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Andy Hotton started with the Ford Motor Company in 1936. The War interrupted his career with Ford but gave him an opportunity to gain a varied background in the manufacturing of automotive parts and in the design of specialty vehicles.
Hotton built his first limousine for the Ford Motor Company in 1963. It was a Ford Galaxie that was displayed at the New York Auto Show. In subsequent years, Hotton built a number of prototype limousines and custom vehicles for Ford. In 1970, Hotton started A.H.A (Andy Hotton Associates) to design and build Lincoln limousines for sale through Lincoln/Mercury dealerships.
Hotton sold A.H.A in 1976 to his partner, Mel Stein, who moved the company to Canada. Hotton then started Premier Engineering to manufacture limousine parts for coachbuilders. Although he is officially “retired,” Hotton is still active with Premier Engineering, and remains on the A.H.A board of directors.
Hotton reminisced for a few minutes with Limousine & Chauffeur at the Las Vegas show.
Limousine & Chauffeur: How did you get started in the automobile business?
Hotton: I went to the Ford Trade School in ‘36. Then I went to another school they had for management training. I worked in every department at Ford. Before the War, they put me in Lincoln/Mercury Sales to work with dealers.
After Pearl Harbor, I went to Willow Run because of my background in tooling and engineering I worked in tooling and went out to check all the Ford dealers who each had a bomber part to build. The dealers didn’t have cars to sell so we gave them bomber work to do.
After the war in Europe was over, we quit building B-24s and Ford put me back to building cars. That lasted seven days before I was drafted. After I got out of the Army, my appendix ruptured and I couldn’t go back to Ford right away so I started building speed equipment in ‘46 and ‘47.
My partner Don Sullivan and I started Hotton and Sullivan Engineering. We designed engines for Kaiser. We designed 4, 6, and 8 cylinder pancake engines, and V-8s. My friend Sullivan is now 82 years old and is still a consultant to Ford on racing engines.
I started making different components and doing prototype work. In the race program, we did a lot of design of manifolds, camshafts, and heads. We made dual exhaust kits and sold them by the thousands. It was a factory kit.
I did a lot of Lincoln stuff like a car for Kennedy’s wife. I also stretched some Lincolns. In ‘63, Ford asked me to build a limousine. I built a twenty-four inch stretch Ford limousine for them.
Limousine & Chauffeur: That was a Ford Galaxie wasn’t it?
Hotton: Yes. We did the tooling for it. They were going to build them for Hertz and we built about forty cars and then they said “Stop.” They built prototype Mark Ills. I did a lot of prototype work like the Mustang for Iacocca, and made a lot of parts. We did a lot of special stuff that I can’t talk about. I also built race cars and tested them at Daytona Beach.
The name of my company then was Dearborn Steel and Tubing Company. It’s still in business. I sold it and retired in 1970. Then Ford wanted a Lincoln limousine and said “Get off your butt.” So I started building Lincoln limousines again in ‘70 with a company called Andy Hotton Associates (A.H.A). In ‘76, I sold the company to my partner Mel Stein who moved it to Canada. I’m still on the Board of Directors of A.H.A.
Limousine & Chauffeur: When did A.H A start?
Hotton: I started A.H A in 1969 with a limousine program. We worked with 70 model cars.
Limousine & Chauffeur: When did you sell Dearborn Steel and Tubing?
Hotton: I sold that in 1969 and retired. I wanted to play with my own cars. I have a collection of old cars.
Limousine & Chauffeur: What do you remember about those early limousines?
Hotton: They were good cars. I had a 460 engine and did a lot of the work on the chassis. We had heavier spindles and bigger brakes. It was a really good car. I’m trying to find one to restore and put in our collection. Some of them are still in use. There’s a guy out in Omaha who’s still running a couple of them.
Limousine & Chauffeur: How large was your operation in ‘70 when you first got started?
Hotton: We had a good sized company. We had about three shops and thirty-five men. Ford put the cars through 50,000 mile durability tests for us.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Were you building limousines for livery services in the early ‘Seventies, or were they primarily for private buyers and the government?
Hotton: I built them for Fugazy in New York City. I sold him over 300 of those. But the dealers would buy them and the corporations would buy them. Ford was using them.
Limousine & Chauffeur: What years were you the owner/operator of A.H.A?
Hotton: 1970 through the end of ‘75. And I’m still on the board of directors. Now my son Randy and I have Premier Engineering where we manufacture limousine parts.
Limousine & Chauffeur: How did you get your design ideas for your first limousines? Did you look at other limousines as models?
Hotton: No. I designed the cars myself...utilizing what tooling that I could. With our Ford limousines, we tooled everything. I even made the roof from one piece which was stamped by Ford. We had special spindles, brakes, and drive shafts. Ford helped me develop all that. As matter of fact, the car they build today is based on some of the same principles that my company used.