CLASSIC Austin hearse Morag has been lovingly restored to her former glory to mark her 65th birthday this summer.
Morag, believed to be one of only three or four Austin FX3 hearses still in existence, is the pride and joy of Miles & Daughters Funeral Directors of Berkshire.
Bought by former Miles & Daughters owner Adam Miles more than ten years ago, Morag has become a local celebrity in and around Reading, Wokingham and Maidenhead, turning heads and lightening the mood of hundreds of funerals.
Affectionately known as the Heartbeat hearse, due to her appearance in the popular 1990s TV show, she has a TV and film pedigree, having also been hired out for use in Midsomer Murders, Father Brown and one of the recent Batman films.
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When Miles and Daughters became part of the Funeral Partners family of high-quality funeral businesses in late 2019, Funeral Partners promised to restore Morag so she could remain their flagship vehicle.
Sarah White, Area Development Manager for Berkshire, explained: “Morag is so special to us all, she’s beautiful and quirky.
“When you see her, you can’t help but smile. She is part of who we are and is well-known in the area, people recognise her.”
Only 12,000 Austin FX3s were built, between 1948 and 1958, for use as taxis in London and major cities, with a small number being converted to hearses. The Miles and Daughters team believe Morag originally came from Scotland, where she was named after a previous owner’s wife.
She made the journey to Coway Prestige in Bolton, which specialises in restoring ceremonial vehicles, last year for a full restoration.
Terry Jarvis, who supports Funeral Partners’ fleet management, explained: “There were significant structural repairs to remove rust and corrosion, plus a lot of wood needed replacing. She’s been fully restored and re-painted with some modern safety improvements like seat belts and LED lights.
“Her former owner had collected some lovely pieces of chrome for the roof rails and a chrome spotlight, and there are some period light fittings on the coffin deck which have been restored, they will look spectacular. There is also some beautiful original beveled glass, which we’ve taken great care to preserve.”
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The team at Miles & Daughters are delighted by Morag’s return. Sarah said: “She looks absolutely stunning, the restorers have done a fantastic job and everyone was really excited to see her. “Morag is very popular and we’re hoping, if Covid-19 restrictions allow by the late summer, to have an open day at our Winnersh funeral home where she will be on display. We also plan to use the event to fundraise for Thames Hospice.
“Many family members who ask to use Morag for their loved one’s funeral explain that their first car was an Austin. We’re looking forward to taking her out into the community again, people always notice her and she makes us different.”