Universal Coach Corporation - 1960s-1970s - Detroit, Michigan , Los Angeles, CA


   

Universal built and sold ambulance and funeral coach conversions of Chrysler Corporation Station Wagons during the 1960s.  Known examples featured covered-over rear quarter windows with padded landau tops that include landau irons and decorative window coverings.

Universal also built an outrageous Eldorado limousine with suicide doors in the late 1960s.

Universal Coach Corporation (USA) on a design by George Barris, the Del Caballero [i.e. "belonging to the gentleman"] Model D-VII was a personalized front-wheel drive, half-top Eldorado built at UCC's Detroit plant at 7447 St. Aubin and at their Los Angeles plant at 7834 Balboa Ave., Van Nuys. This was built to Barris' design and specifications; it features include a retractable roof over the driver area, landau bars and sterling-silver owner's nameplate. Other special features include de luxe wheel covers, wraparound directional and parking lights, aircraft interior lamps, pin-striping, headlight shrouds carrying a winged Cadillac emblem, sun roof, padded top, triple chrome-plated Tiffany imitation landau bars, El Coche [i.e. "the car"] upper door trim and chrome accent spear and, finally, a Derham-type limousine rear window. Photo McC p.371.

Universal Coach Corporation (USA) Like the 1967 design (above), but El Caballero (?) [i.e. the gentleman], not  Del Caballero [i.e. "belonging to the gentleman"] or even El Cavellero [no meaning in Spanish?]; probably just another trimmed up front-wheel drive Eldorado; this one too appears to feature a retractable roof over the driver area, false landau bars and upper El Coche door trim. The illustrated car was for sale on e-Bay in January, 2001.

Universal Coach Corporation< (USA) Like the 1967 design (above), but El Cavellero (?) which the brochure says identifies this Fleetwood Eldorado as "the car of the gentlemen". Where I learned Spanish (i.e. in Spain), "of the gentlemen" translates as de los Caballeros!) The following images are from the product brochure in my collection

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Universal Coach Corporation (USA) on a design by George Barris, the Del Caballero [i.e. "belonging to the gentleman"] Model D-VII was a personalized front-wheel drive, half-top Eldorado built at UCC's Detroit plant at 7447 St. Aubin and at their Los Angeles plant at 7834 Balboa Ave., Van Nuys. This was built to Barris' design and specifications; it features include a retractable roof over the driver area, landau bars and sterling-silver owner's nameplate. Other special features include de luxe wheel covers, wraparound directional and parking lights, aircraft interior lamps, pin-striping, headlight shrouds carrying a winged Cadillac emblem, sun roof, padded top, triple chrome-plated Tiffany imitation landau bars, El Coche [i.e. "the car"] upper door trim and chrome accent spear and, finally, a Derham-type limousine rear window. Photo McC p.371.

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Universal Coach. I seem to remember reading somewhere that this firm had an agreement with Barris to do the actual production of the Eldorado Del Caballeros, and that was the actual name of the
conversions. There were plenty of those cars here in the late '60's, as a local Cadillac dealer did a pretty fair job of selling those conversions. Having seen that one off Eldorado limousine in 1970 or 71 at a car show in Lima, OH as well as seeing it again at a car show in Indiana in the early '90's, it would explain the fact that all the gingerbread on that limousine was the same as on a Del Caballero. Barris actually built a couple of those cars before production got underway, and one had a full deVille roof treatment with a liftoff or retractable front roof section, while later cars had a fixed front roof; usually with a sunroof installed. If anything, it was those Del Caballeros that probably started the "pimp car" fad of the late '60's that ran well into the '70's. It's ironic that it took Universal to build an Eldorado limousine like that, when Barris actually built a similar limousine in '67 on a Toronado chassis.  BDW

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Tiffany imitation landau irons are triple chrome plated; the landau half-top is covered with textured vinyl and the car features a smaller, limousine-style rear window; Del Cavellero insignia graces front fenders, deck lid and dash.

The front grille is said to be a beautiful blend of hand-crafted British tradition [Rolls Royce?] and modern Eldorado design; the lower bumper is painted to match the body color and to accentuate the chrome grille.

Del Cavellero features a large, push-button sun roof that is lined and totally weatherproof; pinstriping in contrasting colors highlight the elegant Eldorado silhouette; El coche door trim is a vinyl of the buyer's choice and creates a lower general appearance; a repro Goddess blends the old with the new; it is cast in bronze and triple chrome-plated [I have seen these offered on e-Bay as the "authentic 1941 Goddess"!]

El coche transom adds custom look; trailing edge of rear deck is trimmed either
with matching or contrasting material to that used on the door and is framed in polish chrome;
deck trim includes either a mock tire or a complete tire with a rear deck power lift

These two trimmed up cars feature the trademark El coche door [el coche is Spanish for "the car"]; the upper door trim may be either vinyl or cane, framed in polished chrome; In my opinion, this is one of the more tasteful trim packages of the sixties and seventies.

This is the Cavalier Edgewood on the Brougham chassis; like Del Cavellero, above, the rear deck is trimmed either with a matching or contrasting material to that used on the upper door; imitation Tiffany landau bars again are featured.

Here is the Cavalier Coupe de Ville; the bronze, triple-chrome plated mascot, below, was available with both these trim packages.

Klett Cadillac, Detroit and Universal Coach Corporation (USA) Built in Detroit in 1968 at a reported cost of $32,500, this car is said to have belonged to singer Tom Jones as well as to a man in Ohio currently in prison for murder. FBI agent, Robert K. Ressler, wrote a book (Justice is Served) about the murder investigation and mentions this limo. Originally pea-green, currently it is painted white. Interior changed to red velour  (probably at time of restoration). This limo is 22' 10" long with suicide doors, electric sunroof, partial vinyl roof, tinted electric division window separating driver and passenger areas, tinted windows, 472 cid motor, front wheel drive, a/c, tilt wheel, power windows & locks, power steering & brakes, fake "Continental" kit, front vinyl bench seat (black). Passenger area has a bench seat facing forward and 2 buckets facing the rear. Between the bucket seats is a TV, VCR and radio. The car uses 2 batteries (the extra one being reserved for passenger area amenities). Car was offered for sale on the Internet in October, 2002.

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A number of station wagon conversion firms offered service car and ambulance conversions of Plymouth, Dodge and Chrysler station wagons into the late 1970s. The most prolific of these were those done by the Automotive Conversion Corp. of Troy and Birmingham, Mich. Other companies included Abbott & Hast in Los Angeles and Universal Coach in Detroit. In Canada, the Elegante Coach Co. of Kitchener, Onto and a few small concerns in the Province of Quebec -- Cloutier and DeMers -- also offered standard-wheelbase Dodge and Chrysler hearse conversions. The short-lived W.S. Ballantyne Co. built a small number of one-off ambulances and hearses on Plymouth, Dodge and Chrysler chassis between 1963 and 1967. Chrysler Corporation actually promoted its Plymouth, Dodge and Chrysler station wagons as the ideal service car in funeral service trade journals in the 1960s and '70s.

 

    For more information please read:

The Professional Car, Issue # 51, First Quarter 1989

Thomas A. MacPherson - The Dodge Story

George H. Dammann - Seventy Years of Chrysler

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

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

Carriage Museum of America - Horse-Drawn Funeral Vehicles: 19th Century Funerals

Carriage Museum of America -  Horse Drawn - Military, Civilian, Veterinary - Ambulances

Gunter-Michael Koch - Bestattungswagen im Wandel der Zeit

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

Michael L. Bromley & Tom Mazza - Stretching It: The Story of the Limousine

Richard J. Conjalka - Classic American Limousines: 1955 Through 2000 Photo Archive

Richard J. Conjalka - Stretch Limousines 1928-2001 Photo Archive

Thomas A. McPherson - Eureka: The Eureka Company: a complete history

Thomas A. McPherson - Superior: The complete history

Thomas A. McPherson - Flxible: The Complete History

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

Robert R. Ebert  - Flxible: A History of the Bus and the Company

Hearses - Automobile Quarterly Vol 36 No 3

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Automobile Manufacturers Worldwide Registry

G.N. Georgano & G. Marshall Naul - The Complete Encyclopedia of Commercial Vehicles

Albert Mroz - Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks & Commercial Vehicles

Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark Jr. - Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942

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

James M. Flammang & Ron Kowalke - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1976-1999

 



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