HomeCar CultureWhy was there a hearse at the Concours d'Elegance of America's preview?

Why was there a hearse at the Concours d’Elegance of America’s preview?


Welcome to the preview for the Concours d'Elegance of America | Larry Edsall photos
Welcome to the preview for the Concours d’Elegance of America | Larry Edsall photos

It seems obvious (plus the event’s vehicle-selection-
committee chairman admitted as much) that including a class for 1980s Dream Cars — vehicles such as the Lamborghini Countach and others that shared space with those posters of Farrah Fawcett on the walls of adolescent boys’ bedrooms — and another for Early Japanese Sports Cars is an effort to attract a younger audience to the 37th Concours d’Elegance of America.

, Why was there a hearse at the Concours d’Elegance of America’s preview?, ClassicCars.com JournalBut that doesn’t mean the organizers are overlooking traditional classic car enthusiasts; there also are special classes for Ferrari Competition Cars, for Pierce Arrows of the Classic Era, another called Auto Show ’55 featuring 1955 models, and classes for vintage Bentleys and Duesenberg Model Js.

Plus there will be a special class of 20 sports cars, another for Detroit Pony Cars, a class for Bonneville Streamliners, one for drag-racing cars and another for sprint- and midget-class racers.

There also will be a display of all three of the Bizzarrini Spyders, a special showing of cars from Bruce Meyers’ collection, and even a display of cars owned by a couple of the Detroit Tigers baseball players.

In addition to the concours on July 26, activities the two previous days include a driving tour, visits to the Henry Ford Museum, an RM Sotheby’s auction, an automotive art show, a concert in the park in downtown Plymouth, Michigan, a Concours d’Lemons, a cars and coffee as well as special shows for German and Italian cars, two Hagerty lectures, a luncheon for Forgotten Harvest, and the Motor City Mingle to benefit the JDRF and its fight against juvenile diabetes.

Such highlights of the event were revealed Wednesday at the concours’ annual media preview, which we attended and a few hours afterward realized the question we should have asked:

Pray Funeral Home of Charlotte, Michigan has owned this hearse for 30 years

Who is the target audience for another of the event’s special classes — the one for hearses?

And officials of the Concours d’Elegance of America seemed downright proud that their’s will be the first such major concours in the United States to include a class for vehicles designed for the purpose of transporting coffins and their contents to interment.

Media day at the Inn at St. Johns, where the concours has been held for the past four years after its move from the Dodge family’s historic Meadowbrook Hall home, took the form of a mini-concours featuring a motorcycle, seven cars and a hearse – a 21-foot long 1937 LaSalle with amazing scrollwork along its flanks.IMG_4877

Joe E. Pray said his grandfather and great grandfather were in the dry-milk business when they were hired to help the woman who owned the local undertaking business in Charlotte, Michigan. They eventually bought that business, and a furniture store, where they kept caskets as well as couches, chairs, dressers and other typical house furnishings until purchasing a large house to serve as both a residence and funeral home.

Pray Funeral Home is in its 93rd year, said Joe E. Pray, whose father bought the LaSalle hearse some 30 years ago and had it restored more than a dozen years ago.

In good weather, the Prays still use the LaSalle for funerals, though Pray said he warns families that while it may be beautiful, it also is an old car that from time to time has mechanical issues.

That doesn’t seem to bother the families, he said, though he added that he does often have to referee regarding riding arrangements when family members start to debate who gets to ride in the old hearse on the way to the cemetery.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
  1. Another sleep-walked-through article from Lazy Larry – who increasingly seems to be all ‘Curriculum Vitae’ and no curriculum. The one thing that double L forgets to mention even one time is where this event is.

    Personally, I think double L is spread too thin, like a celebrity chef, and an assistant probably really wrote this.

  2. Loved my 1938 Lasalle Opera coupe that looked like the front of this hearse but it is a 1938 or the headlights have been moved.. Headlights were mounted on the grill shroud sides in 1937 as well as the Cadillac

  3. …..Larry, I must be a mind reader as I had no problem understanding “where & when” the event is being held. Especially after you referenced the events location during last four years after being held at Meadowbrook Hall…..the last location that I attended the event back in the early 80’s just prior to moving to Los Angeles. Maybe it was the mention of Meadowbrook that caused me to “focus” on the information for the event’s current location and the date it will occur on.

    • Sorry, Larry, if I was too caustic – it was otherwise a good piece – and I liked the car show on The History Channel on which you appeared, and am glad that I got the ‘heads up’ about tat from Classic Cars.com. Funny name for an undertaker – “Pray” – I guess it’s never too late.

    • Also, a morbidly beautiful dead sled – have never seen anything remotely like that – fit for a gangland burial, for sure. “Send lotsa flowers.”

  4. Larry,, was looking for documentation from you for this modern in 1938 LaSalle emblematic carriage. It serves as a bold and beautiful vehicle for those appreciative of Funeral and Ambulance customization as well as the societies that reverence them.

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