One Of 32 Built: 1982 Airstream Hearse

A friend sent me this listing, as I’ve been thinking about buying a vintage camper this summer. But there’s something significant missing from the ad. Perhaps the seller doesn’t know what they have….or they’re keeping it on the down low. Airstream’s motorhomes are relatively rare compared to their travel trailers, and this is a handsome rig in apparently great condition. It’s listing, here on Facebook, offers minimal photos, but the seller describes it as a “powerhouse, extremely reliable, low maintenance and low repair costs if ever needed!” They go on to say it has only 19,000 miles and is one of 32 ever produced by Airstream. Near the end, they add, somewhat cryptically, “no bathroom, no plumbing.”

The mere minor detail being left out…their “classic RV” is a hearse. Yes, that’s right. Way back in 1979, GMC had just discontinued their revolutionary front-wheel drive MotorHome, and Airstream jumped into the Class A market. Due to a recession and gasoline crisis that had people waiting on long lines to get fuel, their new RV wasn’t selling well. Needing to move units, Airstream diversified and built a couple of executive models: a mobile meeting room known as the Air Coach, and a traveling display unit called the Sales Coach. 

An innovative funeral director named Dale Kloss approached Airstream with a proposal to reduce funeral procession traffic while providing a dignified way for the family to travel together, and in 1981, the Funeral Coach made its debut. It could carry 14 (living) people, one casket, and up to 20 baskets of flowers from the funeral home to the church to the cemetery. While it was a pricey vehicle at $85,000, it could replace a $40,000 hearse and two standard $60,000 limousines, requiring less fuel and fewer employees than driving three cars.

The Air Coach and Sales Coach are so uncommon, no one’s sure how many are still out there, but 32 Funeral Coaches were built between 1981 and 1991, and one is destined for the Airstream heritage museum in Jackson Center, Ohio. While doing my research, I found that apparently this same coach showed up on Barn Finds last year! Looks like it’s been for sale for some time now.

Since then, the price has come down quite a bit, and the funerary aspect of it is being glossed over. If you want to see more detailed pictures, this old listing shows the flower gallery and the casket compartment.

What can I say? People are weird about mortality. A buddy of mine swears he was only able to afford his house because disclosure revealed that a previous occupant had died inside it, and this scared off the other buyers. If you’re not superstitious, there are great opportunities out there. Here’s an entrepreneur who’s turned a couple of Funeral Coaches into mobile escape rooms. They look pretty sweet! Would you roll the bones on this classic Airstream?

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Comments

  1. Miguel

    Nice catch Chebby, not many people would have know what this really is.

    Like 9
  2. Bill Shields

    The floorplan looks like there would be enough room in the back to add a double bed.😉

    Just saying.

    Like 8
    • Fireman DK

      for sure a single …bwuuuuaaahhhh!

  3. Henrie

    Cascet compartment ideal for transporting motocycles or bicycles while on vacation.

    Like 4
  4. Chris

    A rare piece of history

    Like 4
  5. Arlo

    I guess someone will be dying to buy it…

    Like 11
  6. Jef Fowler

    Great read. Well researched (then again, what do l know?)

    Like 5
  7. Marko

    Would make a great Limo Party Wagon.

    Seats 14, and sleeps 1…………Permanently

    Like 10
  8. Bob McK Member

    I would love to own this and travel across the country in it. I really don’t care that someone died in it. There are lots of houses and vehicles that people have died in.

    Like 2
    • norm

      No one died in it….

      Like 4
      • Fireman DK

        that we know of…….lol

        Like 3
  9. Scott

    That’s a big hearse! Ok, I stated the obvious, but jeez….

    Like 2
  10. jimmy the orphan

    You can’t sleep in it, eat in it, keep anything cold in it, pee or poop in it, get a drink of water in it, but, it has a gen set? all for 46k WHAT ?? later ………………..JIMMY

    Like 4
  11. H5mind

    ‘Weekend at Bernie’s III, On The Road Again’

    Like 4
  12. Cattoo Cattoo Member

    As far as party buses go this one has the largest cooler of them all.

    Like 5
  13. Ward William

    Sounds perfect for taking the mother-in-law on road trips.

    Like 5
  14. Joe Haska

    I have seen this vehicle listed before!

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