The two-door hearse is a modified version of a car from the luxury brand conceived by former General Motors CEO Alfred P. Sloan and intended to slot in between Cadillac and Buick in the automaker's highly stratified portfolio. Cadillac built LaSalle vehicles, which were designed by longtime GM design chief Harley Earl, between 1927 and 1940.
The LaSalle hearse, which features a three-speed manual transmission and a shifter on the steering column, has been owned by Detroit's Swanson Funeral Home since it opened in 1958. It's the same vehicle that was used to carry the bodies of Franklin's father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, in 1984; David Ruffin of legendary Motown group the Temptations, in 1991; and civil rights icon Rosa Parks, in 2005. It's reportedly kept in storage in Detroit and only used for special occasions.
"It was a very cool car and absolutely speaks of Detroit," Jonathan Klinger, a spokesman for Hagerty Classic Insurance, told the Detroit Free Press. "It's just very fitting that a classic icon of Detroit, Aretha, was driven by a classic automotive icon of Detroit."
Franklin is closely tied with Detroit, her longtime home (though she was born in Memphis, she moved to the city at an early age, and she returned to Detroit for good in the 1980s), and with the city's auto industry, thanks most famously to the song "Freeway of Love," with its video highlighting scenes of auto manufacturing and the song's reference to riding in a pink Cadillac.
Franklin will be laid to rest on Friday, with her funeral closed to friends and family only. However, Greater Grace Temple, the Detroit church where her funeral services will take place, is putting out the call to owners of actual pink Cadillacs to come out and form a "Freeway of Love" in Aretha's memory, with each driver and a guest granted admission to the service inside, according to the AP.