LED lighting and run calls with my local VFD. I’d definitely be first due.

  29. RandyB

    I’ve seen this in person, cool, yet super creepy.

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