How The Exotic Custom Stretch Limousine Evolved

Posted on November 24, 2015 by - Also by this author

Page 1 of 2

From the early 1900s to today, the exotic stretch limousine underwent many changes, trends, and improvements, but the basic concept remained: A chauffeur separated from a passenger compartment.
From the early 1900s to today, the exotic stretch limousine underwent many changes, trends, and improvements, but the basic concept remained: A chauffeur separated from a passenger compartment.
The word “limousine” was coined in the early 1700s in Limoges, a town in the Limousin region of France. The original limousines were horse- drawn carriages reserved for people of privilege who rode inside a luxurious compartment while their carriage driver braved the elements of the outside, wearing heavy coats known as “limousines” to protect them from the wind and rain.

This set the standard over time for vehicles to have a separate compartment for the passengers and drivers. By 1916, a limousine was defined as “a closed car seating three to five (people) inside with the driver’s seat outside.” That was further defined by a “berline” model where the driver’s seat was fully enclosed, or a “brougham” model with no roof over the driver’s seat, according to the Society of Automobile Engineers.

First Auto Stretched
The first stretched limousine on an automobile chassis came in 1928. The vehicles were first produced by the Armbruster Company in Fort Smith, Ark., as a practical way to transport big bands and their equipment. The Benny Goodman Orchestra and Glen Miller were first purchasers of these new stretches, and other bands soon followed. The original “big cars” were commonly known as “big band buses,” although they were really just a stretched car. This time period also was the start of Hollywood’s Golden Age when big stars like Greta Garbo and Rudolph Valentino began stepping out onto red carpets from limousines, fueling the desire for more luxury in these vehicles. In the 1930s, limousines started to become popular for taking guests between hotels and airports. First used just by wealthy people, the limousines became common among tour guides to transport groups. The movie industry acquired limos to carry film crews and stage members to movie sets.

By 1940, the large cars were taking well-heeled folks all around as manufacturers such as Packard, Cadillac and Lincoln produced stretch limousines. While “airport stretch coaches” had none of the amenities of the modern limousine, they got the job done and offered extended leg room for three passengers. Later editions had two “jump seats” that faced rearward and increased the passenger capacity to five. Soon, manufacturers and third-party coachbuilders introduced funeral homes to stretches with two or three rows of forward-facing seats. Cadillac’s last factory built limo was made in 1987. Packard and Lincoln exited the stretch limo business in 1939 and 1954, respectively, although Lincoln continued dabbling in the business by offering special order editions known as Lincoln Premier cars sold to the likes of Elvis Presley with an expensive audio system, refrigerator, VHS player and bar. Lincoln also provided stretch limousines for the President beginning in 1939 with its Sunshine Special built for President Roosevelt. The Sunshine Special was built on a 160-inch wheelbase by Brunn Coach in Buffalo, N.Y.

Getting Bigger
By the 1960s and 70s, stretches were well on their way to securing their place in high society among the rich and famous. One of the most well-known stretches of the 60s was the 1961 Lincoln Continental made to serve President John F. Kennedy. Made by Hess and Eisenhart of Cincinnati, the vehicle was stretched 33 inches. In 1974, the first six-door funeral car was introduced to make it easier for families to get in and out. This added an extra row of seats and doors compared to the 1940s version of funeral cars. By the mid 1980s, companies such as Eureka, American Pullman and Maloney were making elegant stretches built on Cadillac chassis, including a five-door 1986 Fleetwood stretched 54 inches that became a standard length of the era.

View comments or post a comment on this story. (3 Comments)

More News

New S-Class: The Most Luxurious Self-Driving Car?

With such features as mood-inspiring scents and heart rate monitors, the German automaker's flagship model is turning heads.

Say "I Do" To Springfield Built Chrysler 300 Stretch

Vehicle Pick of the Week: If you're in the wedding business, it's time you bought a vehicle as spiffy as a groom's tux.

BMW's 5 Series Moves Toward Regaining Global Luxury Crown

Review: The sedan remains key to the company's lineup, though less so as consumer preference rises for SUVs and crossovers.

Cadillac CT6 Delivers Refined Performance

Review: The brand is easily defined by the exterior style, the chassis and powertrain are solid, and the interior technology is outstanding.

2017 Lincoln Continental: Classic Name, New Tech

Review: The vehicle is lovely to look at, has awesome technology to engage, and is serene to drive.

See More News

Facebook Comments ()

Comments (3)

Post a Comment



See More

See More

See More

See More

LCT Store

LCT Magazine - January 2017 $12.95 THE MONEY ISSUE COVER STORY: * Dashboard Helps Steer Company Finances * *


Experience the three annual industry events for networking for business, showcasing vehicles and products, and getting the tools for success.

Read About Your Region

What’s Happening Near You?
Click on any state to see the latest industry news and events in that region.

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment


Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Metro Magazine

Serving the bus and passenger rail industries for more than a century

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

Please sign in or register to .    Close