Classic DREAMCARS Mount Dora, Fla. (352) 385-1945 www.classicdreamcars.com

                       
                        
                          



               



              



                   



                    



               



                

                                                            
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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 back to 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 years by 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 Combination Style, 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 Standard Equipment many items that other 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 HEARSE

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 Leather Seating w/ White Piping ( Real Leather not faux, as often seen). 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 intend to 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 have replaced the original , Ivory Drapery with new, Custom professionally Made Silvertone fabric Drapes. We also restored the lower valance Aluminum Panel. 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 numbered "#950", 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. Re-priced -engine test excellent, will not have to be rebuilt . 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 $48,500.

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 R. Curtin.
It then re-organized under the name The Superior Body Company.
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 fair-weather driving.
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.

Superiors 1966 National Magazine advertising said it all:

 
"With 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