1966 CADILLAC 'CROWN SOVEREIGN' FUNERAL COACH
I'm sure we've all experienced the humor of watching Ford vs. Chevy vs. Mopar 'Lovers' exchange their opinions on one marque 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 personally 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. 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. 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 d' Gras' 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 carried 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 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-Hydramatic 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 back doors 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 followed 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 beautifully re-finished in it's original color of "Nevada Silver" with Black Vinyl Roof (refurbished) and Black Brocade Interior Appointments w/ restored ( Real not faux) 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 will probably be colorized. 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 replaced the original, Ivory Drapery with new, Custom professionally Made Drapes and just re-tested the motor as A-1. 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. We just completed refurbishing the stainless and restoring the dash pad to new. 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. This is a Model DL 604 and McPherson's Superior 'Complete History' Book shows that would be One of 241 made. (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 small flaw), the paint excellent and Vinyl Top near new. We are re-restoring this Coach to make it even better. 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.