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Guy Barnette & Co.; Barnett Coach Co.
Guy Barnette & Company, 1948-1955; Barnett Coach Company; 1958-1960s; Memphis, Tennessee
 
Associated Builders
Economy Coach; Memphis Coach
     

The Guy Barnette Co. was one of Memphis' "small 4 (Weller Bros., Barnette/Barnett, Comet/Pinner, and Memphis/Economy Coach)" professional car producers that flourished there in the 1940s-1960s. Located at 239 South Dudley St. at the intersection of Dudley & Eastmoreland Streets they specialized in Pontiac and Chevrolet professional car conversions from 1947 through 1955. "Custom-made quality at assembly line cost" was one of their many slogans.

Early coaches had suicide rear doors, although I have a picture of a 1948 Chevrolet with a front-hinged passenger side rear door. The suicide rear doors were abandoned starting with the 1950 model year when GM introduced there first new post-war sedan delivery bodies.

The 600 Series featured 6-cylinder power, the 800 - 8-cylinder. A new 800 Series debuted in 1952 which featured 46" of rear headroom (3 1/2" higher than the previous year), an extra tall (39 1/2" x 36") rear loading door that swung to the curb (hinged on the passenger side), and a spare tire mounted behind the driver's seat.

For 1953 they introduced an attractive flower car on the 8-cylinder Pontiac chassis. It was built on their standard 158" long-wheelbase chassis. The rear doors were left intact and could be used to load chairs or other graveside necessities. Access to the casket compartment was through the tailgate which had built-in casket rollers that matched those on the compartment floor. The height of the exposed stainless steel flower deck was hydraulically adjustable so that different-sized floral tributes could be accommodated. The roof flowed gracefully into the rear of the coach and included GM's new panoramic three-piece rear window.

General Motors stopped building Pontiac sedan deliveries at the end of the 1953 model year and small professional car builders who used Pontiac chassis were forced to switch to the much more expensive Pontiac station wagons. The additional costs involved eventually forced a number of them out of business, and it is believed Barnette withdrew from business at the end of 1955.

Apparently dormant during 1956 and 1957, it was reorganized in 1958 as the Barnett Coach Co. and the "E" was dropped from the name, probably to avoid any association with their earlier financial problems. The new Barnett's slogan was "Quality in creative design".  They built hearses, ambulances and combinations on low-priced GM chassis from 1958 at 3631 Jackson Ave. until fading from the industry for good a few years later.

(Guy Barnette is sometimes confused with another Memphis resident named J.K. Barnett (no e) who was the owner and general manager of Economy Coach, Barnette's direct competitor. J.K. Barnett went on to form Memphis Coach in 1955.)

2004 Mark Theobald - Coachbuilt.com with special thanks to Thomas A McPherson

"Mark  -  Digging through my archives the other day, I came across a dealer's bound portfolio for the Guy Barnette Company. This includes a slew of original factory photographs, spec sheets, pricing sheets and literature from 1950 through 1955. It peaked my interest and I consulted your site to see what information you had on the company and their vehicles.

"Please note, they did build a considerable number of 1955 models on both the Pontiac and Chevrolet chassis. In fact, in addition to the 600 and 800 Series offerings, they were building an all-new 900 Series (on Pontiac) which was a larger car with more refined styling than that of their 600 and 800 models. I have attached a scan of the front of a literature sheet depicting and describing the 900 Series Pontiac for your edification.

"It appears from the records I have available, the 800 and 900 Series offerings were built on the Pontiac chassis only with Chevrolet only listed in the 600 Series. The 1955 800 Series model range offered six service configurations priced as follows:

 

Combination Car

$

5,656.00

Landau Combination Car

$

5,656.00

Ambulance

$

5,684.00

Landau Hearse

$

5,585.00

Limousine Hearse

$

5,506.00

Service Car

$

5,304.00

"In 1954, the company offered the 800 Series on Pontiac, the 600 Series on Pontiac and Chevrolet and a 500 Series on both Pontiac and Chevrolet. I have never seen any 1954 Barnette-Chevrolets - even in pictures.

"Regards, Thomas A. McPherson"

 

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Pictures
   
 
   
 
References

The Professional Car Issue #67, First Quarter 1993

Gregg D. Merksamer - Professional Cars: Ambulances, Funeral Cars and Flower Cars

Thomas A. McPherson - American Funeral Cars & Ambulances Since 1900

Walt McCall & Tom McPherson - Classic American Ambulances 1900-1979: Photo Archive

Walt McCall & Tom McPherson - Classic American Funeral Vehicles 1900-1980 Photo Archive

Walter M. P. McCall - The American Ambulance 1900-2002

Walter M.P. McCall - American Funeral Vehicles 1883-2003

John Gunnell - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975

   
 
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