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Gothic Hearse: 1938 Cadillac LaSalle

From 1927 to 1940, LaSalle was a “poor man’s” Cadillac, built by GM but sold for less money than the Caddy. It was never a huge seller and insiders felt it took sales away from the company’s premium marque, so the car was discontinued just as World War II was heating up. This 1938 edition is a hearse with “gothic-like” carved side panels for which we have found at least one other example on the net. This interesting find is in Bernhards Bay, New York, and is available here on Facebook Marketplace for $15,000. Thanks for this bizarre tip, Barn Finder George.

As the economy improved after The Great Depression, sales of the LaSalle did not respond accordingly. Just 7,200 were produced in 1934, 8,600 in 1935, and 13,000 in 1936. By 1938, they were up to 32,000 units, but the LaSalle was the slowest-selling part of the GM family. The seller’s hearse was likely customized by a coachbuilder as that would have been a big undertaking for a volume manufacturer like GM. We believe a Cadillac-built V8 is under the hood of this beast, but no mention is made, or photos offered.

We assume this vehicle has been off the road for many years and it will be a formidable project to restore. If the carved side panels are made of wood, that would be quite an undertaking in itself. And after spending your inheritance on bringing this hearse back to its 1930s glory, what would you do with it? Maybe the best approach would be to get it functional again and use it as a marketing tool around Halloween?!


  1. Greg

    Some will hate on me for this. I would remove all sign of it ever being a hearse. Turn it into a sedan delivery which was never made by LaSalle. It is a custom after market change as it already is.

    Like 28
    • chrlsful

      that would not B me.
      SD, sure. Even a double or triple rowa seats’n glass asa people mover~
      My thought is the merican classics started in late ’30s (up to very early 50s) so this ‘fits the bill’. An era correct color (may B not blk, tho?) w/contrasting seats? 22 inch wire wheels? May B not…

      Like 4
      • Aaron

        I really don’t understand how someone is putting 15K for this pile of metal I apologize but I just don’t agree

        Like 14
      • Tom B.

        Please write in English.

        Like 9
      • jwaltb

        He’s apparently unable.

        Like 2
    • TED

      Even an Ambulance conversion would be nice.

      Like 4
    • Pops in TX

      Yes, I’m thinking a sunken floor that lifts n slides out to transport your Harley around, paint it black, orange with a 454 n side pipes!! 100 grand should do it, starting a go fund me right away haha

      Like 6
  2. Casey

    To bad it would cost a fortune to restore this. To be able to see

    one restored would be extremely cool !!! I’m sure not too many

    around. Awesome find. Thank you

    Like 19
    • Gavin Elster

      A near duplicate of this hearse met its Jamaican fiery doom, with the villainous “Three Blind Mice,” in the first real James Bond film, Dr. No, 1962. Bond (Sean Connery) driving a Sunbeam roadster, tells a bystander “They were on their way to a funeral.”

      Like 7
      • Bobc

        I was thinking the same thing…

        Like 4
      • DON

        Actually, it didnt – watch the car as it goes over the cliff. Its not the same car , a later model car was used with headlights mounted in the fenders, not in pods like the Lasalle . Apparently the car used to go off the cliff was made to look like a hearse . The Lasalle hearse may still exist !

        Like 2
  3. Dave

    Very strange

    Like 5
  4. The Purple Defender

    Ugly and disturbing. Crush it and don’t look back.t

    Like 6
  5. H Siegel

    I would do a complete restoration on it bringing it back to it’s former glory. At the same time try to research it to see what funeral home had it new. Then continue the research to see how it ended up in this condition. I’ll bet it’s quite a story and something to tell at car shows. I’d put a nice coffin in it would be a great place to nap. I believe hearses and ambulances should be saved as not many are around and there a piece of car history. GLWTS

    Like 30
  6. Derek

    Not enough skeletons on the wood panels! I’d go full goth with this; what a fine machine!

    Like 16
  7. Big C

    I’ve never seen anything done up like this. The back stories would be interesting to hear.

    Like 14
    • aribert

      About 12 to 15 years ago there was a thread on HAMB (hot rod forum) about vintage hearses from Mexico or Central America or South America (I can’t remember where – original poster was from that region). There were many images of hearses somewhat similar to this one. I would not be surprised if this hearse was re-imported from somewhere down south.

      Like 0
  8. Uncle Ed

    Super creepy. Make it a sedan delivery or panel as already mentioned. Or maybe a pickup?

    Like 5
    • 427Turbojet 427Turbojet Member

      Hopefully this comes across OK, a picture of a picture. This is what it could be with boatloads of cash infused. This is a 39 Cadillac with a Sayers & Scovill Imperial Carved side coach body. I grew up in a pretty rural area and never saw a carved side funeral coach in real life until much later – after getting out into the real world!
      The body on the LaSalle looks as if it could be from the same coach builder. It’d be a shame to cut it up or customize it, but other than going to professional car shows there’s probably not much chance for casual driving. Having said that, you’d be a sensation at cars and coffee plus think of the 2X4s you could haul from Home Depot.
      I have a 50 Chevy National hearse, still in the barn in as found condition. Not sure what to do with it.

      Like 15
  9. bob

    Those panels are fantastically beautiful. I hope someone really can save this car or at least the panels.

    Like 21
  10. oldtrips

    This would be great to make into a backyard bar!

    Like 3
  11. numskal Member

    I am among the minority that thinks this needs to be restored. In the book American Funeral Cars & Ambulances by Thomas McPherson there is a picture of a 1938 S&S Damascus hearse which has the same carved panels. S&S was based in Cincinnati, and the Damascus was their top of the line. The grille on this one has the extra bars that S&S added as a signature to their cars. It’s will be a chunk of change to get it back to it’s former glory but maybe only 8 of these were made in 38. Here’s some links to restored ones:


    Like 2
  12. Dan

    Counts kustoms needs to be notified immediately

    Like 6
    • Dan

      So I tried to contact Danny Koker.
      Apparently he has better security than RFK.
      The shops phone number is
      702 733 8657

      Like 3
      • John Eder

        Danny Koker? Kount’s Kustoms?🤮

        Why not go high class- like Gas Monkey Garage?

        Like 2
      • Big C

        Richard would slam it and paint it all metalflake green. Like he does with almost everything

        Like 1
      • Dan

        The reason I chose counts kustoms is because of his old television show where he played a vampire hosting “B” horror movies.

        Like 1
  13. Martin

    As a funeral director, I would hate to see this scrapped or made into something else. Many funeral homes love to have these as part of their fleet. Most of us do not have the time or place to restore an antique hearse. I would love to have it, but, I can buy one already restored cheaper than I can pay someone to restore this one.

    Like 16
  14. numskal Member

    There is a picture of a 38 on the barn finds site from 12-20-2013 for a 35 Cadillac V12 hearse but the side panels were missing on the 35.

    Like 2
  15. Mike's57

    There is a similar hearse (IIRC it’s on a Packard chassis) in the Chicago suburbs with the sculpted side panels, it’s amazing to see in person! This definitely should be restored!

    Like 10
  16. mike '57

    Years ago my friend and myself went to a junk yard in n.j to buy packard parts for my’50 sedan .Funny thing, a 48 packard hearse was next to my parts cars and it was fully intact but weathered some from being on outside for a couple of years! This hearse was more together than this Lasale so restoring it would not been too expensive, Now my friend was half Cherokee indinan and he said do not buy any parts of the hearse as he thought it was haunted, tee-hee!

    Like 5
  17. GitterDunn

    Seems wildly overpriced. Those extraordinary decorative panels are the only interesting part of this old junker, possibly suitable to build a new hearse around them. The rest looks to be good for parts and scrap metal at best.

    Or use it as creepy Halloween decor.

    Like 4
  18. Gavin Elster

    A near duplicate of this hearse met its Jamaican fiery doom, with the villainous “Three Blind Mice,” in the first real James Bond film, Dr. No, 1962. Bond (Sean Connery) driving a Sunbeam roadster, tells a bystander “They were on their way to a funeral.”

    Like 2
  19. Nelson C

    Where was this when the hearse fest was in town last weekend? I didn’t get to go but did drive by the packed fairgrounds. Some co-workers went and seemed to get their money’s worth. This is a great example of a professional car that should have been restored years ago. Maybe someone will now.

    Like 8
  20. Glenn Schwass Member

    Too creepy for me and I love old Caddy’s. I hope it is saved and restored but it won’t be cheap.

    Like 2
  21. Gary A Hunley

    Lower it, custom it, custom interior, big ass engine and cruise it!! To much?

    Like 1
  22. NW Iowa

    As upsetting as it is when a loved one dies, the creepy as hell designs would make the funeral procession multitudes worse. Ugh.
    That said, get it mechanically safe and drive it!

    Like 2
    • The Purple Defender

      Creepy is right. When my dad died, they hauled him away in a white minivan and he rode in a nice white station wagon to the funeral. No hearts ornamentation to be seen. I know I liked that better, and I am sure my dad would have as well. I do not understand the mindset of someone that gets their rocks off driving something like this. It is in bad taste, and painful for some people to see. Once you drive by someone on a public road, they can not un see it. The kind thing to do would be to crush it and make nice little Kias from it.

      Like 2
  23. John Eder

    I guess that I am in the minority here- but this is an irreplaceable vehicle. Expensive to restore, but worth it. Some of the suggestions for “customizing” this vehicle make as much sense as converting a gullwing Mercedes into a convertible, or a birdcage Maserati into a crewcab pickup. Beyond belief…ultimately, all we will have is photos, once all of the rare vehicles have been ruined due to an encounter with a welder and a case of beer. Let’s cut up a 55 Chevy 2 door and make it into a garbage truck…

    Chop away at vehicles that there are piles of- Mustangs, Chargers, etc.- one of those sacrificed on the alter of “creativity” won’t be missed. Leave the works of art (even in horrible condition) to be appreciated, and, when someone with sufficient resources comes across them, let them be restored to their former glory. There are folks in this world who could write a check to restore this. I have seen this before- we did an “open checkbook” restoration of a 47 Chevy firetruck for a winery owner. I believe that it was $40K+. Another firetruck restoration ran $100K+ (paint alone ran about $30K). Folks with money sometimes don’t care how much it costs- they are willing to pay for top flight workmanship.

    “Daddy, what was a hearse? Here’s a picture of one, son.”

    Like 7
  24. John D Bellmore

    I own a much newer S&S Cadillac Hearse, 1989. It is a daily driver. A very comfortable car to drive with cruise control, automatic ride level, A/C, leather seats. On the highway the 5500lb beast gets 18mpg at 65 to 70mph. Yes it is wonderful for carrying longer items. I just think of her as a station wagon. The one thing you need to make sure of is that it has a door handle inside the rear area. When I first acquired the coach and was cleaning it the rear doors got knocked shut by a playful dog. No big deal so I thought. Just use the Limo doors to get out. NO DOOR HANDLES inside. The glass partition between the back and the front seat was stuck and so was I. 15 minutes later my laughing other half let me out. I have since called S&S to find out what kind of door handles their Limos have. Same lenghtened door as a Hearse, but with interior handles. I asked why no handles on a Hearse rear doors and they said “never thought the person in the rear (coffin) would want out.” I love the car.

    Like 6
    • John Eder

      My 1972 Olds Cotner-Bevington ambulance had an ashtray in the back, accessible from the gurney. It reminded me of how I asked my dad once as a little kid (while we were watching a WW II movie), “why do they always give a wounded soldier a cigarette or drink of water?” His reply: “That’s easy- wherever the medic sees water or smoke coming out, that’s where they are wounded.” I thought that he was brilliant.

      Like 7
  25. Chris Eakin

    For some reason I was thinking, make it front wheel drive with engine and transaxle from an El Dorado (500cid), or, if you are somewhat green, do a Tesla swap, complete with all-wheel drive.

    Like 0

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