Mention ‘muscle cars’ to most car fans and they’ll waste no time telling you about their favorite model. Chevy’s iconic Corvette, Ford’s Mustang Shelby, Pontiac’s Firebird Trans Am and – of course – the Dodge Charger have all become such cultural icons they are recognizable to car enthusiasts and the general public alike. These cars have come to represent power, freedom and the thrill of the open road.
So what happens when someone who loves these iconic pieces of American history passes away? For some, the thought of making their final ride in a traditional hearse leaves them feeling underwhelmed. Their family and friends often feel the same way and wish there was a way for their loved one to ride to their final place in a car befitting the way they lived.
That’s where muscle car hearses come in.
Back in 2009, these funeral cars made a splash when they were a part of Detroit’s Woodward Dream Cruise. Every August, the Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit, Michigan, dazzles thousands of spectators who come to see the best that the automakers have put out over the years. More than 40,000 custom cars, collector automobiles, street rods and other impressive vehicles line Woodward Avenue revving their engines and showing people what they got. But this year there is going to be a new unique addition to the annual event.
As part of the event, Lynch Sons Funeral Home of Clawson displayed a classic 1939 Henney-Packard hearse at Peabody’s Restaurant in nearby Birmingham. The hearse was part of a much larger display that showcased the history of the American funeral. The display, “Reflections: The American Funeral,” was a museum on wheels complete with exhibits on funeral customs, practices and other funeral-related items designed to educate and entertain. It featured relics from the past and glimpses of the future – including innovative new designs for funeral cars.
Muscle hearses were still new back then and, while they still haven’t exactly gone mainstream, they have developed an enthusiastic fan base. South East Funeral Services in Australia, for example, now offers muscle car hearse options for people who want to make their last ride one to remember. Then, in 2013, a team out of Atlanta, Georgia unveiled their custom hot rod hearse – a ’60 Cadillac Superior Coachworks hearse they had completely revamped, reworked and re-imagined into something new. They dubbed their creation the Thundertaker and had it featured on HotRod.com. You can check out the details of this 36-month build on HotRod’s feature article on the Thundertaker.
Muscle cars and hearses were not traditionally the kinds of cars most people would think of combining. As funerals have become more customizable, however, hearses have also become a way for people to express themselves. Collectors and funeral homes alike now see the benefit and the joy there is in creating beautiful hearses and other funeral cars by reworking the traditional views and creating a fleet of cars for a whole new generation.