Click here to return to OCC homepage


See Homepage. This page: How many of these Dormobile conversions were made, and did it/any survive?
Original transport photographs
Old Classic Car Image Archive index >

Vauxhall Viva hearse.

In May of 1972 Henry and his wife called by at the Martin Walter (Dormobile) works, to collect a couple of vehicles. Fortunately, Henry had his camera with him. Had he not, then perhaps this oddball conversion, based on a standard Vauxhall Viva HC saloon car, might never have been recorded on film for posterity. Daimlers, Jaguars, Rovers and Humbers were all fair game for conversion into a hearse, and many coachbuilders undertook just such builds, but I'd never heard of a hearse being built from a modestly-powered and otherwise fairly un-remarkable Viva saloon. Yet that's what Henry caught on film, a Viva saloon that went under the knife to be converted into a vehicle for use in an overseas funeral business. Henry adds:
"[The photo was] taken on the 15th May 1972, as my late wife & I got ready to leave Folkestone bound for Aberdeen with two new caravanettes to add to a self-drive fleet. The HC Vauxhall Viva in the photo, according to an employee, came to Dormobile as a saloon & was converted there to serve as a hearse in some exotic place like Bermuda or the Bahamas. Maybe someone will recognise it & provide better information?
Can anyone shed more light on this unusual vehicle? A second snapshot, taken of the caravanettes, captures something of the car's rear-end styling, so has been included in the photograph below.
(Please click the thumbnail to view the full-size image.)
Viva hearse conversion
The rear section of roof, bootlid area and rear pillars were all disposed of during the build, and were replaced by a long roof section and tailgate, complete with roof rack and to top-off the transformation, an oh-so-1970s vinyl roof - perhaps to disguise some of the work that went into re-working the back end. At the time Vauxhall themselves were producing a two-door estate version of the HC, a line that was introduced in 1970, but clearly the client for this car required four doors. I'm not sure what use the rear doors would have been once a coffin was loaded in, but there must have been a reason. Possibly the car was also used for other duties, perhaps as part of a cortege other than as a hearse when family members of the deceased had to be transported?
If anyone can provide more information on the Viva shown here, please drop me a line and I'll update this page accordingly. Despite its rarity, on balance I think I'd prefer to own the Triumph TR5 also in view, rather than the HC. Does the TR5, reg. MCD 650F, survive anywhere?
The name "Dormobile" is better known for its association with campervans, or "motorhomes", and indeed it was two Ford-based campervans that Henry was collecting from Folkestone on the day that this shot was taken. Thanks for sending it over!
Visit page 17 in the vintage gallery, or return to the gallery's main index page. A number of leaflets issued in 1970/1971 for the Viva HC range, including the Firenza coupe, may be found on this page of the site. Photos of a standard Viva 1300GLS, c1980, can be seen on this page.
On the subject of Dormobile conversions, I've now added in two photos from the 1950s of a Dormobile conversion undertaken on a Vauxhall Velox saloon. They can be found here.

Custom Search
Old Classic Car (C) R. Jones 2020. Content not to be reproduced elsewhere.
Website by ableweb.
Privacy Policy, Cookies & Disclaimers