Five Decades in The Specialist Vehicle Trade: Happy Retirement to Peter Smith

Peter Smith is familiar to all of you who know Superior UK. Head of the family – and of the business – he is about to head into retirement. We take a look back at an astounding career in coachbuilding, specialist vehicles, and the funeral fleet industry.

The 1970s

The specialist coachbuilding world of the 1970s and 80s was an exciting time, and Peter was right in the thick of it. He recalls building exotic vehicles for Middle East customers – mainly 6-wheeled Range Rovers and convertible 2-door Range Rovers – as well as bespoke vehicles for the rich and famous.

Even back then, Peter would occasionally be asked to build a hearse or limousine, but it would be some years before they would form a significant part of his business.

6 wheeled Range Rover

Convertible Range Rover

The start for Nilsson UK at Aldermaston 1989

6 wheeled Range Rover

The 1980s

Cast your mind back to the mid-80s to a time when interest in classic English cars was on the rise. Peter began restoring and supplying some beautiful classic cars, including Jaguar E-types and XKs, Rolls Royce cars, and other marques.

Restored Jaguar E Type

Restored Jaguar E Type

Into the Funeral Vehicle Market

In the late 1980s, Peter formed a working relationship which would see him move into the funeral vehicle world – an industry he never left.

An opportunity arose to work alongside specialist coachbuilder Yngve Nilsson Karosserifabrik, who were in charge of Volvo special vehicles for Volvo Cars. Peter quickly formed a great working relationship with the Nilsson family and moved fully into the specialist market of funeral vehicles.

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Volvo S80 hearse project

Nilsson UK & Specialist Funeral Vehicles

Did you know that Peter formed Nilsson Karosserifabrik UK Ltd (Nilsson UK)? He introduced the Volvo-based hearse and limousine to UK funeral directors, and with this came full manufacturer-approved specialist vehicles with steel body construction and one-piece steel roofs.

Over time, the Volvo funeral vehicles evolved and became one of the strongest and most trusted brands on the market. The vehicles were renowned for build quality – in fact many of these vehicles are still in service long after they should have retired!

Binz Mercedes (211) Limousine

The start for Nilsson UK at Aldermaston 1989

Innovations in Funeral Vehicle Design

Nilsson and Nilsson UK were forward-thinking companies. Peter was instrumental in the design and production of 5-door hearses, 4 and 6-door limousines, and 5-seater hearses as standard, as well as the development of the first Rise&Fall decking systems.

Volvo S80 hearse project

Nilsson Sweden showing Vauxhall Omega limousines

The 2000s

As the Millennium approached, it was clear that the world was becoming a very different place and customer expectations were changing. Peter knew the products he offered needed to adapt and continue to lead the way in a new millennium. Onto the next chapter…

The Binz Years 

Earlier in his career, Peter had crossed paths with world-renowned Germany coachbuilder Binz. They were best known for producing Mercedes-Benz E Class limousines, ambulances, and heavy-duty chassis. Binz and Peter entered into discussions. Binz agreed to produce their first production hearse (the 211 E-class Binz), and Peter formed Binz UK Ltd. From 2003, Binz products were the mainstay of the business.

Many of you will remember that first Binz. It truly was a mould breaker that altered the direction of the funeral vehicle industry. The hearse was launched with a diesel engine only, Elegance specification, with full glass coffin chamber including a glass roof. The styling was contemporary at the time, but has stood the test of time – demand for this timeless classic is still high.

Next came the 212 E Class, the limousine was launched with a panoramic glass roof fitted as standard. It became an overnight success.

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Binz Mercedes (211) Limousine

The Changing Face of Funerals 

During the recession of 2008-2012, people began wanting something different from funerals.

The traditional religious ceremony was on the decline, and people wanted more of a celebration of life. This often meant an alternative to traditional hearses: motorcycles, HGVs, horses, or even novelty type vehicles.

The Pilato family (who were also a concessionaire for Nilsson) were famous for their flamboyant hearse designs. Peter saw an opportunity to bring a new style of vehicle to the UK funeral market. He arranged a meeting with Pilato to discuss the possibility of a relationship. From that meeting, Superior UK Automotive was born, and launched a series of the most exciting funerals vehicles the UK funeral market has seen.

The Man at The Centre of a Changing Industry 

From Volvo Cars, to Binz UK, and a ground-breaking partnership with Pilato in Superior UK Automotive, Peter Smith has been instrumental in changing customer expectations of funeral vehicles. He has always believed that coachbuilding should improve the quality of the vehicle. The standards and equipment we enjoy today were innovations introduced by Peter and the associated coachbuilders during his 30 years’ service to the funeral profession.

Happy retirement to Peter Smith.

Five Decades in The Specialist Vehicle Trade: Happy Retirement to Peter Smith is a post from Superior Automotive UK. The main Superior Automotive UK website is here.

 

First UK Polaris Hearse Is Hand-Signed During Build By Southern Co-op

When Southern Co-op made the decision to order a brand-new Polaris hearse, the team already knew it was a first for the UK funeral industry. What co-operative funeral colleagues didn’t know is quite how unique the process would become – from flying out to the Pilato factory to see their car in build, to signing the inside of the vehicle and installing a personalised plaque inside the bonnet. 

Southern Co-op Polaris Delivery Jarrod Turner Kevin Smith Matt Turner

Southern Co-op is a regional, independent co-operative with more than 50 funeral branches across the south of England. Matt Turner from Southern Co-op told us about the process of becoming a Polaris owner.

“Some of our existing fleet were coming to the end of their life cycle with us,” he said, “and we were looking at the various options available in the market. We operate across a large and busy region, and our vehicles need to be reliable. But we also like our ceremonial vehicles to look the part – stylish and different, without losing any of the tradition and etiquette.”

Wow-Factor Hearse With Design Style

“We really needed a high end hearse that would wow our clients, and be in keeping with the high end service we are known for. Once I saw the Polaris, I knew it was exactly what we wanted. The latest Mercedes, with the design style of Pilato, created the perfect match for our company.”

Southern Co-op Polaris 01

After contacting Superior UK (official partners and distributors of Pilato to the UK), Matt felt even more certain that the Polaris was the right decision.

“We were captivated by the Pilato Polaris. It has such a modern and stunning design that we knew we wanted it as an eye-catching part of our fleet.”

Kevin Smith from Superior UK visited Southern Co-op to talk to Matt and his colleague Claire McGinty about the Polaris hearse, helping Matt and Claire design their perfect spec and finish.

“We have a very close working relationship with Pilato,” explained Kevin. “I visit the Pilato factory several times a year, and I know these cars inside out. That level of knowledge means I can help our customers make decisions almost as if their vehicle was in front of us.”

Before long, the vehicle would in fact be in front of them, when Matt and Claire received a surprise invitation to see their Polaris being built at the Pilato factory in Italy.

Co-op and Superior at Pilato factory

Seeing Their Vehicle During The Build Process

“We have never had the opportunity to see one of our hearses mid production,” said Matt, “so we jumped at the opportunity to head out to the factory. Being able to see the hearse – plus others that were further down the line – helped us visualise the end result far better than a picture ever could. We spent time talking with the Pilato team working on our hearse to explain our vision. It was an amazing experience.”

Matt and Claire were even able to personalise some of the design, as Kevin from Superior UK explained.

“During their visit to the Pilato factory, Claire and Matt secretly signed the inside of the hearse during the build process,” he said, “and we installed a little plaque under the bonnet dedicating the vehicle to its new owner.” 

Matt Turner Claire McGinty Southern Co-op signing car at Pilato factory

Adding A Personal Touch

“It was so nice to be able to add a personal touch to the hearse by writing a little message inside,” said Matt. “We knew our team would find and read it when we took delivery – a really special touch.”

The finished vehicle was finished in Mercedes Tenorite grey metallic. The interior has lots of LED lighting, grey laminate decking, a black leather interior trim and white quilted stitching. Pilato installed some custom perspex window trims which allow for the discrete display of illuminated name plates. 

Southern Co-op Polaris 02

Southern Co-op was the first to order a Polaris hearse, and the first to take delivery in the South of England.

“It’s great to get our hands on this amazing car,” said Matt. “It is everything that we had hoped it would be. Working with Superior and Pilato has been great. We really value the close relationship we have built up with Superior over the years, and look forward to continuing this for many years to come.”

Southern Co-op is a regional, independent co-operative owned by its 140,000+ members. As well as food and funeral branches, it also runs two crematoria and a natural burial ground which reaffirm the co-operative’s sustainable business approach and commitment to providing a fair, fresh approach for all.

First UK Polaris Hearse Is Hand-Signed During Build By Southern Co-op is a blog from Superior UK. The main Superior UK website is here.

William T Fraser & Son First In Highlands To Take Delivery Of PilatoMercedes Polaris 

William T Fraser & Son took delivery of their Polaris Mercedes hearse in July, they became one of the first funeral directors in the UK to run this stunning new design concept from Pilato.

Director Martin Fraser, who represents the third generation of this family business, explains why the Polaris gets a resounding thumbs-up from him and all his team.

Fraser2

“We wanted to add a new hearse to our existing fleet of a vintage Daimler and E Class Mercedes,” said Martin. “I started looking around and realised most modern hearses are quite unattractive. Why should we have to buy ugly hearses? Superior UK and Pilato offer something very different and exciting. Kevin came all the way from Berkshire to Inverness to talk to us about the Polaris.”

Kevin Smith from Superior UK was delighted to tell Martin and his family about the PilatoMercedes E-Class Polaris hearse, which is still new to the UK. It’s a modern take on traditional hearse design, with sleek lines and distinctive Polaris aesthetics. Large side glasses, a glass tailgate, and LED illumination give an incredible sense of space, with the high-tech specification taking this hearse to a new level.

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“Since that first long-distance visit to talk us through the options, Superior have continued to be a great help,” says Martin. “The ordering process was very smooth and we were able to personalise the specification, interior, and exterior. Greg from Superior was on hand right through to delivery day. I couldn’t be happier with the build quality, fit, and finish. It’s an absolutely stunning vehicle.”

Martin isn’t the only one who thinks the Polaris is the most eye-catching hearse around. Luckily, his whole team agree.

Fraser3

“I did a blind test of all the hearses on the market,” Martin says. “I showed every member of staff a photo of all the cars we could have chosen, making sure to remove the vehicle names first. They all picked the Polaris, without knowing it was the car I was considering.”

Martin likes to keep ahead of the game, and he has the first Obsidian black Polaris in Scotland. It has already become the show stopper of the William T Fraser fleet.

William T Fraser Fleet

“People are coming up especially to see it,” says Martin, “and it’s received incredible feedback from families. The Polaris is one way of showing our dedication to bringing the best possible service to families.

“We are over the moon with the vehicle, and with the service from Superior UK. We are very proud to be one of the first funeral directors in the UK to take ownership of a Pilato hearse.”

William T Fraser & Son First In Highlands To Take Delivery Of PilatoMercedes Polaris is a blog post from Superior UK – the main Superior UK website is here.

High-Spec Vito On Display At NFE Finds New Home With Alan Greenwood & Sons 

An independent funeral director business with 31 funeral homes and chapels of rest needs a large fleet. But when Alan Greenwood attended this year’s NFE, he didn’t plan to leave with a new vehicle. He tells us why this new Vito caught his eye.

Greenwood new Vito

“We’re one of the largest true independents remaining in the UK,” says Alan, who runs Alan Greenwood & Sons. “We currently have more than 25 funeral homes across Surrey and South London, as you can imagine this means the business is always expanding and adapting. One of our greatest needs is having enough good quality, reliable fleet vehicles.”

Alan has come to Superior UK for ceremonial vehicles and private ambulances for over 15 years, and some of his first Superior vehicles are still in service.

“I’ve always done business with Kevin at Superior because his vehicles have always been great quality, and he looks after us very well,” says Alan. “We’ve had new vehicles from him, and he’s done repair and service work for us too. He’s a good man to deal with, and in this business that means a lot.”

Alan Greenwood with Kevin Smith Vito handover

Superior UK always have a large stand at the NFE, and this year was no different. Alan attended the show keen to see Superior’s vehicles, but had no intention of actually buying anything. But you know what they say about the best laid plans…

“I may have had a G&T!” jokes Alan. “I wasn’t expecting to buy a vehicle at the NFE, but when the best in the business are there and you can physically look around the cars, it makes sense. I spotted the new Vito on Superior’s stand and knew it would be our next removal vehicle. It is a very high-spec vehicle, beautifully kitted out, and can double up as a hearse – which makes it even more of an attractive prospect.”

Alan’s new Mercedes Vito removal vehicle has a high level of specification, complete with air-conditioning, a reversing camera, and automatic transmission.”

Alan Greenwood with new Vito

“It’s everything you could need in a removal vehicle, and more,” explains Kevin Smith from Superior UK. “The specification is designed to accommodate the specific needs of a funeral director, making it a truly multi-purpose vehicle.

“The attention to detail and quality of finish, combined with its MPV-like appearance, means it is real for nursing homes and residential removals, replacing the need to operate both a removal van and an estate car or people carrier.

“Our Vito is ideal as a hearse for the morbidly obese or for low-cost funerals. We have also supplied our Vitos for repatriation use. It really is a great reliable all-rounder.”

Alan Greenwood & Sons took delivery of their new Vito in July and immediately put the vehicle to work across a busy region.

“We have chosen to go to Superior UK for our vehicles since buying our first limousine from Kevin in 2004,” says Alan. “We enjoy a friendly relationship and I know Kevin is only ever a phone call away. This latest vehicle is another example of the quality vehicles and great service we have always had. That’s why I stay with Superior.”

High-Spec Vito On Display At NFE Finds New Home With Alan Greenwood & Sons is a blog post from Superior UK Automotive – their main website is here – Superior UK website.

Edwin Pounds Choose Pilato For Brand-New Mercedes E-Class Hearse



Edwin Pounds and Sons of Bradford have become one of the first funeral directors in the UK to add a Polaris hearse to their fleet, taking delivery of the Pilato-Mercedes from Superior UK. Simon Broome, Company Director, explains the decision to switch to Pilato.

“We have already had three full fleets from Superior UK,” he says, “so when they became official partners of Pilato we kept an eye on the vehicles. We knew the partnership with Pilato was sure to produce something out of the ordinary.’

When it came time to change his existing hearse for a new vehicle, Simon came to Superior to enquire about Pilato’s hearses.

Edwin Pounds and Sons was established in 1904 by Simon’s maternal great-grandfather, who added funeral work to the business in 1940.

“We have worked with Simon and his family for nearly 15 years, and we know how much pride they take in running a beautiful fleet,” says Kevin Smith of Superior UK. “I was excited to tell Simon about the two Pilato hearses – the Mercedes E-Class Polaris and the Jaguar GrandAurora – and even more excited to actually show him the vehicles.”

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Superior UK arranged for Simon to visit the Pilato factory in Italy.

“It’s very rare to get the opportunity to see potential new vehicles in the build stage,” says Simon. “The Pilato family were so welcoming – it’s obvious they take great pride in what they are doing over in Italy.”

Simon made the decision to purchase a new Pilato Mercedes E-Class Polaris hearse, and Superior UK helped him settle on the ideal spec and finish. They even managed to fit in a second trip out to the Pilato factory – this time to see Simon’s own vehicle being built.

“It can sometimes feel like a long time to wait from ordering to delivery, so this extra bit of customer service fills that gap and adds a great deal of trust and confidence,” he says. “It was great to see our hearse in build – we were able to spec it up whilst we were out there. It’s a great way to feel involved with the process.”

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Kevin Smith explains the special partnership between Pilato and Superior UK.

“Both Superior and Pilato are relatively small, family-run businesses,” he says. “We really understand the funeral industry, and know how much value our customers place in their ceremonial vehicles. Funeral cars are not like other cars. They are a hugely important part of a funeral director’s business. That’s why we take our customers out to the Pilato factory so they can see the design and build process. Pilato go the extra mile to make their vehicles special, and we extend that care to our own customers. Our partnership lets funeral directors feel very involved in their vehicle investments. Which is as it should be!”

Edwin Pounds and Sons have now taken delivery of their new Polaris hearse – and of a brand-new VW Transporter 4MOTION removal vehicle which was also ordered from Superior UK.

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“When we saw Superior were doing the VW Transporter in 4-wheel drive, we knew it was the right choice for us,” said Simon. “We struggle here in Bradford during harsh winters. Our new vehicle hasn’t met any snow yet of course, but it’s already a far smoother and more powerful drive than our previous removal vehicle.

“

As for the Polaris, it has surpassed our expectations,” he said. “It’s stunning, unusual, and a real touch of class. Great service as always from Superior UK, this time with the addition of everyone at Pilato in Italy.”

For more information about Pilato vehicles or the Superior UK/Pilato partnership, see https://www.superioruk.com/

Exclusive: See These 5 Superior UK and Pilato Vehicles At NFE 2019

It’s nearly time for the NFE show (Friday 7th – Sunday 9th June at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire). We’ll be there (we never miss the NFE!) with 5 spectacular vehicles on our stand. One of them is a pre-production first-view exclusive…

Here’s exactly what you’ll see on the Superior UK stand (370 & 375) this weekend at the National Funeral Exhibition.

1) The Pilato Jaguar XF GrandAurora 5dr hearse

We just had to bring the latest Jaguar offering from Pilato! This amazing hearse has a closed coffin chamber with LED lighting around the central leather roof trim. It’s fitted out with the Superior slide-out decking system finished in a modern grey wood grain deck finish, and beautifully finished in Jaguar black metallic paintwork.

GA

2) The Pilato Mercedes E-Class Polaris 5dr hearse

We’ll be bringing the petrol engine variant of the Pilato Mercedes E-Class Polaris, which is now available to purchase (alongside the standard diesel version). The vehicle which will be on our stand has a self opening/closing tailgate, and Superior’s slide-out casket decking system with under-deck storage. It has been finished in deep gloss black metallic paintwork.

Pillato & Limo

3) The Pilato Mercedes E-Class 6dr limousine

Pre-production exclusive! Be one of the first to look around the new Pilato Mercedes E-Class limousine – the NFE will be the first time this all-new limo will be on show (it only went into production in January 2019!) You’ll view a pre-production vehicle, demonstrating exactly what you can expect later in the year. As always, Pilato will add a little Italian flair to their limousine… come and see for yourself!

4) The Mercedes-Benz Vito covert removal vehicle

This smart removal vehicle has the Superior Rise&Fall decking system, and is fully equipped with automatic transmission, air-conditioning, alloy wheels, and all round MPV style glazing. It is finished in metallic black paintwork. This vehicle will be available for purchase at the show – just come and visit the stand.

5) The VW T6 4MOTION all wheel drive covert removal vehicle

This VW 4MOTION is finished to a high specification with an extraordinary amount of equipment, including automatic transmission, 4MOTION all wheel drive, electric opening/closing tailgate, alloy wheels and much more. It also has the Superior Rise&Fall decking system. It will be available for purchase at the show, so please come and take a look around.

We always look forward to the NFE and can’t wait to show you our 5 display vehicles, and talk to you about everything else that’s in the pipeline from Superior UK and Pilato.

Visit the stand, have a look at the vehicles, have some refreshments, and say hi.

We look forward to welcoming friends old and new on show stand numbers 370 & 375 at the National Funeral Exhibition 2019.

Pilato E-Class Limousine To Join Polaris In Luxury Mercedes Line-Up

News from Italy: Pilato in partnership with Superior UK are building a flagship limousine to complement the Polaris hearse

January 2019 saw the start of a very exciting project between Pilato in Italy and Superior UK (as Pilato’s first and only official agent). The Pilato range already includes the stunning high-end Polaris E-Class hearse. Thanks to close collaboration between Superior UK and Pilato, there will soon be an E-class limousine. Watch this space for the name!

An E-Class Limousine To Match The Polaris Hearse

Superior UK are Pilato’s official partner and first distributing agent. So when we told Pilato that the UK market was crying out for an E-class limousine with unrivalled aesthetics, quality, and finish, the team agreed to build it. We’ve been serving the UK funeral industry for generations, and we are proud of the trust our customer place in us. When you tell us you want an outstanding quality limousine, we will pull out all the stops to get it designed and built for you. And that’s why the new E-class Pilato has come into existence. For you.

Once Pilato agreed to build it for us, the E-class limousine project started to move fast. Faster than any other vehicle design and build we’ve ever known. We aim to have the first vehicle on our NFE stand at Stoneleigh in June, so keep an eye on our news pages as the show draws closer.

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Where The Polaris Leads, The Limousine Will Follow

The stunning Polaris E-class hearse has been Pilato’s flagship vehicle, unmistakeable in its sheer quality and design. We promise the limousine will match the standards of the hearse. It will be aesthetically pleasing – long, roomy, and airy but not too long (we know it has to be usable for the UK’s smaller roads, and older burial grounds and crematoriums). We can reveal that it will have the panoramic glass roof you have come to associate with top-of-the-range limousines, but this feature will be done with Pilato’s unmistakable flair. This car will be unlike anything you’ve seen before it.

“Pilato is the most exciting and forward-thinking vehicle brand in the funeral industry,” said Kevin Smith of Superior UK. “They are constantly pushing ahead with design ideas, and investing heavily into their factory. Superior UK is proud to be so closely involved with Pilato developments, and able to bring these luxury vehicles to UK customers. I’m glad we’re along for the ride!”

The premium vehicle will be primarily used by funeral directors, but we expect our order book to include high end non-funeral clientele and VIPs, too. We expect the vehicle to be that level of desirability and design, with fit and finish to mirror the original car on which it is built.

Specifications & Features

Whilst the Pilato E-class limousine doesn’t have a name (yet), we can definitely tell you about the spec, features, and customisation options. The vehicle will be a 9-speed automatic, in diesel or petrol, with heated front seats, air-con and luxury climate control, navigation, parking sensors and reversing camera. It will have a panoramic glass roof (Italian style) and the option of privacy glass, full-size centre bench seat, 64 colour ambient lighting, and LED head and tail lamps.

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Mercedes-Benz Quality E-Class Limousine

Kevin Smith is thrilled to play such a key role in the development of the new E-class limousine. “Customers can expect Mercedes-Benz quality throughout this vehicle,” he said. “We know the funeral market in the UK are looking for a limousine of a certain quality, and we have been able to communicate this desire to Pilato. And the Italians are delivering! Pilato vehicles are a step ahead of anything we have ever worked with, and the new limousine will be no exception. I can not wait to reveal this amazing new car to our customers.”

The Pilato E-class limousine will be the most hotly-anticipated premium branded product in the funeral industry. It’s exactly the right size, wide and roomy with plenty of leg room. The glass roof gives an airy feel, and the luxurious interior will leave you in no doubt as to the quality of vehicle you are travelling in.

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A Limousine To Match Your Brand Identity

The limousine in your funeral fleet speaks volumes about who you are and what you stand for. The Pilato E-class limousine will help you make a statement about your business, stand out from the competition, and offer families a true touch of dignified luxury. Your choice of limousine is interpreted by your customers. Let the Pilato limousine send out your choice of message.

To register your interest in the Pilato E-Class limousine, get in touch with Superior UK.