Breathing life into a "dying trade"

Some might see it as a dying trade but passion for classic hearses is very much alive and kicking.

The funeral car is, of course, normally associated with sad and sorrowful occasions when we bid a final farewell to loved ones.

But have you ever wondered what happens to these vehicles when they themselves come to the end of their traditional working lives?

Well, the answer is some of them, rather than find their way to their own resting place, are put to a range of particularly novel and inventive uses.

They can be used for TV and film production, funeral premises openings, cemetery and crematorium open days and trade exhibitions

One Briton has made a bit of a name for himself by re-inventing the hearse for yet another use: by displaying them at such car shows.

Gary Edwards travels the length and breadth of the UK displaying his converted funeral hearse at shows.

The vehicle has been lovingly cared for and is in pristine condition. It has also been trailered to meet various demands

The modified hearse features many personal touches including side pipes, a dralon interior, a coffin and even a drinks optic in the side door. These hearses are seen as classics in their own right.

Gary tries to combine his passion for the hearse with another keen passion of his – as a supporter of Leeds United football club in the UK.

He has even travelled to games in his second hand hearse and says, “I take it to car shows throughout the summer – sometimes Saturday sometimes Sunday, depending on Leeds games – sometimes all weekend if there is no game.

His most recent shows were for Halloween events at the weekend.

Leeds-based Gary is a member of the Classic Hearse Register in the UK, the country’s only hearse and limousine club whose members are dedicated to this fascination past time.

Some might find the interest a tad morbid and ghoulish but not Gary who says it is all done in the best possible taste.

He told this website, “The Classic Hearse Register in is an organisation that is passionate about the history of the hearse, including the horse drawn days. The members’ knowledge of this majestic carriage is immense.”

He got my first hearse way back in 1978 – a 1964 Zodiac and he’s had a series of such vehicles since.

He used to travel to Leeds games in his 1966 Austin hearse with about a dozen of his mates in the back.

“When I drove down Lowfields Road outside Elland Road (the home of Leeds United) the police used to take their helmets off and wave me into the car park!”

“The Zodiac was a real proper show car. Nowadays, hearse’s are seen at ‘goth weekends’ and such like but back then, it was highly unusual and some would say bad taste to be seen driving one.

“But the Zodiac won best of show in its first three shows. I was once even parked alongside Alice Cooper’s Chevy at a show at the Birmingham NEC.”

He is full of amusing anecdotes relating to his unusual hobby and recalls the time he was once arrested for doing 96 mph in his hearse.

“When the police officer came up to my window I was sat there alongside my mate both dressed in full undertaker’s outfits with top hats, black gloves, white painted faces and sunglasses on,” he recalls, adding, “we were on our way back from a show!”

Gary adds, “I even once inadvertently ended up in the middle of a real funeral procession. I had a Jolly Roger flag on the aerial and black balloons sticking out of the window. I had to do a quick U turn over the central reservation.”

So, Gary and other members of the Register are happy to help bring back to life something that we normally associate with the after-life.

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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