RECAPPING THE PROFESSIONAL CAR SOCIETY’S 2022 INTERNATIONAL MEET

By: story, “deep” captions by GREGG D. MERKSAMER
Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Given its origins and long-standing significance as a Native American and Colonial era crossroads still frequented today by motorists plying the Massachusetts Turnpike, Interstate 84 and historic U.S. 20, the Pioneer Valley town of Sturbridge, Massachusetts proved a fitting place for the Professional Car Society to stage its 45th International Meet from Monday, June 27th through Saturday, July 2nd, 2022. 

Newly re-elected PCS President Paul Steinberg - a Woodstock, Connecticut resident who co-hosted the meet with his wife Sandy - was proud to note this was the first time since its 1976 founding that the Society had ever held its biggest annual event in New England, which ensured it attracted several never-previously-shown funeral vehicles, ambulances and livery service limousines. Most of the attendees who traveled to Massachusetts from points as far dispersed as Tennessee, Michigan, Florida and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and New Brunswick were funeral directors and EMS personnel who have spent their careers working with “pro-cars,” making them fervent advocates of authentic restorations and preservations spurring public appreciation of the aesthetics and fine craftsmanship put into these essentially custom-made vehicles by such esteemed specialist coachbuilders as Superior, Sayers & Scovill, Miller-Meteor, Eureka and Henney. The constitution and judging rules of the PCS, accordingly, prohibit coffins, cobwebs, skeletons and other macabre miscellany in any car displayed at its shows.

Awe-struck New Englanders were afforded several memorable opportunities to admire the participating hearses, flower cars, limousines, ambulances and hearse/ambulance “combinations” during Meet Week, thanks to an itinerary that included a Tuesday trip to Stafford Springs, CT where Donald Passardi showed off what is probably the biggest and best collection of Ford Motor Company memorabilia outside of its Dearborn, MI home town; a dedicated PCS display at the Brimfield (MA) Winery’s regular Friday evening  cruise; and a Saturday Concours at the Publick House Historic Inn that served as this year’s meet headquarters and has been welcoming travelers to Sturbridge since 1771. There was, nonetheless, strong consensus that the gathering’s highlight was the 70th Anniversary Open House & Car Show at Parks Superior Sales’ tremendous hearse and limousine dealership in Somers, CT, where representatives from FederalEagle and the Kellerman Family of Coaches were on hand to discuss their 2022 offerings.

Though ongoing uncertainties about COVID ultimately meant just thirty pro-cars built between 1930 and 1999 took part in the Thursday Somers, Friday Brimfield and/or Saturday Sturbridge exhibits, the meet’s Chief Judge Daniel Herrick testified to their outstanding overall quality by noting only two entrants scored below the 180-point threshold earning their owners First Place honors under the Society’s judging system (even then their 160-to-179-point scores were still high enough for Secord Place awards, below which there were no Third Place finishers this year). While the venue for the 2023 PCS International Meet was unannounced when this issue of SOUTHERN FUNERAL DIRECTOR went to press, the club’s official website at www.TheProfessionalCarSociety.org will have news on this in the coming weeks.

Headquarters hotel for the Professional Car Society’s 2022 International Meet in Sturbridge, Massachusetts was the historic Publick House, seen here welcoming Pasquale Turano’s Packard-based 1952 Henney Junior from Worcester, MA. Remnants of USAF Blue pant inside its left rear fender imply this Arkansas-sourced survivor was one of 256 Juniors ordered by the Department of Defense out of the 500 ultimately built through 1954.

The first formally-scheduled tour of the Professional Car Society’s 2022 International Meet took in Don Passardi’s Ford-focused Gasoline Alley Automotive Museum in Stafford Springs, CT, where Indiana funeral director Gene Smith got a big kick out of this approximately quarter-scale 1957 Ford “Planning for Manufacture” model mocked up as a two-door sedan on its passenger side and a four-door to port. 

The Professional Car Society’s 2022 International Meet was co-hosted by club president Paul Steinberg and his wife Sandy, who took much interest in Don Passardi’s entirely wood-bodied 1946 Ford Sportsman convertible. The period instruction card clipped under the passenger side windshield wiper advised annual waxing of the woodwork to preserve its factory finish.

The Professional Car Society’s 2022 International Meet was co-hosted by club president Paul Steinberg and his wife Sandy, who took much interest in Don Passardi’s entirely wood-bodied 1946 Ford Sportsman convertible. The period instruction card clipped under the passenger side windshield wiper advised annual waxing of the woodwork to preserve its factory finish.

The only Oldsmobile seen at the 2022 PCS International Meet was this gorgeous 1967 Ninety-Eight LS pillared hardtop sedan brought to Tuesday’s tour stop by Peter Babcock and 1990-92 PCS President Paul Cichon. It had clocked just 35,000 miles since it was sold new in Iowa. 

Evening downtime at the PCS’ 2022 headquarters hotel afforded Dr. William Ives of Ephrata, PA opportunity to rectify a short circuit in the left rear corner beacon of his 1972 Miller-Meteor Cadillac Volunteer ambulance. “One thing you learn in medical school that if you have the right book can do almost anything except surgery,” he asserted, adding he once rewired his home.

The PCS convoy to Parks Superior’s 70th Anniversary Open House found Lebanon, TN funeral director Jeremy Ledford’s 1996 Superior Statesman Landau Hearse leading Jim Staruk’s 1965 Cadillac Fleetwood Series Seventy-Five sedan (which carried over the 1964 styling with new wheel covers) through Stafford Springs, CT, which is named for the mineral-rich waters that have attracted visitors to the area since Mohegan Indians controlled it. Iron furnaces and textile mills would also take advantage of the region’s abundant hydropower later on.

The “Most Used” cars at Parks’ June 30th Open House was this pair of 1941 Henney Packards heading to New Zealand following their purchase by one of the dealership’s customers at an upstate NY auction. While the hearse’s original “straight eight” engine had been replaced by a GM 455 V-8 sometime before its most-recent Indiana license plate expired in 1985, the flower car seemed the greater restoration challenge as one of its doors was sitting inside the interior and a sawed-off tree remnant was still wedged between its rear bumper and righthand taillight!

A three-way table affording curbside casket loading was a standout feature on this 1964 Sayers & Scovill Cadillac Victoria shown at Parks’ June 30th, 2022 Open House by Springfield & Chicopee, MA funeral director Paul A. Phaneuf, having recently acquired it from a California mortician who called this beauty “Blue Eyes” after Sinatra - “one condition of the sale is that I couldn’t change the color.” 

One of the rarest and most-admired “Thursday only” Cadillacs at Parks’ June 30th open house was this 1968 Sayers & Scovill flower car owned for nearly 30 years by David Dufresne of Cohoes, NY (right), who was joined in Somers by his older brother Mark (left). Noteworthy details included a stainless steel flower deck that can be electrically sloped to put arrangements on an attractive incline and S&S-branded front parking lamps and door threshold kick plates.

Lebanon, Tennessee funeral director Jeremy Ledford checks out Parks Superior’s Pre-Owned Showroom, which can house up to 81 hearses and limos thanks to two-level lifts that have QR codes for bringing up info on each car. The large Parks logo set into the floor is used for ad and website photo shoots in concert with a huge curtain that unfolds from the building’s north wall.

Genny Elias, Nick Elias and Ron Devies (respectively hailing from Allentown, PA and Alliance, OH) check out the 1993 Eureka Buick hearse that Parks Superior Sales raffled off at $50-perchance to ultimately raise $2,500 for PCS coffers during Meet Week. The lucky winner of this 71,728- mile cream puff, Kent Dorsey of Bostic, N.C., was also gifted an extremely rare Eureka “E” hood ornament by Lebanon, TN funeral director Jeremy Ledford.

Cadillac Fleetwood taillights and wheel covers were fitted to this 1993 Eureka Buick “Buillac” raffled by Parks Superior Sales at $50-perchance to ultimately raise $2,500 for PCS coffers during Meet Week. The lucky winner of this 71,728-mile cream puff, Kent Dorsey of Bostic, N.C., was also gifted an extremely rare Eureka “E” hood ornament by Lebanon, TN funeral director Jeremy Ledford.

FederalEagle Coach was ably represented at Parks’ 70th Anniversary Open House by Nathan Hurst, seen here showing off two Eagle Kingsley Cadillac XT5 hearses that featured roller-equipped, slide-out casket floor extensions and flush-folding cremation urn carriers. 

The Kellerman Family’s industry-exclusive MK Lincoln Nautilus hearses were promoted at Parks by company founder Michael Kellerman’s daughter Lisa Richardson and her husband “Slim Jim” Richardson. Their Grand Legacy Limited (the foreground coach teaming a painted roof with tremendous quarter windows and a casket compartment skylight) and Legacy landau (center) display cars can be teamed with the standard-wheelbase MK Explorer tail-stretch combination (background) to create a matched Ford fleet. 

Platinum, the Cadillac specialist within the Kellerman Family of Coaches, anchored its Parks Open House display with a limousine-style Phoenix-C containing a flagdraped casket (this coach has curved window ends while the Platinum Phoenix-R fits rectangular quarter glass) and a Phoenix Landau beautifully finished in 1964 Cadillac Zodiac Blue for the Sweeney Brothers Home For Funerals of Quincy, Massachusetts. 

The 2-8-2 type “New Haven 3025” steam engine used for Friday’s PCS excursion up the Connecticut River Valley from Essex to Deep River looked antique but was actually built in July, 1989 by the Tangshan Locomotive Works of China. Maryland PCS member Steve Lichtman informed fellow meet attendees there’s a school in Poland (like China another coal-rich country) where one can still learn how to drive one of these. 

Friday’s steam train excursion included a boat ride aboard the BECKY THATCHER, which offered this sight of Gillette Castle soaring a hundred feet above the Connecticut River’s eastern shore at Hadlyme. This fieldstone-covered 14,000-square-foot mansion - which cost over $1 million to complete from 1914-1919 - was NOT built for the inventor of the safety razor but rather for William Hooker Gillette (1853–1937), a thespian most famed for portraying Sherlock Holmes more than 1,300 times on stage (it was he, and NOT Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who conceived the detective’s trademark deerstalker cap, magnifying glass and pipe). 

PCS 2022 International Meet Chief Judge Daniel Herrick welcomes Jeff & Mary Hookway’s 1966 Superior Cadillac Royale Rescuer Ambulance to the Brimfield Winery’s Friday evening Cruise. The wobbling beacons in its fender-mounted Mars lights garnered much attention at an event that proved a great opportunity to spur public appreciation of the style and craftsmanship put into PCS members’ coach-built funeral, livery and rescue vehicles.

Friday evening’s Brimfield Winery Cruise proved a great opportunity to spur public appreciation of the style and craftsmanship put into PCS members’ essentially custom-made funeral vehicles, limousines and ambulances. This geographically-diverse group shot features (left-to-right) Jeff & Mary Hookway’s 1966 Superior Cadillac Royale Rescuer Ambulance from Lafayette, NJ; Mike Boyer’s 1996 Eagle Lincoln Kingsley from Castleton, Ontario; and James McKenna’s low-roof, “commercial glass” 1996 S&S Cadillac Victoria from Dracut, Massachusetts.

WE CAME FROM ALL OVER … Tony Martin, Paul Vickery, Nick Studer (standing) and Jeremy Ledford respectively represented Ohio, New Jersey, Texas and Tennessee as they relaxed in one of the tents erected at the Professional Car Society’s July 2nd, 2022 Concours at the Publick House in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.

The Professional Car Society’s 2022 International Meet concluded in traditional fashion with a five-minute ambulance beacon and siren show. The awards banquet that preceded this took place in a room named Paige Hall to honor Richard Paige, who purchased the Publick House for a dollar during The Great Depression and commissioned its subsequent historic restoration.

Brendan Martin, wife Jennifer and their daughters Hope (11) and Briley (8) bid farewell to fellow PCS Sturbridge ‘22 meet attendees haloed in beacon light from their 1963 Superior Cadillac Royale Rescuer ambulance. We all wished this lovely family a safe and pleasant trip home to Little Compton, Rhode Island!

The oldest entrant at the Professional Car Society’s 2022 International Meet was this Cincinnati-built 1930 Sayers & Scovill Washington Funeral Coach owned by Ted & Angeline Collins of Wilkes-Barre, PA. It recalled how - in the time before factory long-wheelbase “commercial chassis” from Cadillac, LaSalle, Buick and Packard became dominant in the mid-1930s - many early hearse and ambulance body builders assembled their own chassis using proven components like Continental engines, Eaton gears and Delco electrics.

PCS “First Lady” Sandy Steinberg graced the 2022 Sturbridge meet with this 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air standard-wheelbase ambulance given a raised roof and side-hinged loading door by Cotner/Bevington of Blytheville, Arkansas. The front-facing tunnel lights - a 2012 enhancement sourced from a 1962 C/B Olds found in a Nebraska salvage yard - incorporate 1953 Buick tail lamp lenses and trim rings, while the flasher/siren they’re flanking is a Federal Model Y.

Paul Vickery’s A.J. Miller-bodied 1956 Cadillac ambulance from Millington, NJ is entirely unrestored excepting a long-ago re-fresh of its Canyon Gray paintwork. It originally served at Esso’s Bayway Refinery in Linden, NJ and had clocked just 3,100 miles by the time Paul pulled it from a shed on the company’s property in 1987; its mileage post-arrival at PCS Sturbridge ‘22 was just 12,958! 

The tallest tailfins ever seen on a pro-car ensured Flint, MI mortician Brady Smith’s 1959 Superior Crown Royale Landaulet earned both Funeral Directors Choice and the Cadillac & LaSalle Club Award at the 2022 PCS International Meet, where it was fittingly photographed at the circa 1740 Old Burial Ground in Sturbridge, MA. This beauty also garnered the most People’s Choice votes at Parks Superior’s 70th Anniversary Car Show during Meet Week.

PCS “First Lady” Sandy Steinberg graced the 2022 Sturbridge meet with this 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air standard-wheelbase ambulance given a raised roof and side-hinged loading door by Cotner/Bevington of Blytheville, Arkansas. The front-facing tunnel lights - a 2012 enhancement sourced from a 1962 C/B Olds found in a Nebraska salvage yard - incorporate 1953 Buick tail lamp lenses and trim rings, while the flasher/siren they’re flanking is a Federal Model Y.

Fords are rare sights at PCS events traditionally dominated by General Motors vehicles like Cadillacs and Pontiacs, so this 1963 Country Sedan fitted with a fiberglass raised roof and hearse door by the Whitehouse, OH-based Shop of Siebert was a big attention-getter in Sturbridge. Its owner, Kevin M. Lyons of Danvers, MA, recalled it was built new for his grandfather Clarence R. Lyons and originally delivered by his local Ford dealer. 

EMS professionals attending the Sturbridge meet voted the 2022 Medics’ Choice Award to this gorgeous, Duchess Green 1963 Superior Cadillac Royale Rescuer ambulance owned by Brendan Martin of Little Compton, R.I. “The really nice thing about this car is that a lot of PCS members stepped up to help me restore it,” he said, citing how a Virginia member found him a replacement medical cabinet partition that another Maryland member passed on to a third member who handled the actual restoration at his South Dakota shop from 2010-13.

The 1977 downsizing of Cadillac’s Commercial Chassis created a brief market opening for larger Lincoln hearses like this 1979 landau built by AHA Manufacturing of Mississauga, Ontario for an Elkhart, Indiana funeral home. Its current owner, Dr. Dennis Lloyd of Flushing, MI, earned the 2022 PCS International Meet’s Distance Award following an 845- mile drive to Sturbridge, MA, as well as Hard Luck honors for the A/C condenser cap explosion and tire sidewall rupture he endured en route.

A Crown Exterior Package teaming a half-vinyl roof with twin opera lights for each quarter panel “motif area” nicely complimented the Academy Grey exterior and cherry-colored cloth interior of this 1996 Superior Cadillac Statesman landaulet that Lebanon, TN funeral director Jeremy Ledford bought from Ambulance & Funeral Coach Sales of Nashville just before COVID shut the country down in early 2020. This dealer also handled this car’s original sale to the Kyker Funeral Home of Kingston, TN for $51,136, after which Giddens-Reed of Baldwin, FL changed the exterior color from Sable Black after becoming the second owner circa 2001-2.

Please download the Southern Funeral Director Magazine October 2022 issue to view all the automobile photos captured in this article.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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