It’s Sunday and I’m going through some Autopian finances, trying to get my new LA living quarters remotely livable, and just generally stressing out about everything, as I do. I’m here with my two German friends, Andreas and Josie, whom I lent my 1985 Jeep J10 pickup for their cross-country honeymoon road trip. (You’ll hear more about how that went as soon as the newlyweds write it up). Andreas just showed me the wacky 1990 Dodge Caravan you see here. Given that he’s the second person to show me the Facebook listing, I figured I’d share it with you, dear readers.
Never forget that minivans are the most honest, hardest working vehicles in the world. They spend their first decade shlepping around messy, vomit-prone, careless rugrats, along with their furry companions. Then, when the vans have fallen behind the times in term of vehicle safety, and families therefore no longer want to use them to transport their most precious cargo, minivans get a break and live a life of luxury in rich suburbs.
Just kidding. They either get stripped out and turned into living quarters for a “van lifer” or, more commonly, they get recruited as work vans, lugging around paint crews, plumber’s equipment, heavy furniture, electrician’s tools, catered food, mobile mechanics’ wrenches, animals that need walking, and on and on.
Vans lead a hard life, then they lead an even harder life, then they die. Never disrespect them, for they are the most honest form of automotive transportation in existence.
I’m not particularly well-versed on this topic, but I’d guess a hearse is probably among the more leisurely second-lives a van could live. The gig involves carrying a driver, an extremely important horizontal passenger, and some equipment, and there’s some rather slow driving to final resting spots involved. Still, it’s a real job, not just a morning commute for a single passenger, as is the life of a typical full-size pickup truck in America these days.
This first-gen Chrysler minivan — the one that started the unibody passenger van craze in the mid 1980s — is a rather interesting choice for a hearse. Typically a hearse is a luxury vehicle that’s been extended into a big, coffin-carrying wagon. A rather basic child-hauler isn’t a common tool for this job, though it’s definitely practical given how spacious this van is right out of the box. This particular Dodge Caravan needed a few feet of stretch, and features a removable landau bar panel. Here’s the seller’s description:
Very unique Dodge Caravan. Was used at a funeral home so is has been professionally extended. Only 97,000 original miles runs and drives great has some rust on passenger side rocker panels and a few other spots. The window panels have been removed but they can be put back on very easily if interested, and have any questions please feel free to reach out.
The final model year of the first-gen Chrysler minivan, this 1990 machine has a V6 engine bolted to an automatic transmission. The hearse has fewer than 100,000 miles on the clock, and it shows in that gorgeous burgundy interior — a common color back in the 1980s and 1990s:
Interestingly, the rear bench seats have been retained; I’m assuming those were reinstalled for the sale, though perhaps the funeral home used this machine to transport the living, as well.
The van was for sale for $3,000 in Hatfield, Massachusetts, though it’s now listed as “pending.” I’m curious what the new owner has planned for it. Van life in a former hearse?
Images: Facebook Marketplace
We are assuming that there will be something left of David to bury, I expect something like, I can’t remove this rusted part at all so I will just toss some azidoazide azide on it and see what happens
You need the hearse from Harold and Maude. A converted Jaguar.
It’s iconic and anyone over 55 knows that Jag.
I’m under 55 and I know that Jag. It probably has a better drag coefficient than stock!
Wow, in my hometown, no less.
Very glad to hear that Andreas and Josie arrived safe, and assumedly with none of their limbs frostbitten off.
We don’t know that. Perhaps the reason the article is taking a long time is that they no longer have functional fingers to type with. 😉
And “coincidentally” David writes about a cheap Mopar hearse with his name written all over it. Hmm
No, David, the one you want is the Holy Grail diesel manual AWD Chrysler minivan hearse with Euro-spec tail lights – obviously.
Let’s round off to 100,000 miles. Figure an average round trip distance of 10 miles. And this vehicle has delivered 10,000 souls to their final resting place.
No thank you. I’ll take a car for the living.
(I need to borrow the Crack Pipe from that other publication to wrap my head around this one.)
Ashes to Ashes, David to Rust.
Andreas, I took one look at this on marketplace and said to myself: “David would totally buy this if he had a goth phase or knew what one was.” Glad you had a similar urge. Enjoy the epic honeymoon trip and can’t wait to read about it!
My grandfather had a mid/late 80s Chevy truck. Two tone red and white, and a big bed topper on the back. After his funeral, the casket was loaded up into the back of the truck and driven to the cemetery. You could hear it sliding around back thwre. I was only 10 at the time but they had me drive the truck through the cemetery. It was weird.
I would only hope this is way off in the future, but I do envision a video of David being carried to his final resting place in the fields of Moab in this hearse, including an instagram video where zombie David emerges from the back and narrates…
“Well, we’re half way to Moab, I still have several days of driving to do, but as you can see, the hearse’s transmission decided to implode in the middle of a rain storm on the side of a mountain. We’re going to run to Autozone and grab a few adjustable wrenches and wire ties to see if we can fix it.”
Fun to see stretched 90ies minivans. Over here (DK) we used to have them shortened for some tax loophole reasons, so the luggage compartment percentage of the total length of the car was enlarged, so a lot of Astrovans and the likes had their rear bumpers tucked in under the car. But then people just fitted a tow hitch and then they had a 5 inch (centre) “bumper” anyway.
“Rumor has it, this hearse carried Lee Iacocca to his final resting site. And, on a quiet day, if you listen carefully, you can hear the platform sharing and fiscal restraint.”
Holy Overhang, Batman!
I’m getting a whole “Weekend at Bernie’s” vibe from this thing here.
We see some really weird shit for sale up here in Western MA. This is a first.
Hope it continues life as a party bus
I always figured your final ride would be in a rusty Jeep that was 1 of only 250 produced during its model cycle, either because we got together to give you the sendoff you deserve or because you died in a horrible wrenching accident. Like the death of Spinal Tap’s 1st drummer it would be an incident the police said was best left unsolved.
Looks like a double duty entry. Can be a hearse or the family vehicle.
Interesting story, when one of my family members was buried the funeral home did not have a family vehicle. My Parent’s black Deville was recruited. They rode with me in my Impala.
Bear in mind that your final ride will probably have to be big enough to carry you and the driveshaft you’re wrapped around, or something like that.
This beast solves the problem with most family haulers: If you max out the passenger capacity, there’s not much room left for their stuff.
That is why vans are the best, you look at a highlander’s rear cargo area with the third row up compared to a sienna, and it’s not even close. The sienna and other vans always still have significant rear cargo space even with all seats up.
Call me superstitious if you’d like but the idea of #vanlife-ing in a vehicle that was used to transport the dead gives me the heebee jeebies….
The dead are just people who are permanently chill. Think of them as semi-realistic CGI of an unconscious human.
That meat bag you’re walking around in is nothing but recycled dead things…
Nobody actually died in it.
With that Kardashian butt that thing is sporting, all I can picture in my head is people loading out the recently expired passenger, and the whole thing just tips backwards, leaving the front wheels up in the air as the casket scoots out and down the street, like some kind of 3 Stooges short
If you’re traveling and dwelling in a hearse, wouldn’t that be Van Afterlife?
Or, perhaps Vlad Life?
As a vanlifer myself, I approve this comment. Thumbs up.
Oh, I forgot one more thing: I have a friend whose family had a funeral home. IIRC, I believe he told me that they will either use old hearses, or back in the day, station wagons as cheaper transport to take bodies from hospitals/nursing homes/morgues, and use the nice hearse for the processions…
I believe you can still order very lightly modified minivans from the same coachbuilders that do hearses (basically, they just tack on a padded vinyl panel with a faux landau bar on the rear side), which are sold for that exact purpose – shuttling bodies around before the actual funeral, but not the ceremonial procession itself.
From what I’ve seen in my line of work (medical examiner), most funeral homes or transport services (companies other than funeral homes that specialize in transporting the deceased) use cargo vans for body transportation prior to the ceremony. These vans are generally not marked or modified in any way. I have seen a few hearses and other purpose-built vehicles used for this purpose, but those are less common.
Had an old neighbor that passed away last year. In the morning, there was a police car at the house and someone who was dressed like a paramedic but not in an ambulance stopped by.
Later that day, a black Chevy cargo van showed up with two guys who were fairly dressed up. I assume they were there to retrieve the body.
Not stalking the house, I just see the street from my home office.
My friend passed peacefully at home, surrounded by friends. The way-more polite-than-necessary suit-dressed team from the funeral home loaded him into a black Suburban, the only modification being the gizmos to latch the gurney in place.
When my grandfather passed at home, a Toyota Sienna showed up to take him to the funeral home.
When I was in college, I bought a 1972 Cadillac hearse. The rollers had been removed, but I still had them. Suicide doors, a 472. Many stories about that car. We called it the “Doom Buggy”, and then when I went to law school, it became “The Ambulance Chaser”.
I ended up selling it to a guy who did drywall, and he specifically asked if I still had the rollers. When you think about it, it’s a perfect vehicle for drywall transportation…
But the rollers, to me, seem to be the big clue as to the use of this particular vehicle. If it doesn’t have rollers, it’s probably not transporting a casket. Maybe this was the limo for the funeral home?
I like the funeral limo theory. It looks like the third row is the same width as the second row to allow access to the space in the back. I wonder if there was a 4th row at some point?
That interior suggests its the limo to the local brothel for the cheer-up afterparty.
Hopefully you won’t need this for so long that all of the gasoline will be gone aside from the many gallons you’ll inevitably stash in a series of tanks and barrels hidden in and around a massive field full of rotting “holy grail” Jeeps, mini vans, imported utes and half finished projects, as well as the select high octane you keep safely hidden in the garage behind the “good” “holy grail” Jeep you’ll be buried in.
My wife and I have been looking at vans, but after weeping at the 40k new ones, and 35k used ones, oddly, this seems like a decent option…