DREAMCARS Mount Dora, Fla. (352) 385-1945
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1966 CADILLAC 'CROWN SOVEREIGN' FUNERAL COACH
It is the opinion of many Cadillac Only Collectors
that the 1966 model was The Finest Hour for Cadillac Motor
Cars. Then again, I'm sure we've all experienced the humor of watching
Ford vs. Chevy vs. Mopar 'Lovers' exchange their opinions on one marque or year being
better then the other. The same argument takes place when Pro Car
Collectors (Hearses/ Ambulances/ Limousines) get together to
discuss the merits of one Coach Builder vs. the other. My experience PALES in the shadow of
the expert's like Tom McPherson or Walter McCall but, I instinctively keep coming
three Coachbuilders Superior, S&S (Hess &
Eisenhardt) and Eureka as the Best Quality Build.
This 52 year -old Vintage Funeral Coach gives
testimony to the incredible quality of the Superior Coach Works spawned from
Lima, Ohio. Back in 1966, Superior offered numerous Models from the base model
'Royale' to the "Crown Royale", to the ''Sovereign",
to the most luxurious: 'Crown Sovereign'. This model was the
Top of The Line...the Finest this Coach Builder had to offer.
One of 241 ever made in the Endloader style* Total production of ALL Coachbuilders that year was 2,463
units. So, in the big scope of things, this model Coach represents about 10% of
production. However, as the fancy 'Crown Sovereign' Model , quite probably one
of 24-25. While Cadillac Passenger Car Sales exceeded 200,000, Superior had to
'make it's mark' in order to rise above the rest of the Coachbuilders
so, they offered
a beautiful new-styled Funeral Coach. The
Superior Crown Sovereign succeeded with a "traditionally
conservative" Coach featuring a more sculptured
enclosed rear quarter section. The Coup Degras' was, it carried a
magnificent full Chrome Crown Molding over the roof (copied later for
every single major Coach Builder). It had a matching Stainless Crown
inside the coffin chamber.
Then, top it off with beautifully crafted Chrome Crown Embellishments throughout
the Cabin, on the exterior sides of the Coach and even the backdoor, inside and
out. Plus, only this model carried ALL the luxury frills, including a better
grade upholstery carroied out in the door panels and sides, as well as, a large Chrome Medallion on the backdoor. The rear
fender quarters displayed the "Crown" Signature nameplate next to the "Superior"
badge and testified to onlookers & admirers.... that it's owner was a First
Class Funeral Home that could afford 'better service' by offering a
Deluxe Version Funeral Coach, truly worthy of it's Crown, literally "The
King" of The Coachbuilder's Line.
Built on the traditional Extended Cadillac Commercial Frame (224.5 " in
length) it offered a Standard of Luxury unmatched by the others.
The Crown Model was offered in two different versions a Limousine or
with Glass Side Windows , or a Closed Rear Cabin Style with Chrome Landau Bars
on the sides. The Funeral Director, or Mortician, could choose from
not only the color to match his Fleet but, the color of flooring or carpet and
even the option of a Vinyl Roof Covering or, Stipled Finish Roof Coating. Engines offered were the same for all
models built on the Cadillac Commercial Chassis with the 429 (7 liter) 340 hp
@4600rpm V8 and 3 speed Turbo-Hydra matic Automatic
Transmission, standard. As usual, following the Conservative Funeral Director
format, unlike production Cadillac's, other typical luxury amenities were
offered at extra charge, but seldom ordered. Those being Air Conditioning, Power
Windows, Bucket Seats, Tilt Steering Wheel, ''SuperLift Ride" and some times,
even the Radio System. Superior however offered as
many items that
Coachbuilders charged extra for. For instance;
All Superior Coaches came from the factory with Tinted ("Shaded Glass"), Choice
of Door Post Hinging, Aux. Door Locks, Top Grain Genuine Leather Seating, Power
Steering & Brakes, Loading Lights, Dual Sun Visors, Custom Made Front Armrests on the door
panels, complete Triple Undercoating, "Super Zinc" Steel Rockers, and to combat
rust, Fiberglass Panel Construction from the backdoors to the rear fender. Even
the Partition Glass was fitted with Non-Glare Glass, at no charge, to eliminate
reflection while driving. According to the Convention Brochure on this Model, 10
casket rollers, Bier Pins, Church Truck Well, and 5 Draperies were also
included. This was the year Superior booted-up their paint process by adding "Advanced Professional
Paint Booths", employed by Cadillac, which provided multiple coats of Acrylic
Lacquer. These were baked on, and color sanded-then, baked again and
rebaked a 3rd time. This process gave the highest possible gloss and long lasting
finish. Offering a minor facelift in 1966, fewer Pro Cars were sold that
year up against record setting sales in 1965. But, in all fairness, one has to also take into
consideration a Union Walk-Out on April 1, 1966 folollowed by an
Employee(s) Strike. Yet,
Superior still finished an Industry leader. The company even completed an
additional, new 21,000 sq. ft. . Fiberglass Plant in Norwalk, Ohio closing the
year with total employment of 1200 people and an annual payroll of $7,000,000.
Superior was the Largest , Most Successful
Professional Car and Bus Manufacturer in the USA in 1966.
This particular Coach is finished in it's original color of "Nevada
Silver" with Black Vinyl Roof (refurbished) and Black Brocade Interior
Appointments w/ restored ( Real not faux, as often seen) Leather Seating w/ White Piping. It has the
original AM/FM Radio, Clock, Power Antennae, and Remote Mirror. It carries the
optional White Wall Tires and the Standard Cadillac Hubcaps, which we will probably
colorize. Only the Crown Sovereign model had the smaller rear window but, the
attractive Brushed Aluminum Chrome Lower Rear 1/4 Fender Moldings were Standard on
ALL Crown Models. We will replace the original , Ivory Drapery with
new, Custom professionally Made Drapes. The engine cavity, usually ignored by most FD's, is
detailed 'show worthy' still retains the original Makers stamped data plates and
Cadillac Motor Car ID plates. This Coach has all it's original Paperwork,
including Owners Manuals, Warranty Booklet, Protect-O-Plate/Booklet illustrating
the original owner's name "Valley Hearse Service" in Eugene, Oregon ("delivered
5/24/1966"), Showroom brochure, and even includes the original custom "Especially Made For" Chrome
Nameplate normally fastened to the dash ... a bragging point for any ''FD''.
This Coach cost new: $11,625.00 (+ options).
That computes today to: $76,357.16 CPI). This is a Model DL
604 and McPherson's Superior 'Complete History' Book shows that would
be One of 241 made.
( While total Superior Cadillac
Pro Car production was 983 in 1966). The Coach Body is
which makes it 33rd from last built. Not unusual, it also features all
Eureka Co. Casket Rollers and equipment inside the Casket
Chamber, as Superior was known to have purchased all the (expensive remaining
Chrome) hardware from Eureka when they closed their doors in 1964 (Eureka unable
to bear the cost of re-tooling for the new body style). Thereby, making this
Coach not only attractive but, a bit more unique.
The 1966 Model is also unique in
that it's one of the 'stacked headlight' versions offered 1965-68 which has
it's own following amongst hobbyist. Despite it's age this Coach runs like
new and just had a compression test (3x) showing supreme compression per
cylinder ! It has plenty of power and floats down the highway as you would
expect a Classic of this caliber. This Coach hails from Oregon where it was
part of a Professional Livery Service. It then moved to California during
it's caring ownership. The chrome is remarkable (one flaw), the paint
excellent and Vinyl Top near new. We are re-restoring this Coach to make it
even better replacing the original with New drapes, Alum. Coachwork and more. This would make a great 'front-line' Coach for any respectable
Funeral Home, especially one dating back to 1966. Now, a proud addition to
our Museum Floor. Offered at
The Superior Coach Story:
The Superior Coach Company dates back to 1915
when The Garford Motor Truck Co. Lima, Ohio Established in 1909 Garford was
a leading manufacturer of heavy trucks and had introduced a successful line
of 25-29 passenger buses in 1923. A group of local Lima businessmen sensed
the opportunity and formed the Superior Motor Coach Body Co. in May of 1923
to construct bodies for Garford's new bus chassis. A small 12,000 sq. ft.
plant was purchased in downtown Lima under the tootling of President, Emmett
It then re-organized under the name The Superior Body
Encouraged by the emerging Funeral Coach trade, Superior
decided to enter the fray and introduced a line of funeral cars and
ambulances mounted on purpose-built Studebaker or Cadillac chassis in 1925.
Their new stylish coaches all used the same basic body and
were mounted on specially prepared Professional Car Chassis and featured
contemporary limousine styling.
Their funeral cars included large windows and fashionable leather-surfaced
landau tops, while their ambulances featured large frosted rear windows and
all the latest accessories.
Identical Studebaker and Studebaker-Superior coaches were
marketed by both firms throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s, although
Superior would mount their bodies on any chassis the customer desired,
placing quite a few on Cadillac chassis.
Their typical Landau topped or leather-back coach had a top
covered in a synthetic material such as Chase leather, 'Fabrikoid' or
'Zapon' upon which a Chrome or Nickel-plated Faux Landau bar was attached.
The idea was to give the appearance of a "Landaulette". A landaulette was
generally a formal body with a leather or cloth roof portion over the rear
seating area that could be folded back to afford the occupants the pleasure
of an open air ride.
A big selling point of Studebaker and Superior-Studebaker was
that they could be serviced at any of the 2000+ Studebaker Erskine Dealers
around the country.
1927 Superior coaches were usually mounted on purpose-built
158" Studebaker professional car chassis although other chassis could be
substituted at the request of the customer. However, one Cadillac chassis
featured an attractive Town Car styled funeral coach that featured a
removable leather roof over the driver that could be removed for
Studebaker then acquired Pierce-Arrow in 1928 and a striking
Pierce-Superior funeral coach was presented at the 1931 National Funeral
Directors Convention. It included a free-wheeling 4-speed synchromesh
transmission, hydraulic ride control, 4-wheel hydraulic brakes, and a 125hp
engine all riding on a wheelbase of 160". The interior was filled with solid
walnut fixtures and the seats and upholstery were finished in luxurious
mohair. Pierce-Superior coaches could be outfitted as an ambulance or a
funeral car and were also available as town cars. At least one '31-'32
Auburn-chassis'ed ambulance was built, but Cadillac chassis soon
became the 'bespoke chassis of choice' starting in 1932.
Superior's History is hallmarked with many
accomplishments. Here are just a few more;
While Superior continued to furnish bodies for Studebaker's
popular line of professional cars, they also sold their own coaches in
1935-1936 mounted on Pontiac and Studebaker chassis. The streamlined
styling introduced in 1934 continued and all coaches were available in
either rear-loading or side-servicing versions
that used another First: Superior's "Sidroll" loading system that was
designed and patented by Superior employee Sydney Paul. The 'Sidroll
system' featured built-in rollers heavy-duty rollers that rotated on an axis
and eliminated the need for a casket table. Side-loading coaches were easily
distinguishable by their extra-wide 54" side doors that were noticeably
narrower on rear-loading versions.
In 1937 Superior put together a partially Art-Carved model
that consisted of removable metal stampings mounted over the side doors and
rear quarter windows. It looked more like a Service car than a Funeral
Coach, but was mounted on a Studebaker 6-cylinder chassis. Its low price
attracted more than a few buyers. All Superior bodies featured a new
fastback rear-end treatment that looked great but, significantly
reduced headroom at the rear of the coach. The 1937 catalog was devoted to
Cadillac and Pontiac-chassised coaches as their arrangement with Studebaker
was soon to come to an end.
Although A.J. Miller had been an early proponent of
stamped-metal body construction, Superior was the first coachbuilder to
use a 100% steel electrically-welded body shell. This all-new body
appeared in 1938 and included a long subtly arched-roof plus a beltline that
gently sloped downward to the modern-looking fastback rear-end. Superior's
already-wide doors became wider still and could accommodate any casket or
gurney without the need for a forward sliding driver's seat or center-split
divider. When mounted on a LaSalle chassis equipped with dual side mounts
and wide whitewall tires, the 1938 Superior was one of the most
attractive coaches of the late 1930's, bar none .
In 1939 Superior built a custom,
over-the-top, Town Car-style Hearse for a Michigan Funeral Director that
included internal and external gold-plated hardware, green and silver
draperies topped off by turquoise mohair upholstery. Superior also offered
optional built-in roof-top warning lights for their Ambulances starting this
year. Also available was a backlit display that displayed the word
"AMBULANCE" mounted between the two light pods. Just a few small examples
WHY Superior was a market leader in innovation and design. A premise
that carried them through for Decades.
Even by 1965, the Cadillac Models were
the Most Thoroughly Designed and re-Engineered Cars Cadillac prepared for
the General Public in nearly a decade. That dramatic design
was extended to the Commercial chassis as well. Dubbed Chassis# 69890 (with
the exception of the now 1 YEAR-OLD new engine and same wheelbase),
everything about the Cadillac Commercial Chassis was NEW. The most
significant change was the replacement of the "X" Frame Chassis used from
1957-1964. it replaced with a Box type frame that extended out to the outer
edges of the body shell. The new chassis provided a lower center of gravity
and much greater torsional rigidtry. They also got the new
GM TurboHydra-Matic Transmission. Available on the Commercial Chassis was
the New Cadillac "Superlift" Air-level Ride as an option. The 156" wheelbase
continued and the new Superlift System keep the Coach level at all times so
it never bottomed-out. Superior complimented the changes with many new
improvements including rear doors 2.5" wider then previous.
Styling was highly refined in the rakish steep raked 'C' Pillar design
(started in 1959). Even the doors were designed with dovetail construction
to guaranteed long life.
National Magazine advertising said it all:
each model year Superior, on Cadillac's Commercial Chassis, traditionally
offers more variety in styling, more interior elegance, more of everything
you want in your Professional Coach with much more standard equipment. Being
new in itself is a tradition at Superior, your finest choice of all in the
fine coach field."
With heartfelt Thanks
to: Standard Catalog Cadillac 1903-1990,
and as the 'Crown Sovereign' Model , quite probably one of 24.
*Thomas McPherson "Superior- The
Complete History", Phantom Coaches.com, Coachbuilt.com and to my old friends
at the Professional Car Society