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Miller-Meteor div., Wayne Works, 1956-1979; Bellefontaine, Ohio; Miller-Meteor div. of Collins Industries, 1984-1992; Hutchinson, Kansas
Associated Builders
Accubilt; Meteor; A.J. Miller

In 1954, Wayne Works of Richmond, Indiana - a large school bus producer - purchased the Meteor Motor Car Co of Piqua, Ohio and on March 19, 1956 Wayne announced the acquisition of another Ohio professional car builder, the A.J. Miller Company of Bellefontaine, Ohio. Under this new conglomerate, the company would now be called Miller-Meteor. A.J. Miller's Bellefontaine plant was sold and manufacturing was consolidated at Meteor's Piqua, Ohio plant which was located at 125 Clark Avenue.

From day one, Miller-Meteor built exclusively on the Cadillac commercial chassis and the first Miller-Meteor coaches debuted in 1957. The new firm was an immediate success and had captured 50% of the professional car market by 1962.

In 1958 there was a record breaking single order for 40 funeral cars. In 1962 the company was the largest manufacturer of funeral cars and ambulances on the Cadillac chassis; sales broke all records.

In 1963, Miller-Meteor announced a completely new line of models.  Miller-Meteor's new Trimatic casket table consisted of a 3-way table for hearse models, allowing loading from the rear as well as from the LH and RH side doors.

In 1966 the line comprised 13 basic models. Extending tables for all rear-loaders were offered in 1968. 

By 1970, the model range was up to 34; that was also the last year for the Miller-Meteor flower car.

1971 was named the 100th Anniversary year for Miller-Meteor funeral cars and ambulances as their predecessor A.J. Miller had built it's first horse-drawn hearse in 1871. Cadillac introduced a totally new line of cars and Miller-Meteor introduced a totally new line of coaches.

Miller-Meteor's most famous ambulance, the Criterion, was unveiled in 1973 and placed into regular production early in 1974.

On Criterions, the rear quarter windows were deleted and the spare tire relocated to a half-door behind the driver. The entire left side of the vehicle was permanently closed off and housed a series of built-in medical cabinets that extended from the driver's side of the bulkhead back to the rear door. Entry and exit to the rear compartment was limited to two outside entrances, the passenger side rear door and the extra-large rear gurney entrance.

The Criterion also featured the industry's first walk-through bulkhead - a pair of GM-sourced bucket seats replaced the front bench seat and allowed quick access to the rear passenger compartment. The distinctive scoops on the rear fenders were fresh-air intakes for the rear auxiliary heaters and not for the air-conditioning system as commonly believed. The Criterion's patient compartment was 117 inches long and boasted a full 64 inches of headroom at its center.

The Criterion became Miller-Meteor’s flagship ambulance and remained in production through 1976. The  Lifeliner, a limousine-style ambulance with 54 inches of headroom, became the medium-priced offering.  Miller-Meteor’s smallest ambulance, the Volunteer was discontinued after 1974.

Miller-Meteor's 1974 combination coaches featured flush-folding attendants' seats, reversible casket rollers, a removable cot hook and an oxygen bottle holder by the front bier pin used to secure the casket.

Due to major downsizing of the Cadillac commercial chassis in 1977, dimensions simply did not allow for the unique Criterion to remain in production. In fact, Miller-Meteor produced only a very limited number of Cadillac Lifeliner ambulances in 1977 and 78. No Cadillac ambulances came from Miller-Meteor in 1979…the year the company closed it’s doors.

In 1977 M-M built 18 Lifeliners on the new down-sized Cadillac chassis, and in 1978, it's final year, 17 were built.

1977 Miller-Meteor hearses were available in 4 lines; Crestwood, Landau Traditional, Citation and Classic models.

Cadillac's last full-sized commercial chassis was built in 1976 and, in 1977, Miller-Meteor continued its production on van-type chassis.  Neither Miller-Meteor nor its main competitors in the funeral coach business, Superior of Lima and S&S of Cincinnati, survived the costly 1977 transition to a dramatically downsized Cadillac Commercial Chassis.

The 1973 EMS Systems Act* had virtually eliminated all passenger car-based ambulance production by 1977 and Miller-Meteor only built  21 ambulances during the year. Only four were built  in 1978 and by 1979 Miller-Meteor was reduced to a single line of professional vehicles - hearses. With sales down and prospects dim, The company announced the end of operations on November 1, 1979. There would be no 1980 Miller-Meteor products.

The company laid-off 252 employees and terminated the contracts of their 34 North American distributors.

The two legendary 1983-1984 Miller-Meteor three-door Eldorado hearses were the brainchild of Spencerville, Ohio's Jack Hardesty, the owner of a small funeral home supply company called the Barron Corp. Hardesty was also Lima, Ohio's first sports and imported car dealer and went on to found the Lima Coach Co, a hearse conversion company that specialized in Dodge Caravans.

When Miller-Meteor went out of business in 1979, Barron Corp. purchased the trade name of the once-famous coachbuilder. He also owned the local Ziebart franchise, and most of the work on the second Eldorado was done in the large Ziebart shop. Bud Bayliff assisted Hardesty in building and engineering the first 1983 Eldorado prototype which was constructed at Bayliff's Lima, Ohio body shop.

In late 1984 Hardesty sold the rights to the Miller-Meteor trade name along with the tooling for the Eldorado coaches - which also happened to fit Cadillac's new 1985 front-wheel-drive DeVilles - and the second 1984 Eldorado prototype to Collins Industries of Hutchinson, Kansas. Hardesty's front drive tooling was the basis for the 1985 Collins-built Miller-Meteor-Cadillac front drive coaches which were produced in Hutchinson through 1992.

The Heritage Coach Co. of Skippack, Pennsylvania, a division of Lankford Buick Pontiac GMC Inc. of Norristown, PA, purchased the Eureka tooling and trade name from the firm's receivers. Within the year Mark Lankford and Bob Williams had established a new firm called CCE Inc. to manufacture Eureka-badged funeral coaches and limousines in a new plant in Norwalk, Ohio.  In 1993 the firm, now known as  Eureka Coach, CCE Inc., purchased another classic funeral coach producer - Miller-Meteor - from Collins Industries of Hutchinson, Kansas.

Located at 600 Industrial Parkway in Norwalk, Ohio, CCE Inc. was a union (UAW) shop that employed from 80 to 120 employees and enjoyed a QVM ‘‘Qualified Vehicle Modifier’’ rating from Ford Motor Company as well as Cadillac's ‘‘Master Coach Builder’’ certification.

In 1999, CCE Inc. sold the combined Eureka and Miller-Meteor operation and trade-names to the nation's largest producer of funeral vehicles - Accubuilt Inc. who moved it to their new (in 1995) 175,000-square-foot facility in Lima, Ohio.

In August 2001, Accubuilt purchased the assets of Vartanian Industries, a small shuttle and wheelchair van converter and moved their operations to the Lima, plant.

Although the Miller-Meteor and Eureka names were recently retired, Accubuilt continues to manufacture limousines and professional vehicles for 3 distinct brand names: DeBryan, S&S (Sayers & Scovill) and Superior.

*(The 1973 EMS Systems Act - passed in 1974, implemented four years later in 1978 - required that communities receiving federal funds for their programs had ambulances that met new federal specifications. Three chassis styles meet the criteria and are still in use today: Type I uses a small truck body with a modular compartment, Type II has a van body with a raised roof and Type III has van chassis with a modular compartment. Passenger-based vehicles were purposely excluded from legislation and the last American-made automobile-based ambulance was built in 1978. However a handful of automobile-based ambulances are still made in Europe using Mercedes E-Class and Volvo S-60/S-80 chassis.)

© 2004 Mark Theobald -


more pictures




Roy Hurst - Miller-Meteor History - Vintage Vehicles of Canada - Vol. 3 No. 4, Jan-Feb, 1982

Thomas A. McPherson - Miller-Meteor: The Complete History

Tony Karsnia - The Standard By Which All Others Are Measured… A History of the Miller-Meteor Criterion Ambulance.

Walt McCall - Return To Piqua: The Miller-Meteor Reunion - The Professional Car - Issue #113, Third Quarter 2004

Ron Van Gelderen & Matt Larson - LaSalle: Cadillac's Companion Car

Walter M.P. McCall - 80 Years of Cadillac LaSalle

George H. Dammann - Illustrated History of Ford

George H Dammann - 90 Years of Ford

James K. Wagner - Ford Trucks since 1905

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

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


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