Hearse Week Capsule: 1974 Olds Hearse – The Keeper’s Crypt

1974 Oldsmobile Hearse Front View

(In anticipation of Halloween, we’re going to feature one hearse each day this week.)

Since Halloween is knocking on our doors, it was terrific to find this old beast for sale on Craigslist, in Ruckersville, Virginia. $3k takes it, but caveat emptor. You’ll see why.

Although Cadillacs are usually associated with hearses, this modified 98 doesn’t seem to be a rarity. They were customized by Cotner-Bevington, which also turned some of them into ambulances. This is advertised as having the 455 Rocket engine and the 400 turbo transmission. You’d need it when fully loaded to reach speeds of more than ten miles an hour.

Side View 1974 Oldsmobile Hearse

The rust worm has attacked! The buyer lists this as being yellow, and maybe it once was Omega Maize. I see more of a tannish-green, but Mother Nature can be cruel. That’s especially true inside the vehicle. Whoever ponies up the cash has a lot of work to do,

1974 Oldsmobile Hearse Speedo

The floorboards are gone and it looks like the poor old thing is stuck in drive. Ah, but I think I see some air conditioning. This does not seem to offer the “Air Cushion Restraint” system that was offered on some cars in 1974. These early airbags inflated with a wallop and buyers, in retrospect, had a right to be skeptical. Especially if there were dropping a lot of dough on a big yellow and green customized hearse. It does have the federally-mandated 5 mph bumpers, and at least there’s a radio.

1974 Oldsmobile Hearse Interior

Here’s some Brougham for you too. I have vague memories of the 70s, but seem to remember the color theme of my parents’ appliances and every Norman Lear sitcom: pea green, mustard yellow, brown, and orange, the color of rust. The crank window and the quilting are just right. The ambulance models were much more austere.

1974 Oldsmobile Hearse

Perhaps a selling point would be the things you can carry. In this case, some muddy old tires, a scissor jack and an old car seat are just fine. This era 98 is described as the roomiest Oldsmobile ever, allowing ample space for kids, patients or caskets. The slightly bent-up vents in the back serve a practical purpose: chilling you down on your ride to the hereafter.

The end...


While stretched-out luxury cars remained the standard hearses, “Ghostbusters”-style ambulances were on the way out. That is thanks to the 1973 EMS Systems Act. In a nutshell, it meant that communities that got federal cash for EMS service had to have the truck and van based ambulances we are all used to now. The mandate kicked into effect in 1978, but Cotner-Bevington’s parent company saw the writing on the wall and closed the division in 1975.

The Oldsmobile 98 evolved a lot over the years and lost most of its plushness. It disappeared in 1996 when the LSS and the Regency were introduced. Then Oldsmobile itself was gone with the wind in 2004. There were no funerals for that.

From Flickr

From Flickr

Restored, these old war horses can be real eye-catchers at car shows if you can afford to keep them gassed up. It’s hard to say when this one was last registered. Those two squares on the front window aren’t very telling. One is certainly a completely outdated inspection sticker, and the other is probably one of the old county tax stickers that were phased out in most places by 2008. Just looking at those old tires and everything else, I’d say it’s been at least 25 years since that rubber met the road.

Oh, and at the end of the ad, the seller mentions the title burned up in a fire and a new one is being applied for. Until then you’re either stuck with the scariest unfinished project of all, or the most expensive Halloween prop on the block.