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Dixie Coach Co.
Dixie Coach Company, 1956-1962; Lebanon, Tennessee
Associated Builders
Perry Launis; Bland Casket Co.

Lebanon, Tennessee is a medium-sized city, located 15 miles east of Nashville where Perry Launis operated a small Meteor professional car dealership during the 1950s. With the help of two friends, he built a handful of stretched (by 32”) Oldsmobile ambulances and combination coaches in his small Forrest Avenue shop during 1956.

Launis’ coaches attracted the attention of B.W. Bland, a small casket manufacturer that was located across town. Bland provided Launis with a factory and showroom in return for a controlling interest in the firm and production soon commenced on Dixie’s line of 1957 Oldsmobile coaches. Bland had a satellite showroom in Nashville that proved useful to the fledgling Dixie Coach as the bulk of their coaches were sold there.

Bland reorganized the firm as Dixie Coach Co. Inc. and placed Martin Cummings in charge of the facility which was relocated to larger facilities next to the Bland Casket Co. plant at 405 South Maple St. in Lebanon.

A staff of ten produced 2 Oldsmobile flower cars and about 25 Olds and Pontiac ambulances and combination coaches - plus a few truck-based commercial vehicles - during 1958 until a fire severely damaged the Dixie shop near the end of the year. Bland’s insurance covered the loss and the production of 1959 Pontiac coaches commenced as their Oldsmobile line was abandoned the previous year. The firm produced one dedicated funeral car during the year, with the rest an even mix of ambulances and combination coaches, all built on the Catalina’s new X-frame chassis. Dixie’s coaches were built using as many existing parts as they could get their hands on. Door frames for the rear loading doors were sourced from the GM parts bin as were Comet’s raised roofs which were built using GM panel van sheet metal.

In late 1962 the decision was made to stop producing their own coaches as re-tooling for Pontiac’s all-new 1963 coaches would have been untenable. Dixie continued to distribute Miller-Meteor coaches through the 1970s and replaced their Pontiac coaches with Cotner-Bevington’s line of Oldsmobiles starting in the early 1960s.

© 2004 Mark Theobald -





1956 Oldsmobile Dixie Ambulance

Jeremy Ledford - Dixie Coach Co. - The Professional Car Issue #111,  1st Quarter 2004

The Professional Car (Quarterly Journal of the Professional car Society)

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

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