1956 CADILLAC-METEOR LIMOUSINE MODEL 560 AMBULANCE
It's probably safe to say, collectors over the past decade have not placed Ambulances & Hearses on the Top of their "Must Have List" until NOW. These great, old, hand-built Professional Service Cars have been coming on really strong in value (just watch the auctions) for over 3 years... many are purchased from Overseas as "The Ultimate Yank Tank". For us, each has a unique history and deserve recognition for not only the great service they provided in our lives but, the fact they were all completely / individually custom made by the different Coach Builders. History shows us that unlike the 'usual' collectible classic cars, most have been crushed at the wrecking yard and made into Kelvinator Refrigerators (or worse). The result: diminished numbers = higher value on the Classic Car Food Chain.
By the mid-50's there were only a handful of Professional Coach Builders left in America; Superior, Eureka, Meteor Motor Car Co., A.J. Miller, and Hess & Eisenhart (S&S). Despite the fact Meteor had been building passenger cars since 1915, 1956 would be the Last Coach Building Days under the "Meteor Co." banner as they were acquired by Wayne Works-Divco which eventually became Miller & Meteor. Packard and the Henney Corporation were already 'history' so, faced with a choice of ONE coach builder; all these custom coaches were built on Cadillac's Extended 8680S Frame. As far as the history of this particular coach, our research shows it was delivered in 1956 to the Central Mountain District and it was serviced by Quantrell Cadillac at 163 West 6th St. in St. Paul Minnesota (receipts show a service at 37,150 miles on 4/6/62). It soon found it's way to a Fire Dept. in Altura (Winona County), Minnesota, near the Wisconsin border (population in 1956; was 493). It likely led a sheltered life in the Fire House and saw little use in that small town....mostly occasional house fires, and auto accidents at Route 61, State Road 248 or on Main Street. It's really in amazing condition, retaining most of it's original rear-cabin interior and much of it's original equipment. It has traveled only 86,000 miles over the last 55 years (1,563 miles per year) and has seen ownership from MN. to GA., TN. to NJ, CO. and Oregon....much of it, under title from members of Professional Car Organizations. We were told it has been lavished with a motor rebuild, complete tune-up, transmission service, new carburetor, drivers compartment interior, brakes, suspension, fuel system, cooling , re-chrome, electrical upgrade + alternator, custom matched Interior upgrade, paintwork & exhaust rebuild....and now, re-restored by us over the last 4 months.
The Great News is: the time has finally come when the A.A.C.A. and other National Car Clubs are honoring these full-service coaches, even designating them with their own 'Commercial Class' on the show field. Judging by the late, date coded VIN numbered motor ( which follows the same sequence as the chassis VIN # on vintage Cadillac's) and coupled with the Coach builders sequential serial number, one can easily speculate it was one of the last (or the Last) Ambulance/ Combination Coaches built under the Meteor Motor Car Company nameplate.
This coach is finished in "Alpine White" over "Mandan Red" with a two-tone "Taupe Gold" and "Sienna Brown Poly" Interior. It carries the original Cadillac 365 c.i. V8 / 285 hp Hydramatic Transmission, Radio delete, Heater, Power Steering & Power Brakes. Weighing in at a stealth 6,280 lbs and stretching (including 'Dagmar' Bumpers) nearly 22 feet long, this Highway Behemoth is loaded with Coachbuilt Options: Two-Tone Paint, Dash Mounted Compact Instrument Panel for Auxiliary Lighting / Equipment(upgraded), (2) Rear Bullet Emergency Lights, (2) Red Spot lamps, Roof-Mounted Siren-Lite (Model 20) Siren and Federal Beacon Ray Emergency Lights (Model 173), Disappearing Hooks for Aux. Stretchers, Adjustable Cam Lock & Safety Hook, Rear Door Chrome Step Plate, Wide Whitewall Tires and 3- Patient or Passenger Capability... which includes the (2) Jump seats. Lest we forget, it is also fitted with a Storage Cabinet & a restored period Ferno-Washington Gurney. We added the Vintage Resuscitator, original IV Bottles, Hook & Rack, (2) Type- E Oxygen Bottles on cradle, EKG, Defibulator, Red Emergency Cot Blanket, Vintage Door "Ambulance" Signs, and more. We even saw fit to buy & cosmetically restore 'old' both, a vintage Motorola Police FM Band 2-way and GE VHF Radio, w/ period Microphones & Antenna for that final touch. This is a 'go-find-one' car!
She just left re-restoration as pictured and judging by over 100 man hours spent so far, .... it is priced reasonably SOLD
Since this Pro-Car was competing against S&S's popular "Superline Knickerbocker" Coach this vehicle has some undeniable design similarities yet, instead it carries the unique bonus of Meteor's beautiful design & chrome window treatment. Meteor's exclusive trademark was not only the "Tri-Color Fashion Paint Schemes" but, this distinctive "Star Streak" chrome dipped side moldings with Owners Monogram Shield on the rear doors as seen here. This body design always made the Meteor easy to 'spot' (not unlike the S&S's chrome hood triangle). It is argued by some that this coach was, or was not, delivered as a straight Ambulance however, the body trim tag states '560 Model' which dictates it, at least, started life originally as a Combination Hearse / Ambulance (@ a cost of $8092-$9643 'new'). Still some argue it does not feature the "Speed-o-Magic" reversible Floor Casket Rollers often seen in the combination model. However. our research shows it could have been delivered 'either way' - it was simply.... "an option"! Incidentally, Meteor also offered a tubular aluminum removable 'casket cart' option in the Combination set-up. To give credence to both sides of the argument: Our Theory is: that sometimes folks forget (after 55 years) ..."Times were Tough" in America during 1956. If it wasn't for President Eisenhower pushing through the huge Federal Aid Highway Act in 1956, ten's of thousand's more American's would have been without jobs. Here's a quick History Lesson:
The year closed in negativity; Communist 'finger pointer' Sen. McCarthy was finally publicly unseated, Khrushchev was installed in Communist leadership in Russia, the cruise ship Andrea Doria would sink, there was major corruption in Cuba (Battista vs. Castro), the Korean War was just wound down, The Suez Canal would be in Crisis, Poland & Hungary would revolt, Russia would demoralize American's by being the First Super Power to beat the USA in getting a Satellite into Space (The"Sputnik") and even, Ed Sullivan would censor Elvis singing "Hound Dog" on TV by focusing the camera 'waist UP'. Finally: Fan favorites Humphrey Bogart and Jimmy Dorsey would both pass. So, let's throw this into the mix as well ! Meteor Motor Co. was already financially forced to merge with Wayne Co/ Divco. This reinforces OUR THEORY that by the end of production some late built Coaches went 'unsold' and Combination Coaches were sent out the door as 100% full-time Ambulances. This might fall under 'who cares"? but, the fact this great old coach still even exists in this glorious condition testifies to the quality build Meteor Motor Car Co. exhibited, as well as, the care this car was bathed in. As a final history note: Meteor was also the Very First Company to offer FINANCING to it's customers in the Funeral Business. Meteor pre-empted General Motors by several years with the First Finance Plan dating back to 1915.
Cadillac built 155,577 vehicles in 1956. Yet, only 2,025 Professional Cars were built, by all four Coach builders, on the 8680S Extended Commercial frame. Since many of them were straight Hearses, the build on this fine old Pro Car is remarkably LOW.
Further Medical Facts worth noting:
Dr. Elan and Dr. Safar developed the First Mouth-To-Mouth Resuscitation in 1956.
The First Portable Defibrillator and CPR were perfected at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore , MD. not long after.... (1959, to be exact).