Steane Klose | Oct 15, 2008

There's an old saying that suggests the two things in life that we simply can't avoid are death and taxes. Now dying is a fairly grim exercise, but unlike the tax office, you are guaranteed to finish the process with a shirt on your back, and even more importantly, one final journey in a car. Surely not a bad thing for us auto enthusiasts?

It also appears that in Australia, hearses are being taken rather seriously. An Australian project to design and manufacture a world-class hearse for the funeral industry has chosen a dedicated LPG-powered Ford Falcon utility as its base vehicle.

It goes without saying that the Falcon ute has been extensively re-engineered (you won't find any bodies under a tonneau cover) by a team of ex-Holden and Ford designers to create the Allonge hearse.

The Allonge is the brainchild of Marc Allison from one of Australia's leading funeral directors, TJ Andrews.

"To our knowledge this is the first time a Falcon ute has been properly converted and we chose it as the based vehicle because it was available with a dedicated LPG engine and would cost less to modified than a wagon or sedan," Marc said.

The motivation behind Mr Allison's creation, was the desire to create a better looking, better quality vehicle than the typical hearse, at a lower production cost to give head room for a significant R&D investment.

"There is no vehicle that has a more noble purpose than a hearse but most of them are not of an appropriate standard," he said.

"We've designed a vehicle that is more attractive outside and in, will be more durable, will have better resale value and will be better value for money"

"In addition, by choosing dedicated LPG power fuel costs will be lower, making the vehicle an even more attractive business proposition to funeral directors."

"For example, petrol for TJ Andrew's fleet of vehicles costs us more than $240,000 a year and rising, so the lower fuel cost of running on LPG will be welcome."

Creating the Allonge has been a rigorous process of design and engineering, with Tim Rugendyke, former Holden designer and now Design Director at TDI (Transport Design International), styling the all-new rear sections of the vehicle to create an integrated design.

The extensive engineering required to turn the Falcon ute chassis into a hearse was led by Todd Lawler and Simon Orton from Leslie Consulting, with input from former senior Ford Australia engineer Graeme Sheahan. The developers made use of Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools, and say the difference can be seen in the quality of the finished product.

The Allonge is currently undergoing final testing and government approval and is expected to enter service within six months. It is planned to sell the new hearse in Australia, in addition to which potential UK, New Zealand and Pacific region market opportunities are being investigated.

Remove the rear-side glass and you'd also have a ripper panel van - and that's surely worth living for?

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