1941 Cadillac hearse in Burns Lake

The story behind a 25-year restoration of a rare vehicle

If you come across a hearse driving around town, fret not, no one close to you has passed away. What you’re witnessing is local car enthusiast Cliff Stronstad whipping around in his fully restored 1941 Cadillac Eureka three panel carved hearse, of which only two were ever made.

Lakes District News caught up with Stronstad about the process it took to restore the classic vehicle. “I purchased the car in Vancouver in 1989, and drove it 600 miles to Burns Lake. For the first few years I drove it around, and then my wife and I began fully restoring it.”

Stronstad, who’s been working in auto shops since the 1960s, owned and ran Pluto Auto-body shop in Burns Lake from 1979 until he sold it in 2008. He’s been a fan of Cadillacs ever since he was a young man, mainly through car magazines from when he was a teenager, that he still has to this day. “My first car was a 64’ Cadillac coup deville. I’ve loved cars, and Cadillacs ever since.”

According to Stronstad, the restoration of the car took 25 years and over 3,500 man hours to complete. Every piece of the exterior is all original, and everything mechanical has been rebuilt.

As for the history of the car, it turns out goes back much further then when he first purchased it in 1989. According to Stronstad, the car was first in use in St Louis, Missouri for Peoples funeral home until the mid 1960’s. Peoples was run at the time by then-influential politician Jordan Chambers, who was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement.

After the funeral home closed down in 1968 following Chambers’ death, it was bought by Bill Small and eventually moved up to Victoria. The car was put up for sale in 1988, and then re-sold in 1989 when Stronstad became it’s owner.

Stronstad’s told Lakes District News that his affinity for the car has nothing to do with any kind of morbidness or fascination with death, it’s all about the beauty. “A car is partly a study in art. I looked at this hearse as an art form. Visually, it’s quite striking,” he said.

Today, Stronstad and his wife can be seen using the car in the summer time, in fact, he says that he’s put over 6,000 miles on it over the past few summers, and claims it couldn’t be a smoother ride.

“Whenever I get asked how it feels to drive it, I usually tell people that it’s like a space shuttle just gliding into a landing,” said Stronstad. “You can’t feel bumps at all, it just feels like your floating. It’s very smooth.”

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Eddie Huband
Multimedia Reporter
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