Solid Body: 1966 Pontiac Bonneville Hearse

It is a sad irony that while Pontiac as a manufacturer is long dead and buried, the company that converted this Bonneville into a hearse/ambulance is still very much alive and kicking. The vehicle is largely complete, and many of its original features are still operational. I really have to thank Barn Finder local_sheriff for referring this beauty to us. The hearse is located in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and is listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $1,775, and the reserve hasn’t been met. However, there is a BIN option available at $8,000.

Dealing with the bad news first, there is some rust to be addressed in the Pontiac. The front floors are said to be pretty bad, while there is also rust in the front frame rail just behind the left front wheel, and also in the right rear frame rail just behind the rear wheel. The floors from behind the seats to the rear of the vehicle are said to be good, while the body-panels themselves look to be quite solid. It’s always interesting to see how companies such as the one that built this hearse (Superior Coach Corporation), was able to adapt different production components to construct a vehicle like this. For instance, the taillights for the Pontiac hearse are actually adapted from a 1965 Corvair. These seem to work quite well, and using these would be a lot less expensive than designing and custom-making the same items.

Since retiring from the funeral industry, this car has seen a fair amount of use, and it has been in the care of its current owner for the past 21-years. Apart from a new cover on the front seat, the rest of the interior is said to be original. The vast majority of the interior trim looks like it would respond well to a good clean, and as a bonus, the vehicle is fitted with air conditioning. Virtually all of the original fixtures are still present, including the rear jump seat, and even the original stretcher. The longer I look at the Pontiac, the more I want to get in and give the interior a good clean.

Powering the Pontiac is a 389ci V8 engine, backed by a 3-speed Hydramatic transmission. The Pontiac also features power steering and power brakes. That engine pumps out 325hp, and it is all needed in a car that weighs 4,940lbs. Mind you, I guess that this isn’t the type of vehicle where speed is a real consideration in day-to-day operations, is it? While things look tidy under the hood, the news isn’t all great. The owner has trekked all over the country in this old girl, and those miles are now starting to show. He says that the engine will need rings, as it has become quite smoky. He is also working on fitting new rear axle bearings, which is why the rear of the vehicle is lifted up in the air. Hopefully, those will be fitted before the vehicle actually sells.

I’ve been struggling to decide what I would do with this Pontiac if I bought it. I have to admit that I have struggled to come up with an answer that wouldn’t involve making substantial changes to the interior, and I would hate to do that. The owner is very clear in his preference for the car to go to someone who would be willing to restore it, and I fully respect that. If you bought this hearse, what would you do?

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Comments

  1. Superdessucke

    I’d turn it into an AirBnB. I bet you I would make a killing.

    11
  2. Rex Kahrs Member

    At $8000 this car is DOA. I mean, that’s a stiff price. I almost croaked when I read that. But maybe someone will breathe new life into it, lower it and put the “fun” back in “funeral”. I’ll see myself out now…

    37
    • Kurt

      Ah yes, the plot thickens. A grave purchase at that (Vincent) price. But looks well preserved…if it doesn’t need a new head casket

      15
  3. JOHN Member

    So is this a hearse or ambulance? The red beacon on the roof suggests ambulance, a stretcher is mentioned, but if it is a hearse, I don’t think a stretcher would be used, unless maybe it was a “budget” funeral home. Pretty cool about the Corvair tail lights, never noticed that before!

    7
    • Brad

      I think the hearse was the ambulance back in those days …

      5
    • Miguel

      This has the ambulance floor so it is probably a combination car.

      3
    • Rob DeCosta

      It was both, back in the day the were multi use vehicles, I owned a 66 Bonneville ambulance . It was medium blue with a white top , also manufactured by Superior Coach, 421 PI with a 4Bbl. I have since been looking for another one, it was a fun car to drive and a real head turner

      5
    • Ralph

      Combination car, probably in a small town, it could do double duty, before modern paramedics, most funeral homes also ran the ambulance services too.

      2
    • John Taggart Member

      back in the 60s my uncle who owned a funeral home and in those days also ran ambulance services had a 1960 Pontiac which serves as a daily driver station wagon flower car and could be hearse too It was marketed as an amblewagon as its main use was the station wagon throw on the roof top red light throw in the stretcher and presto instant ambulance with a siren switch making the horn ring act as a siren instead of horn

      2
  4. Coventrycat

    Rest in piece(s)

    8
  5. Smokey Member

    Hearse or Ambulance……whatever. Their company slogan was……………………. “You Call, We Haul, That’s All.

    4
  6. Miguel

    People are asking some crazy prices for do-it-yourself projects.

    I don’t see anybody paying that much for a car like this, sadly.

    If the owner was more realistic, maybe the car could find a good home that would take car of it.

    6
  7. Fred H

    It is always a bad sign when they are up on blocks.

    2
  8. Ken Carney

    Get it refitted and restored and put it back
    to work in the cadaver transport business. Here in Florida, this is big business with drivers earning as much as
    70K a year. This car would work out fine as it appears to be a “first call vehicle” which would explain the red light on the
    roof. Been trying to get my family to get
    into this business for a few years now, but they’re all too afraid to do it. Some of
    them think the body will reanimate and eat their brains or something. If I could
    only see well enough to drive, I’d make
    a fortune! I can see an entire company
    using these vintage hearses for just that
    purpose. Business would be in the black
    in no time at all.

    3
    • Miguel

      Ken, historically speaking a purpose made first call car had no side windows and a wreath on the side as an ornament.

      This car has an ambulance floor with the attendant seat, so it looks like it is a combination car. It is possible this was a straight ambulance that somebody painted black.

      I tried to find a picture on Google of a first call car, but came up with nothing.

      1
    • Ralph

      Usually body transport is either handled by the funeral home or the medical examiner depending on where and how the death occurs, I’ve never seen a “for hire” meat wagon. Not saying that it doesn’t exist, but its probably a real narrow market.

  9. Wayne

    I had an uncle in the funeral business. His 1960s cars were the dual purpose type where the “bubble gum machine” would retract down under the roof panel. Since there were quite a few times where there was a need to go distances to pick up a body. Any extra horse power would have been appreciated for passing situations. (He really blasted down the highway!) I asked him if he ever had the temptation to popup the red light and use the siren to get through traffic. And he said that the temptation was there all the time. But never acted on it. (He was a very honorable guy.) He said besides the Indiana and Ohio State Police did not have a large sense of humor.

    2
  10. local_sheriff

    Now; what the heck would I do with it?! As long as one is into groceries, waste disposal or funerals there will always be work opportunities. I have a distant idea of offering funeral parade services focusing on deceased gearheads. IMO being hauled away in a classic hearse with rumbling exhausts would be much more in style with my way of living than some modern aerodynamic hearse. I’m sure it would be a great over-nighter too should one be on a road trip!

    This one is a so-called combination car having both a beacon and a medic’s seat. Back in the day it was not unusual for smaller communities to not possess an ambulance, but contract such services with the local funeral home. An act passed in ’74 terminated the possibility to utilize car-based ambulances. The funeral home that operated this Pontiac is still in business so I’m sure they have pics of it when in use.

    All hearses and ambulances of such vintage were coach-built vehicles and rare already when new. That doesn’t equal desirable( as in MONEY) but any remaining example is well worth saving. I agree with Miguel the BIN is hilarious; I do hope the reserve is low so it can be passed over to a caring new owner soon

    3
  11. GradyWilliams

    The price has this sell unresponsive DOA ..
    I mean 8000 for a departed corpse hauler ?
    Nice car to take your mom on her final trip to the graveyard or perfect for family outings .

    I think the upon blocks implies a trailer to live in🤤
    I guess trying to unload a car like this can be haunting.. I may so bold to suggest cremation with wood placed under car blocked up.

  12. Kenbo1951

    I live about 25 miles away . Beside the Airport.. The car needs a complete overhaul .
    Note to all , if headed in that direction I suggest a new Hi-Po 421 , matching Trans with Converter and Posi Rear and have Superior Coach restore the frame ,floors and all body work . Oh I forgot to mention Headers and custom Exhaust . Then I,d be glad to fork over 8K.

    1
  13. skibum2

    I have to tell you.. I am really getting tired of pictures where they do not clean up the car… IT’S FILTHY.. Nope, no chance of a sale from me..

    5
  14. KenB

    This belongs to a friend of mine; up until a few years ago, he was driving it to car shows. It even had been partially restored within the past decade. However, he fell behind with bills and wasn’t able to fix things that were going wrong with it. I was shocked when I saw its current state last year; I did not expect to see it sitting on blocks like this, exposed to the elements. His original Buy It Now price was $10,000!

    1
    • Mountainwoodie

      I love the styling of these Buick Combos………I’m sorry to hear about your friend’s financial straights.

      Sometimes its best to sell the car for a more reasonable price given the condition even when you need more money than the car will bring………ever.

      If you’re “shocked” at its condition so would be a potential buyer at this price point.

      I love to see this car preserved so maybe you can “influence ” your friend :)

      In high school we used to play football against a school in Pottstown, Hill School. Luckily I’m on the other coast or I’d have to go and have a look!

      2
      • KenB

        It is a cool car, and he has been dropping his price; I have to give him a call and see how low he’s willing to go!

        2
  15. Del

    Solid Body ?

    More than you can say for anyone that had to ride in the rear 😂🤣

    4
  16. Chebby Staff

    Some of these professional cars are quite ugly but this Pontiac has nice lines all around. You could make a creepy cool tow vehicle/camper/party car. (Imagine that interior done up in tufted dark velvet and low lighting like a vampire’s cocktail lounge.) Typically, the owner wants the completed-project price for it without even lifting a soapy rag. $1500 would be all the money for this.

    3
  17. Chebby Staff

    Also I wonder whether would this be too heavy to fit Pontiac 8-lugs?

    1
    • local_sheriff

      That’s actually a good question Chebby – at 5.000 lbs curb weigth it sure ain’t no lightweight.
      What I do know however is that a vehicle destined for such a conversion would be delievered to the coach builder as so-called commercial chassis. The vehicle manufacturer provided a complete rolling chassis with production front end sheetmetal up to the A-pillars. Typically such a chassis would roll on 8×15 steelies of beefier construction and gauge than regular production cars to cope with the added weight

      2
  18. Terry Menees

    I would be looking at turning that into Elvira’s version of the Monkey Mobile and having a grand time at Halloween…..or weddings!

  19. Robert Daykin

    Will have to watch this – much of the lower body trim on it is common with 2+2, only year and only 2 models to use the profile in the US. Canadian models used it as well. VVVHTF.

    • local_sheriff

      Be aware that both the 2+2 as well as Canadian Ponchos have a different wheel base than Bonnevilles, and the commercial chassis WB may be even longer

  20. Wayne

    Local_sherrif, no way 15X8 steelies, MAYBE 15X7 steelies at the widest. It most likes came with 15X6 2wd Chev. truck wheels. (Same 5 on 5″ bolt pattern at the time) I remember dealing with mid and late ’70s Caddy limos. They kept bending wheels and blowing out tires. (Northern Illinois Roads at the time were horrendous, we could usually guess the road/pot hole by the severity of the bend in the wheel) So I upgraded them to 15X7″ Chev 2wd truck wheels ( much thicker) and 700R15 load range D tires ( they came in whitewall at the time ) No more problems ( partially because of the higher tire pressures and stronger wheels) and tire life went from 15,000-18,000 miles to 60,000 miles. The customer was so happy that as soon as another limo needed tires, we switched that one over. Finally kept 2 sets, mounted and ready in stock. He had 25 limos.
    Recently ( about 5 years ago before retirement) I was involved in a newer hearse ( 2011???) and it had 16X7″ wheels. ( had to make modifications to the rear suspension as some frame flex caused the rear wheels to go negative camber and it did not have enough adjustment to correct)

    • local_sheriff

      Wayne; some months back I found a scan online of GM data sheets of available 60s commercial chassis. Though I have several 100 downloads of post-war to ’75 hearses/ambulances and respective sales brochures saved on my computer, I unfortunately seem to have missed saving those sheets… I may of course remember wrong; I may also have misread ‘6’ as ‘8’ due to bad print as I too thought that to be a wide wheel for 60s cars.

      If you or any other should know of those data sheets or similar documentation I’d be more than happy they post a link. I’m always eager to have verified my observations or be corrected if I’m wrong! :-)

      1
  21. Rube Goldberg Member

    Every time I see one of these stacked headlight Pontiac hearse/ambulances, even though it was a ’63, I think of that fateful day in Dallas in 1963, President Kennedys last ride.

  22. Ken Carney

    That it was Rube. I saw that hearse on a
    Barrett Jackson auction in 2013. The reserve wasn’t lifted so the owner took it
    home with him. You’re right Ralph, the
    cadaver transport business is indeed a
    narrow market–but a very active one.
    Here in Florida, funeral homes and corriner’s offices are begging for help in
    handling their overflow. If handled as the business it is, there’s nothing creepy about it at all. Anyone entering this business must take and pass the funeral
    director’s course in order to be licensed by the State Of Florida. So yeah, all this is
    indeed legit and dignified. All you need is
    the stomach for the business and you’ll be fine. As for me, I’m still looking for a
    reliable partner to start rakin’ in the green.

    1
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      I might be able to help Ken. I have always thought Florida is Gods waiting room. My SIL checked out 2 months ago in Florida and my big Brother is 80. I know the drill. Send me an email when you get time, I know you are busy. Best of luck with your new place. Take care bud, Mike.

  23. TimM

    It’s a dead issue!!!

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