DETROIT, Mich. — On the morning of August 24, 2012, a veteran chauffeur of Detroit-based Satisfaction Limousines, who had just completed a late-night trip on a 35-passenger luxury coach, requested to bring the coach home because he had an early morning pick up the next day and needed to stay within commercial vehicle driving hour guidelines. The scheduled pick up location was only 10 minutes from where the chauffeur lived, so the company’s owners granted him permission.
On the way home, the chauffeur stopped at a 7-Eleven to pick up a few things before calling it a night. While inside the store, the clerk told the chauffeur that his bus was being moved. The chauffeur ran outside after the vehicle but it was too late — the bus was on the street heading toward the interstate. Police were called to the scene but made no arrests.
Later that morning, the Satisfaction Limousine office received word that a Detroit police officer had located the stolen coach in a field near south I-75, just south of Detroit. The suspects ran away from the scene at the officer’s approach and no arrests were made. The vehicle was towed back to Satisfaction’s facility and damages were assessed.
Most electronic equipment had been stolen, including flat screen TVs, radios, DVD players, electronic switch panels and modules, fiber optic lighting materials and cleaning supplies. The body of the vehicle was intact and only damaged in the front engine area, where hoses and lines were cut in an attempt to dismantle as much of the motor as possible. However, the thieves were unable to take anything from the engine compartment.
Robert Hamilton, Jr., vice president and director of special events for Satisfaction Limousines, told LCT that the first step after recovering the vehicle was to make it drivable again.
Satisfaction Limousine's luxury minicoach, Phoenix, that was stolen, recovered, and fitted with an upgraded interior.
“Jim Bolinger of Westwind Coachworks in Dayton, Ohio, originally built and sold this vehicle to us, so it was he who was contacted when repairs and restoration were deemed possible,” Hamilton said. Hamilton is the son of Robert Hamilton, Sr. and Maria Hamilton, founders and owners of Satisfaction Limousines.
“When this incident happened, the industry was preparing for a surge of demand due to high school homecoming season, late Detroit Tigers games and a huge bump in wedding activity,” Hamilton said. “Thankfully, during the downtime we were able to maneuver our vehicle reservation schedule around, but for the reservations we could not accommodate, we decided to purchase a new 2013 luxury coach from Mr. Bolinger to ensure that any clients that had already reserved with us would not be left without a vehicle for their big event.”
Robert Hamilton, Sr., also happens to be master mechanic, and he worked with local vendors to secure replacement parts to get the vehicle running within a few weeks.
Once the vehicle was road ready and safe to drive, Hamilton Jr. and Sr. delivered it to Westwind Coachworks in Dayton.
“Discussions were held on how to proceed and what the plan was for restoring the vehicle not just to its former glory, but to make it better than ever before,” Hamilton said. “A few weeks later, Mr. Bolinger announced the completion of the vehicle and had it delivered back to us. With a fresh 2013 interior and style, we were all in awe of how amazing of a job Mr. Bolinger and his team had done.”
Updates include a new fiber optic lighting system that replaced an out-of-date system, a new floor, additional seating capacity and new electronic controls.
The vehicle is a Chevy 5500 35-passenger luxury coach, which was previously nicknamed “Twilight.” It may be renamed “Phoenix,” Hamilton said.
“Life isn’t fair, business isn’t fair,” Hamilton said. “Instead of wasting any time blaming anyone or pointing fingers, we moved right into action and went into damage control mode, and then recovery mode. We again were shown that sometimes bad things happen to good people, but staying positive, concentrating on taking care of our customers, and looking ahead helps us endure this terrible situation. Additionally, [the chauffeur involved in this incident] still works for Satisfaction Limousines.”
Satisfaction Limousines was founded in 1984 and operates 16 vehicles.
— Michael Campos, LCT associate editor