Thomas A. McPherson
Thomas A. McPherson, undisputedly the auto hobby’s most authoritative historian and prolifically-published author on the topic of ambulances, funeral cars and the specialist coachbuilders that created them, died February 25th, 2021 at the age of 73 after collapsing in his Toronto, Ontario home. He leaves behind his wife Cindi, daughter Meaghen Clark and hundreds of friends and fans affiliated with The Professional Car Society (PCS) and Professional Cars International (PCI).
This Shelby, Ohio native was only 10 years old when he first got hooked on hearses and ambulances through the ads he clipped from a stack of old mortuary trade magazines he’d acquired from a funeral home that was cleaning house, and had accumulated more than 2,000 coachbuilder sales brochures and factory photos by the time his Crestline-published 1973 tome AMERICAN FUNERAL CARS AND AMBULANCES SINCE 1900 became the first serious and comprehensive book-length survey of professional car history. Despite its “acquired taste” subject matter his affectionately-nicknamed “Black Book” found a fervent following among funeral directors and emergency service personnel who spent their careers working with these vehicles, which proved instrumental in creating an enthusiastic membership base for the Professional Car Society co-founded by George Hamlin and Dwight Heinmuller in 1976.
PCS Publications Director Walt McCall, auspiciously introduced to McPherson on March 10th, 1970 (“How’s that for recall?,” he reminisces) by an editor at the WINDSOR (Ontario) STAR who was dumbfounded to discover he had TWO “hearse-storians” on his newsroom staff, expressed thanks after Tom’s passing for their 51-year friendship and the scores of feature articles Tom contributed THE PROFESSIONAL CAR, asserting “it’s miraculous how our paths crossed at all when you look at what resulted from it. He’d deluge me with pictures no matter the subject.” Over the years Tom’s PCS extended family also embraced the other books in which he exhaustively chronicled the histories of individual funeral coach and ambulance builders like Flxible (1993), Eureka (1994), Superior (1995) through his own Specialty Vehicle Press and his Iconografix-published Complete Histories of The Henney Motor Company in 2009 and Miller-Meteor in 2010. In addition to authoring THE DODGE STORY for Crestline Publishing in 1975 and collaborating with Walt McCall on Iconografix photo archive books celebrating 1900-1979 Classic American Ambulances (1999), 1937-1987 Cadillac Fleetwood Series Seventy-Five Limousines (2009) and 1933-1948 Carved-Panel Hearses (2011), McPherson even manufactured professional cars of his own in Toronto after teaming up with Vancouver, B.C. coach dealer Howard Carter during the 1980s to revive the venerated 1871-1964 Eureka brand for a broad, historically-inspired range of Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac funeral vehicles that even included 1930s style town car hearses.
Gregg D. Merksamer, Publicity & Media Relations
ABOUT THE ALSO-ATTACHED PHOTOS: Canadian “hearse-storian” Thomas A. McPherson has his picture taken with the stately, Flxible-bodied 1964 Buick Premier funeral coach/ambulance “combination” shown by Walter Lindsey of Loudonville, Ohio at the Professional Car Society’s 2011 International Meet in Hudson, Ohio.