On 18th August 1977, after a private service inside Graceland, Elvis's body was placed in a gleaming white 1977 Miller-Meteor Landau Traditional Cadillac hearse. Then, a brilliantly shining silver Cadillac limousine led the procession, with the hearse followed by sixteen white Cadillac limousines carrying the mourners to the Memphis Cemetery. I have pondered on what happened to the hearse, and it seems that great minds think alike, as I have been asked this question by more than one visitor to this site. Here is what I've come up with:
The hearse takes Elvis's body from Baptist Hospital the night of August 16, 1977
1977 Fleetwood hearse that was used to carry his casket for the funeral August 18th, 1977
Thousands of mourners line the streets
Here are some comments from PCS (Professional Car Society) member Bernie DeWinter:
"Allan: The car used to remove Elvis' body was a '75 Miller-Meteor Landau. The car used in the funeral service itself was a '77 Miller-Meteor Landau, which was the first of the new downsized Cadillac chassis.
As to someone who collects Elvis memorabilia not snapping that car up, that's fairly easy to figure. When the Cadillac commercial chassis was downsized, sales plummeted in part due to the downsizing itself. With the smaller size, it was the death knell for new ambulances built on the Cadillac commercial chassis, and that cut the demand, and thus the production, of the chassis. The chassis itself was no longer nearly as special a design as it was before, either, which hurt its sales, too. Previous commercial chassis were more specialized in the rear suspension area, with the leaf spring rear suspension, which in turn allowed for a lower rear floor, and thus lower loading height for hearses and ambulances. The height from the ground to the rear floor increased something like 5 or 6 inches in that one model year's change, and that didn't go over well at all. With the radical (for a Cadillac commercial chassis) change, and the natural plummet in overall sales of same, prices of new hearses and ambulances on this chassis doubled almost overnight. Annual demand for Cadillac commercial chassis went from something like 2000 units or more per year to about 900 units per year. With all the goofiness of the safety and pollution standards at the time, new American car prices were going up constantly at a time when people were used to a moderate consistency from year to year, and people were complaining about the "sticker schock" of new car prices in general; so the price of a new hearse at about $30,000 was outrageous to anyone at the time. At that, downsized hearse prices held up far better on the used vehicle market for a far longer time than the older cars did, so it was a comparatively long time before any downsized hearses found their way out of service with mortuaries.
Other factors to be considered as well include the fact that it was in August of '77 that the first major meet of the Professional Car Society was held in Cincinnati, and since then, hearses have become far more acceptable at car meets here than they were back then. Elvis memorabilia wasn't as hot an item back then, either, as it seems like people won't let Elvis die and rest in peace, as evidenced by all the odd rumors since of people seeing Elvis somewhere. For that matter, presuming the car might have been traded in at a point where it was still worth $25,000 on the used coach market, that kind of money would buy a lot of memorabilia that would hold much more value in future years than that hearse might have. And 25 grand was still a lot of money at such a time when the car was probably traded in, which might have been around 1981".
Thoughts from PCS member Dennis Goethe :
"Elvis' funeral was directed by the Memphis Funeral Home - an SCI (Service Corporation International) Funeral Home. As you may know, SCI is a very large consolidator of funeral home properties, owning literally thousands and thousands of funeral homes and cemeteries across the world.
I have always assumed that the hearse is a Miller-Meteor, based on the style of the draperies, the aluminum trim piece behind the second side door, and the shape of the landau bars.
SCI was notorious in those years for keeping their cars until they fell apart. In St. Louis, where I am, cars of this era were run well into the mid-late 1980s. Memphis Funeral Home is a high-volume firm and had (has) quite a fleet of identical cars. I wonder if, after a few years, anyone remembered which of the hearses actually carried Elvis to his grave (or from the hospital, or from the funeral home to Graceland, for that matter)!
Since this was an SCI location, I wonder if the livery was bought through their home offices in Houston, TX. I believe that is the way they do it now, rather than going though a local hearse dealer.
Well, lots of non-information for you. Maybe more than you knew before, maybe not".
Comments from PCS member Danny Ryder:
I saw your website about Elvis's hearse and thought I would tell you where it went. It got traded to Houston Brothers Hearse Sales (formerly Crain's of Atlanta). The owner's son was taking it to resale in Florida I believe when it caught fire and burned on side of the interstate (Highway 75).
And here is the most definitive answer yet!
My name is Chuck Houston, President of Houston Brothers, Inc., a funeral car dealer in Marietta, GA. Around 1984, I was the last person to drive the hearse that carried Elvis to his grave. Our Company, then known as Crain S&S Sales which my father owned, bought, sold, leased and traded cars with SCI. He did so for many years. He originally sold the car new to SCI. We came back into possession of Elvis's hearse when Memphis FH updated their rolling stock.
We were loaning the hearse to a funeral home in South Florida until their new vehicle was ready for delivery. My father was reluctant to loan the car out. He wanted to hang on to it, the only car he ever wanted keep in 50 years of business. The funeral home in Florida was one of his biggest customers and needed a white/white loaner desperately. Elvis's hearse happened to be the only white hearse on the lot. Another employee and myself, both of us about 21 at the time (we were going to drop off the car and then spend a few days of spring break in Ft. Lauderdale) took off toward Miami on I-75 around 7:00 pm. Around 10:00 we ran out of gas just north of Valdosta, GA. What was odd is that a tank of gas in those days would carry you from Marietta, GA to the Live Oak exit in Florida with gas left in the tank. That was based on the many, many cars my friend and I delivered to the south Florida area in the early 80's. Therefore we never checked the gas gauge until we were in the vicinity of Live Oak.
After running out of gas, we walked about two miles to the next exit, bought a can and some gas and started back up the north bound return ramp toward Elvis's hearse. Before reaching the highway a Lowndes County Sherriff stopped us, asked where we were going and called us a cab. We got her going again and headed for the gas station to fill her up. Heading south again, we were on our way. Just as the weigh station (the last one on southbound 75) came into sight the engine cut off. I dropped her into neutral while travelling around 65 mph and turned the ignition. When I did, fire shot out from under the hood on both sides. I eased her to the shoulder next to the weigh station return ramp and my friend and I jumped from the hearse as the fire engulfed the front end of the hearse.
My friend and I met at the rear of the car and realized all of our possessions were in the rear of the hearse and the doors were locked. We couldn't get back in the front to retrieve the keys due to the fire having already spread. A truck driver appeared with a fire extinguisher but it was too late. Neither of us wanted to get close for fear the hearse would blow up. So there we stood and watched as Elvis's hearse went up in flames. A fire truck finally arrived and all they could save was the rear quarter panels, the rear door and bumper. Twin Lakes Towing picked the hearse up around 2:00 am and carried it to their lot. The D.O.T. Enforcement Officer carried us to the Ramada Inn.
The next morning we caught a cab over to Twin Lakes Towing and waited for our wrecker to show up from Marietta. While waiting at the towing co. all I could think was that I burned up Elvis's hearse and my dad was going to kill me. The remains sat on our back lot (Hwy. 41 / Cobb Pkwy) until 1989 when it was finaly put through a car crusher and hauled off. My friend and I sat there and watched as it was crushed. Other than the VIN, the hearse was identifiable by the number on the lower right hand side of the rear window. I can't remember the number at the moment but I want to say seven. The number is visible on some of the footage of Elvis's funeral. There is one scene where the hearse is turning left when it is plainly visible. The number sticker was still on the vehicle the day it was crushed. Out of the thousands of hearses my father has sold over the years, this one was special. We always say that Elvis didn't want his hearse to end up in south Florida. If you have any more questions, you can contact me at email@example.com