Every industry has a home where the best and brightest are honored—baseball’s Cooperstown, NY, basketball’s Springfield, MA and football’s Canton, OH. Similarly, the limousine industry has a home to honor its best and brightest—L&C Magazine’s Hall of Fame.
Since 1990, L&C has honored those committed to making the industry a better, more professional environment. Following are the winners of the Industry Achievement and operator of the Year awards.
Industry Achievement Winners
The industry achievement winners are chosen because of their contributions to the betterment of the industry as a whole.
Robert W. Peterson
In 1990, the first ever L&C Industry Achievement award was given to Peterson in recognition of his work which introduced the modern limousine to the world. As one of the founding partners of Lehmann-Peterson, he was responsible for building personalized vehicles for Lyndon B. Johnson, Sophia Loren, Jackie Gleason, Jerry Lewis, Pope Paul VI, Hugh Hefner, and leaders of countries and companies around the world.
The unassuming Peterson has mostly managed to avoid the limelight throughout his career, but his engineering achievements transformed limousines from factory formals to the stretches of today. Between 1963 and 1970, he and his crew built approximately 1,000 vehicles.
Peterson’s background in building Indy-type race cars resulted in vehicles that were as durable as they were luxurious. Peterson refused to allow Bondo or plastic fillers in the shop. Frame and body materials were entirely steel or lead. Because of this, hundreds of Lehmann-Peterson are still on the road and well-maintained vehicles are valued at more than twice their original sticker price. According to Ford literature, a 1969 model with standard equipment retailed for $15,179. (The equivalent of more than $50,000 today.)
The 1991 Industry Achievement award was bestowed upon Radakovich for his work at Lincoln-Mercury. He was the engineer responsible for the company’s development of a 7,100-pound coachbuilder package and the company’s Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) program. Radakovich’s leadership in developing the powertrain, chassis, styling, interior, and engine specifications for the Lincoln Town Car has been invaluable to coachbuilders.
Radakovich started with Ford Motor Company in 1972 working on suspension systems for Mustangs and Thunderbirds. He moved to the large vehicle division in 1983 and worked on chassis-related systems, including brakes, suspension, and steering. In 1987, his broad background led to doing special projects, one of which was helping coachbuilders confront the redesigned 1990 Town Car.
By 1989, Radakovich was named to head the engineering support team for limousines. He went right to work developing a 6,400-pound GVWR for the vehicle, redesigning axles and frames. Radakovich and his team also developed a second 7,100-pound, 75-inch limousine package. They upgraded the frame, brakes, and suspension. In 1992, Radakovich was transferred to Lincoln’s electric car division.
Jacobs, owner of American Limousine in Burr Ridge, IL, and long-time president of the National Limousine Association (NLA), was recognized with the 1992 Industry Achievement award for his industry leadership. During his three-and-a-half years as NLA president, he was involved with many issues that effected operators across the nation.
Some of the challenges he has tackled were uniting the coachbuilders to form the Limousine Industry Manufacturers Organization in order to better maintain safety standards for limousines, helping to form the Council of Limousine Associations to help local associations in their fights against local regulations, and working hard on the issue of chauffeur classification with the Internal Revenue Service. Jacobs was also instrumental in uniting the NLA and Limousine & Chauffeur Magazine. The two groups now work together to put on a national trade show and educational program that benefits thousands of operators each year.
By putting an industry supplier and coachbuilder representative on the board, Jacobs has ensured the NLA will have a broader view of the industry and be able to iron out differences with these important parts of the industry as they arise.
In 1993, the Industry Achievement award went to Marsha Tortora, owner of Empire Coach in Brooklyn, NY and past president of LIMO. In 1992, as president of LIMO, Tortora worked hard to bridge the gap between coachbuilders and operators, get unsafe limousine off the road, and clear up manufacturing issues with Ford and General Motors.