Special Report A“Professional” Vehicle Meet

July 1, 2011 | By Ted Kade

You’ve No Doubt Attended Car Shows and Club Meets… But How About One for Ambulances and Hearses?

MUSCLE CAR OWNERS RESPOND to the roar of a high-performance engine and the promise of acceleration that will pin them in their seat; brass car fans seek out quiet country roads where their early vehicles will feel at home and not have to contend with the rigors of today’s traffic conditions; sports car followers look forward to a day at a track that’s punctuated with hairpin turns and other tight maneuvers…So what is it that motivates members of the Professional Car Society, a club that’s “Dedicated to the preservation & appreciation of vintage ambulances, funeral cars & livery vehicles.”

After all, cruising in an ambulance doesn’t seem quite the same as motoring along in a mid-’50s convertible with the top down, and it’s one thing to stop at the drive-in for a burger and fries while behind the wheel of your vintage Corvette, and quite another to roll up in a shining hearse.

If you’ve wondered about that yourself, you’ll have a chance to interact with a number of Professional Car Society (PCS) members and see lines of their prized vehicles up close and personal when the club holds its 35th Annual International Meet July 12-16 at the Clarion Inn & Conference Center, 240 East Hines Hill Road, in Hudson, Ohio, (between Cleveland and Akron).

And according to organizers, you’ll find that some things are the same as you’d expect to find at any major club meet.

“Contrary to what you may think, professional car enthusiasts are just like other car hobbyists,” said meet committee member Ron Devies. “You’ll see a lot of waxing, polishing and showing off of some of the most beautiful hand-built cars in the country.”

Furthermore, Devies pointed out that “This isn’t a Halloween event where caskets, skeletons or other morbid decorations are allowed on the show field, because we want the public to focus on the aesthetics and hand-built quality of these vehicles.”

A Logical Meeting Spot

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The oldest motorized hearse at last year’s Professional Car Society meet was this 1919 Reo Speed Wagon. Note how the ornate carriage lamps are nearly as tall as the doors.

The club said in a news release that it was “perhaps inevitable” that a major meet would be held in Ohio “as the state has been home to so many builders of ambulances and funeral vehicles” including A.J. Miller of Bellefontaine, Bender Body of Elyria, Meteor Motor Car of Piqua, Riddle Coach & Hearse of Ravenna, the Shop of Siebert in Toledo, Superior of Lima and the Cincinnati-based Crane & Breed, Sayers & Scovill and Hess & Eisenhardt.

It’s expected that the Ohio meet will draw dozens of “classic hearses, flower cars, ‘first call’ coaches, limousines and automobile-based ambulances” from across the U.S. and Canada, and some attendees may be winging in from as far away as England and Australia

And yes, many of the PCS meet activities will be no different from what you would expect at any major vintage vehicle gathering.

For example, things will get started with a riverfront car cruise for “early bird” attendees in downtown Cuyahoga Falls at 4 p.m. Monday, July 11.

On Tuesday morning there will be a convoy to the Military Aircraft Preservation Society (MAPS) Museum off Ohio 241 at the Akron-Canton Regional Airport. Once there, the cars will team up with historic planes inside the hangars for a photo shoot. That will be followed by lunch at a Swensons Drive-In in North Canton. (And who said you don’t find these vehicles at a burger joint?)

Wednesday morning a charter bus will head to the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland, and a subsequent 12:30-4:30 p.m. stop at the Lake Erie waterfront will offer “a wealth of self guided tour options” ranging from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to the World WarIIsubmarineU.S.S.COD,the restored Great Lakes freighter William G. Mather and the International Women’s Air & Space Museum. Wednesday evening there will be seminars on the history of Mississippi’s Pinner Coach Co. and the history of ambulance service. (EMS and funeral professionals can use these seminars to earn continuing education credits. Not surprisingly, a number of paramedics and funeral workers are active in the PCS and own vintage professional cars.)

Thursday evening’s entertainment will be a 7:30 p.m. double feature at the Midway Drive-In Movie Theater in Ravenna. “We do this one as an Ohio Chapter event every year,” said Meet Chairperson Sarah Snook. “Don’t forget to bring an FM radio if your procar doesn’t have one in the dashboard.” (For those who haven’t been to a drive-in movie in some time, they now pipe the sound into your car through your radio instead of one of those hulking metal speakers that you used to hang on the inside of your window. To be completely honest, I only recently learned that myself while reading an article on drive-in theaters.)

Friday morning’s general membership meeting will precede a Guinness World Record attempt at the longest-ever hearse procession. The record attempt will take place during a drive to Stan Hywet Hall, a Tudor-style, 65-room mansion built in 1912-15 by Goodyear Tire founder F.A. Seiberling on 70 landscaped acres.

A Car Show With Sound & Lights

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This recently-restored 1953 Henney Junior, built on a Packard chassis with some easily recognizable Packard sheet metal and trim, originally was part of an all-blue U.S. Air Force fleet. Its current Carolina Cream and Matador Maroon two-tone paintwork was prominent in period Henney ads.

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A Professional Car Society International Meet typically concludes with a “sound and light” show featuring the participants’ sirens and rooftop beacons. That’s a 1975 Miller-Meteor Cadillac taking part in the show.

The PCS car show will be held Saturday, July 16, and the public can attend free-of-charge for a look at the assembled ambulances and funeral cars. “Concours style” judging will determine the Best-of Show and various vehicle class awards while EMTs and morticians,respectively, will vote on the ambulance and hearse that most deserve the Medics Choice and Funeral Directors Choice awards.

Then, at 9:30 p.m. the meet will conclude with a five-minute “sound and light show” courtesy of the attending vehicles’ sirens and roof beacons. (See photo above and imagine the combined sound.)

Being There

For more on the PCS national meet, you can visit the event Website, www.pcs2011.com. For information regarding the club, visit professionalcarsociety.org. And if you want to find the host hotel so you can check out the vehicles yourself, you can reach the Clarion Inn via State Route 8, Exit 180 of the Ohio Turnpike, or by Interstate 271 and 480.