Low mileage survivor: 1966 Oldsmobile Hearse/Ambulance

Although funeral directors would prefer that you call these vehicles a “funeral coach,” most people still call them a hearse. And we can thank the Brits across the pond for that name. It evolved over there from the word “herse” which referred to a type of candelabra usually placed atop coffins. Then sometime in the 1600s, people started using the word “herse” to refer to the horse-drawn carriages that transported the casket to the place of burial during the funeral procession.

So much for the history lesson. Let’s turn our attention to this stunning, well-preserve Cotner-Bevington 1966 Oldsmobile Hearse/Ambulance (you could remove the landau panels on the rear window and add a Beacon Ray Light on top to convert it to an emergency ambulance). It’s located in Sumner, Michigan, is in remarkable condition inside and out, and is for sale here on eBay at No Reserve. As of this writing, 11 bids had pushed the price up to $8,800. Another shout out to Larry D. for digging this one up and sending it our way.

Waldo J. Cotner and Robert Bevington formed the Cotner-Bevington Corp in Blytheville, Arkansas in 1959. Their small coachbuilding company primarily specialized in Oldsmobiles and this is one of their more handsome examples. The clean, crisp, slab-bodied styling of the 1966 Olds 98 blends in well with the tall squarish coachwork. The factory Silver Mist paint shines very well (the seller says it hasn’t been buffed or waxed), there doesn’t appear to be any rust on the body and I can’t see any dents or door dings. The chrome bumpers and trim and glass also look very nice as does the black top.

Except for a dirty front carpet that might clean up to be presentable, the interior is in near-perfect condition. It has obviously been garaged and taken care of. The seats, door panels, dash, and front and rear headliner all look remarkable for their age. The seller shares that he tested the heater, wipers, turn signals, and lights. All but one interior light and one of the four brake lights doesn’t work. The Federal Signal siren is loud and works great, and there is also a folding cot under the floor that’s stored in the back. The car also has a glass partition between the front seat and the rear.

Here’s a view you don’t often see (since most occupants enter through the back door). And check out the quality of the door panels and trim and side curtains in the rear of the coach and its overall like-new condition. This was obviously one gently-used “funeral coach” over the last 55 years.

The engine bay looks very clean as well and houses the 425 cubic-inch Super Rocket V8 with 51,000 original miles. The seller shares that the plates expired in 2002 and he’s not sure how often it was started or driven the past 19 years. He’s pumped out the old gas and hooked up an electric fuel pump and a small gas tank, and the engine fired up and “ran pretty good.” He drove it briefly and shared that “the brakes worked well and the steering was tight, transmission shifted fine, no rattles or clunks, and the exhaust is quiet too.”

Regarding recent maintenance, the sellers shares that the valve covers and oil sending unit were leaking and have been replaced. And he has bought new oil, oil filter, distributor cap, rotor, and plug wires but hasn’t put any of them on yet. He also says the tires look good but would need replacing since they’re at least 20 years old.

Professional cars from the 50s and 60s have always interested me, whether they’re a hearse/ambulance like this one or a flower car or limousine. The conversion craftsmanship is impressive, not many were made, and you won’t find many original survivors in this kind of condition.

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Comments

  1. Stevieg Member

    This is an awesome find! My love of professional cars runs to the bone (sorry…I had to say it)!
    This is a really rare car made even more rare by being a “combo” cat.
    I had a 1974 Cadillac combo, I don’t recall the coach builder no more. Anyhow, my niece was very young when I had that car. She used to LOVE riding in back on the jump seats, & whenever we would pull up to a bus stop, she would pull the curtains open real quick & make faces at the old people, often times scaring people.
    Good times!

    Like 15
    • GeorgeL

      Perhaps Miller-Meteor? They seemed to specialize in Cadillacs.

      Like 2
      • Stevieg Member

        It was Miller Meteor, or Superior. I forget which.
        I’ve owned over 20 hearse over the years & I worked at a hearse dealership for many years too. I know my hearses, I just don’t remember which on that one was. It could have been Sayers & Scoville too.

        Like 2
  2. mike b

    Hurst Olds? I thought you said Hearse Olds.

    Like 3
  3. Jonathan Green

    I had a 1972 Caddy Hearse with a 472 my last year in college and first year or so of law school. Called it the “Doom Buggy” in college, and then “the Ambulance Chaser” in law school. Got 12 MPG no matter what – downhill with a breeze at my back idling in neutral, or going uphill into a headwind fully loaded doing 80. Sold it to a guy who did drywall; the air suspension and the rollers for the caskets, as well as the suicide doors on both sides were perfect for the job. Used to take my granny to the doctor it in. She said “park it in the back – it’s bad for his business! So many good times with this car. But for the fact that my wife would kill me, I’d be all over this. Take the rear panels off, and it’s an Oldsmobile Station Wagon. I tried using that explanation when code enforcement called because the neighbors complained that I had a hearse parked out front, and it was a “commercial vehicle”, which cannot be kept in your driveway. After my explanation to the officer, he said “Son, that vehicle is a hearse. Either put it in the garage or get rid of it…”

    Like 4
    • Stevieg Member

      Yeah, my grandfather used to hate when I’d park a hearse in front of his house. He used to gripe “my neighbors will think I left already”. They all knew me lol.
      I used to try to take him for rides in it all the time, he would decline the offer & insist I drive him in his car. I got the final word…because I worked @ the hearse dealership, I was friends with the funeral director when he passed away. I got to use my hearse to drive him to his final resting place.

      Like 5
  4. George

    Cemetery dirt on the mats :)

    Like 4
  5. Ike Onick

    Funeral Director also doesn’t want any questions about the item behind the car in the lead photo.

    Like 1
    • Steve Clinton

      BBQ ribs! Good eatin’!

      Like 2
    • Ted Mathis

      “Funeral Director also doesn’t want any questions about the item behind the car in the lead photo”

      I noticed that. Would it be safe to assume that’s a potable crematorium?

  6. Ken Carney

    There’s room under my carport for this one!
    I’d fix whatever needs fixin’, and go out and
    make 70+K a year doing cadaver transport.
    Might’s well cash in on an industry that’s
    recession and depression proof.

    Like 8
    • Steve Clinton

      And the term ‘business is dead’ is a good thing.

      Like 5
    • wcshook

      Several years ago, as I was coming home from work, I saw a vintage hearse, probably ’40’s, being escorted by the sheriff department motorcycle officers. I don’t know who was in the hearse, but it may have been a deceased veteran. You might be on to something to refresh, restore an old professional car and let funeral homes know it was available for use.

      Like 1
  7. Steve Clinton

    Unfortunately, “survivor” doesn’t describe the passengers of this beauty.

    Like 3
  8. Steve Clinton

    Rodney Dangerfield was heard to say beyond the grave “An Oldsmobile? I get no respect!”

    Like 1
  9. Chris R. Member

    Bet some folks are just “dying” to get their hands on this one!!
    Awesome find!!

    Like 3
    • 67Firebird_Cvt Member

      I’m curious why you need a cot in a hearse!

      • George

        Combo unit. Designed for use as both an ambulance and a hearse.

      • wcshook

        In todays world, it is hard to believe that funeral homes once provided ambulance service. Some had a separate unit to handle those calls, then started getting the combo units like this. This also predates the EMT’s and Paramedics we now take for granted. You were in good hands if those who responded to calls had basic first aid.

  10. Howie Mueler

    Very cool, but what is that smell?

    Like 2
  11. Stevieg Member

    Formaldehyde.
    That smell gets stronger when it is hot out.

    Like 1
  12. Rtruck

    What a smoker! Oh, and the hearse looks nice toon

    Like 1
  13. Old Fool

    Really neat, I’ve always liked these professional cars too. My wife and I saw an old hearse going down the road one day and I commented, “wouldn’t be cool to drive a hearse around as your every day car?!” Her response: “Uh, no.”

    Like 2
  14. George Hibs

    Ad lists this as a Hearse / Ambulance! I can’t imagine an accident victim wanting to be hauled away in an ambulance that looks like this! Or maybe this dead man hauler is reserved for those victims who must cleaned from the pavement with a squeegee.

    • wcshook

      You must be to young to remember how it was. I can understand it. My Dad worked for a funeral home in the ’40’s, and I came along in the very late 60’s with a volunteer ambulance and became an early EMT in Fl. I saw the transition from hearse based ambulance to the vans, which because of federal mandates outdated the old cars. There wasn’t county EMS like there is today. There was no way the old ambulance setup could meet todays requirements. Be glad for the conveniences in todays ambulances. Rolling ER’s basically.

  15. Ken Carney

    You’re quite right Steve. The cadaver hauling
    business is far from dead. I’m just champing
    at the bit to start earning some serious dough.
    Too bad I’m legally blind and can’t drive. I’ve
    been wanting to do this for quite some time
    now but I can’t get my SIL on board with the
    idea. She’s afraid that the body we’d be
    hauling would come to life and grab her
    while she’s driving. She watches too much
    Walking Dead.

  16. Kenn

    Ken Carney, where do you live that a $70K/yr income is possible doing cadaver transport? I’d buy this to accomplish that income today.

  17. Ken Carney

    Kenn, I live in Florida and that’s the average
    wage here for that kind of work. They pay
    high in order to get someone to do this kind of
    work. If only I could see well enough to drive,
    I’d beat you to the punch. I’ve been trying for
    the last 3 or 4 years to get my family interested
    in going into the business, but they’re all to
    high or too chicken to do it. It’s a business
    just like any other– only thing different is that
    you’re hauling dead people. Just think of it
    as an Uber for the dear departed.

  18. MitchRoss Member

    There is a sedan version of this car sitting forlorn in Nashville. It has the long rear door and commercial glass. Guessing it is a Cotner Bevington as well. I keep wanting to go and ask if it’s for sale as it is soooooo cool. Just don’t have enough time before my ultimate demise to finish all the projects I already have. I’m in N’Ville now, maybe go take some photos to post here tomorrow

  19. lc

    What a great looking machine. What is very interesting is that the black rear panels on the top look to be removeable and with the curtain details pictured in the way back of the interior, it appears cortège viewing was an option.

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