Tamworth Co-operative Society has taken delivery of a new luxury Mercedes funeral fleet costing £500,000 after a two-year wait.
Glen Speak, general manager of Tamworth Co-operative Funeral Service, said the two hearses and two limousines are the most environmentally friendly funeral vehicles the Society has ever owned.
“They are all hybrids capable of doing around 65 miles per gallon which is incredible. We ordered them during the pandemic, but the global chip shortage in the automotive industry slowed production levels right down.
“It’s fantastic to finally take delivery of them because they are stunning.”
All the vehicles started life as Mercedes E200 models but were immediately whisked away after being built to be given an extraordinary transformation.
“The body work and chassis is extensively modified and had the interiors stripped out,” explained Mr Speak. “A new section was then added to the middle, along with a whole host of features including bespoke windows. It’s a massive and complex operation.”
The work was carried out by Wilcox Limousines, a family firm of coachbuilders from Wigan which has been in existence for more than 70 years.
The company has been providing funeral fleets to Tamworth Co-op since 1961.
“It’s remarkable to think that I’m the fourth general manager to have worked with them,” added Mr Speak. “My predecessors worked with different generations of the same family.”
On this occasion it was Louis Wilcox, the firm’s sales director, who personally handed over the four sets of keys at Tamworth Co-op’s main funeral home in Upper Gungate.
He said the carbon fibre design of the cars was upgraded to a sleeker style, and that each one is highly specified.
“The air suspension is perfect for funeral vehicles as it allows them to glide seamlessly over the road, and it minimises movement when going round corners. The engines are also very quiet.”
In addition, the vehicles are equipped with nine-gear automatic gear boxes, and multiple ambient lighting. The wooden coffin deck on the hearses can even be lit in various colours.
The new fleet will supplement Tamworth Co-op’s existing Jaguar cars and will replace an older set of Jaguar vehicles.
Mr Speak said: “We need to be extremely flexible in what we offer because while some families might request a hearse and up to six or more limousines, others might want just a hearse, or possibly a hearse plus one saloon for them to follow behind in.
“We are conscious that the pandemic and cost of living crisis has hit many people in the Tamworth area hard, and we need to cater for all budgets.
“Some families on the other hand want several luxury vehicles for their loved one’s send-off. We can request the entire fleet or a specific number of vehicles to suit a family’s requirements.
“Whatever their needs, these new limos will add a touch of dignity and luxury to the occasion.”
He pointed out there is an added benefit of having funeral cars which is often not appreciated
“Travelling together slowly and quietly in a comfortable limousine to the church or crematorium gives families an intimate space to talk to each other. This often gives them a sense of calm before the funeral takes place which can help them get through the day.
“Some people wish to travel in their own vehicles which is fine, but others believe funeral cars are an essential part of any funeral and something their lost loved ones would appreciate. That’s why we have invested in getting the best vehicles we can for those people who need them.”