Going Out In Style: 1938 Cadillac Hearse

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Many cultures have different ways of honoring their loved ones, but the automobile has always held a special role of honoring those who have passed. This 1938 Cadillac Hearse is quite ornate, and is certainly a work of art for its time. Although it has been quite a while since its last funeral ride, this Cadillac is still a promising project that could be a fun option to rat rod. Offered for $19,500 you can find this Cadillac here on eBay out of Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

Unfortunately someone harvested the original engine from this Cadillac and installed what appears to be a 216-235 Chevrolet inline 6. At some point it would seem that this engine was a runner, but the carb and oil cap are missing at this point in time. It is unclear what exactly was done to make this swap happen, but I would opt to install the original drive-train, or perhaps add a tried and true Chevrolet 350 V8.

A little bit eerie, the bench seat is blood red in color. The remainder of the upholstery is missing including both door panels and hardware. The dash is well weathered, and the grills are melted and wavy from exposure to heat.

Very much like a mobile mausoleum, this Cadillac surely offered peace and honor for its passengers. Much of the wood work remains, but there are a few areas of damage on the sides, and along the ceiling. Also the wood planked floor is curling and buckling along the back edge from moisture exposure.

Like a fine work of art, the exterior wood craftsmanship on this Cadillac is impressive. Resembling a fine stone carving, the curtain work is nicely formed and appears with much detail and dimension. The rear door is also ornate, but is in need of hinge work to keep it from falling off. Although there is obvious use of body filler, the overall condition doesn’t seem too shabby from what I can see in the photos. The running boards are wavy, but do not appear to be rotted. In fact, I see no real evidence of rot. Many of these old hearses end up in museums, but this one isn’t quite be museum material. A restoration would be nice, but perhaps this Cadillac could be re-purposed? Or perhaps it could be updated, and used as a modern day funeral home machine? A modern and simpler drive-train would make it more feasible to own and operate. What would you do with this Cadillac?

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  1. canadainmarkseh

    I can imagine in my minds eye how stunning this car once looked. From what I can see from the hinge side of the back door that this car is built like a true woody but with way more bling. Its hard to tell from the pictures but I’d say the ornate would is saveable if it gets some preservation work done soon. As a wood carver I’d love to work on a project like this, the problem is like an old fire truck what do you do with this car when your done restoring it. My vision would be to restore the body to original put in a semi modern driveline along with modern brakes and steering. On the inside as part of the restoration in all the curtained panel I’d cut out the flat panel part and install glass. I’d shorten the casket bed and keep it as a roll out then install four high back bucket seat and move the divider back behind them. You’d have to be the kind of person that isn’t freaked out by the fact that this car has carried many people to their last stop, I wouldn’t be freaked out but my wife and daughter would be so something like this would never happen that said I do hope this car gets rescued before its to far gone. This is an interesting find for sure.

    Like 11
    • local_sheriff

      One will need to have a kinda ‘morbid’ personality to love these things – however as I know a thing or two about the professional car community I can testify there’s a narrow but highly dedicated bunch of enthusiasts of vintage hearses.

      This example is a piece of unique craftmanship, remember there’s no such thing as a ‘hearse factory’ – they are all handmade to fit customer’s needs.

      Being both a pre-war vehicle and factory custom , a restorer will need be a jack of all trades.So many different materials and tecniques involved here so one might be tempted to cut corners to have this back on the road.However, I think it deserves to look at least similar to original when back on the road.

      Like 2
      • Miguel

        sheriff, there is nothing morbid about loving old hearses.

        I don’t care what their cargo was, they are beautiful hand made cars.

        Like 1
      • local_sheriff

        Miguel – sorry for not expressing myself right . Personally I simply LOVE old hearses and ambulances , or any pro car for that matter – but many people would still describe me as rather morbid , regardless of my fascination for such vehicles…!

        Cannot imagine a cooler vehicle for any gearhead for their Last Journey.

        Like 2
    • Hank

      Definitely needs a Restomod, for safety’s sake.
      You could make it available to Funeral Directors to lease at the request of a client

      Like 5
  2. DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

    Major cool factor….

    I’m thinking that the ornate framed curtains millwork on the outside is not done in wood. Whatever it is, the material has lasted very well, considering the exposure to the elements. Inside? Well, first-off, talking about the back end of this beast, unless going for a funeral-home capable restoration, why bother with any of what is there? Refit as desired, in whatever style a new owner thinks appropriate. It is a shame that the glass which is between the cab and the back is ruined. Bullet holes seem a common likelihood among long-stationary “abandoned” vehicles.
    Personally, I’d gravitate towards making the body look as original as possible, with tons of modern technical and running gear upgrades. And why bother with the standard bowtie engine, there are so very many options from the Cadillac division to choose from!

    Like 5
    • leiniedude leiniedudeMember

      I like the gravitate comment Allan, maybe my sick sence of humor. Happy Holidays.

      Like 4
      • DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

        ;-) Ya caught me!

        Like 2
    • Ralph

      I think those panels are steel or aluminum believe it or not.

      Like 0
      • DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

        If steel, they’d look like the rest of the body, with the surface rust, yes? But aluminum, or “pot metal”, that would make some sense. Instead of being carved, they’d have been cast or molded. I was trying to think of some kind of plastic, but vacuum molding of that kind of material probably wasn’t in action yet. Especially for pieces this large.

        It occurs to me that there’d have to be a market for just the two sides, as automotive historical items. How my brain works >>>> I then mentally linked to the possibility that one or more of these is still in use in Cuba, with an industrial diesel engine, or something weird providing the motivation.

        Like 0
      • Rick

        Cast plaster or similar mix, judging by the way the tips are aging. Built just like the pediments and friezes of buildings. The car probably didn’t run over 45 during the procession, so cracking wasn’t an issue.

        Like 0
  3. Keith

    Creepy…..Nightmares tonight! Can you imagine waking up in that thing in a nightmare?!……….LOL!

    Like 2
    • Miguel

      Why would that bother you?

      Like 0
  4. Dave brennan

    Cut all the way across using the angled front of the ornamental part as ur guide. remove rear end and build a woody pickup bed and reattach fenders. Reuse back door as tailgate. Maybe some nice rear facing buckets a la subaru under the awning created by roof cut.

    Like 1
  5. Coventrycat

    As cool as that side and back sculpture is, I much prefer glass on the sides with curtains on hearses. But when I’m dead I won’t know – or care – what’s on the side of my final ride.

    Like 0
  6. Mountainwoodie

    Way too expensive for the shape its in but when these are restored they are among of the most beautiful of hearses. Its a beautiful work of art……but right now not worth much. Looks like someone found it abandoned and decided to go fishing.

    Like 11
    • Miguel

      You are absolutely right. I have never seen one of these command anywhere near this amount in this condition.

      If it was an unmolested example needing restoration, that would be another story, but somebody, or a lot of somebodies, have had their hands into this car and who know what is actually there.

      Like 1
  7. Rodney - GSM

    A unique and stunning vehicle that needs to be with the living.
    Please, someone, bring this back from the dead.

    Like 5
  8. Kenneth Carney

    Ultimate vehicle for a cadaver transport
    company! Imagine updating the drive-
    line, brakes, and electrics and using this
    coach for its intended purpose once
    again. One thing’s for sure, absolutely
    no one would mistake your company
    car from any other! My neice would
    love this one.

    Like 6
  9. steve

    Perfect candidate for one of those macho men reality tv restoration custom shows!

    Like 2
  10. Butch

    Rather see it driven as a rat rod much as I don’t like most of them than cut up or chopped on in any way. At least rat rods save the original in most cases These things are rare as hens teeth.

    Like 4
    • Cando

      Set that beast ontop of a suburban frame with 33plius inch tires the diesel brothers could turn that thing into an ultimate Thing!! Go Big Block or Diesel rug the inside with a kickin sound sys!

      Like 1
  11. TrueFordBlue

    The local funeral home has an original, unrestored car like this one. Very beautiful. They don’t refer to it as a Cadillac but as a LaSalle.

    Like 2
    • DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

      TrueFordBlue, might you be able to get a photo or two of that unit, and post here? I can’t be the only one who’d like to see one in great shape!

      You should be able to overcome any resistance to observing the car by indicating that the Funeral home would be getting national exposure by allowing it. Maybe you could also ask about the material that the side “curtains” feature is made of?

      Like 1
  12. David Rhoces

    great rat rod

    Like 0
  13. Charles A Simons Jr

    Parade promotional vehicle.

    Like 0
  14. Kenneth Carney

    We used to use these to carry band gear
    in the late ’60’s. Back then, when a hearse was retired, you couldn’t even give
    them away. I once did a tour with a guy
    who used one to carry his stuff around the country playing music. The price
    was right ($600) and the damned thing
    ran and drove great. Used to go to Farm
    Bereau Field in Bloomington and see row
    after row of them for sale dirt cheap.
    Almost bought a ’60 Miller Meteor in
    ’73 or ’74 but passed on it when I found
    it needed a tranny rebuild. The guy
    was asking $75 for it but being a young
    musician, I couldn’t afford the $250 to
    rebuild a 4-speed Hydramatic that the
    car came with. This one’s awesome!
    Hope someone saves it! Time to go
    putt around the shop and finish making
    some Christmas gifts. Merry Christmas
    from our house to yours!

    Like 5
  15. Robert White

    Great car if one is Herman Munster, or Eddie.


    Like 2

    This caddy is right in my back yard just about. I can imagine the amount of heat damage this thing had taken. Hot and dry that’s what the weather in this area is. It’s really neat to see something from my area on this site.

    Like 1
  17. Nick G


    Like 2
  18. stillrunners

    Dang that’s cool…glad it survived.

    Like 0
  19. Wayne

    Dave, I really like your idea! But change the drivetrain over to a 500 Caddy with a 400 Hydro. (Current brakes would be in order also.

    Like 0
  20. Chinga-Trailer

    Probably came outta Juarez, Mexico – just a few miles from Santa Teresa – and hey – how come I don’t get any more copies of comments on anything anymore?? Don’t you guys like me anymore??

    Like 3
    • Miguel

      Chinga-Trailer, I don’t see any stickers on the windows indicating the car was ever in Mexico.

      After looking at all the pictures, everything is either damaged, destroyed or missing.

      If anybody ever buys this I wish them good luck rebuilding every bit of this car.

      Just look at the dash. It looks like the car was out in a field and kids bent and destroyed most of the rare parts.

      Somebody even shot wholes in the divider glass inside the vehicle.

      Like 0
  21. Del

    This would be a hit at my Retirement home.

    Like 3
  22. Mike

    Sorry fellas; Personally from first lance this looks EVIL and I would rain hell on my wife if this became my last ride. LoL.

    Like 0
  23. Bob

    There was a really nice one like this parked OUTSIDE in Denver. I always wanted to buy it, but it was not for sale. They are beautiful when restored.

    Like 0
  24. Stiffler4444

    Really? Boring comment from a clearly boring person.

    Like 1
  25. The Walrus

    Resembles the 1940 LaSalle (which were, in effect, a Cadillac on a budget) hearse from Aretha Franklin’s recent funeral…


    Like 5

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