The Magic of Moloney

John Kilroy, LCT Editor
Posted on April 1, 1983
Earle Moloney, president and founder of Moloney Coachbuilders.

Earle Moloney, president and founder of Moloney Coachbuilders.

It is a difficult task to describe the importance that the name “Moloney” holds in the limousine service industry without stating the obvious. But even those outside the industry and unfamiliar with Moloney Coachbuilders can quickly discover the significance of the firm through even the briefest amount of research...street research.

For example, a visitor to New York recently strode along Central Park South and its host of fine hotels “reading” the limousines lined up at curbside. If that line of cars was a sentence, it would read like this, “Moloney, Moloney, Moloney...”

Of course, not all of them bore the small rectangular plate with the Moloney name...just most of them. The visitor returned to Los Angeles and, exiting the airport, noticed a sleek, gray late-model Cadillac limousine waiting for an incoming passenger. The name of its builder? Moloney.

Moloney Coachbuilders is a genuine coast-to-coast phenomenon when it comes to limousines. The name goes back to the late 1960s when the idea first arose to base a business on cutting Lincolns and Cadillacs in half and stretching them into limousines that have given new meaning to the word “luxury.” The magic of the Moloney name, however, comes not from longevity alone, but from more than a decade of proven quality, consistency and innovation.

Moloney Coachbuilders' manufacturing site in Schaumburg, IL (circa 1983). It is approximately 100,000 square feet.
Moloney Coachbuilders' manufacturing site in Schaumburg, IL (circa 1983). It is approximately 100,000 square feet.

The reputation enjoyed by Moloney Coachbuilders had its origins in a two-car garage and a notion by Earle Moloney, the founder and president, that there was a small but growing market for what would become, basically, a new type of car.

“At that time, I had limousines and saw a void in the marketplace relat­ing to the comfort and the size of the limousines,” explained Moloney. “Particularly, because Cadillac Motorcar Division was becoming restrictive as to what you could procure in a car in terms of optional equipment. So, I did a little research and determined that it was about a 2000-car market and that probably 20 percent of those people were dissatisfied with the only product available to them at the time.”

The first year’s total output was a mere two cars. The second year’s total was eight. Gradually, though, the numbers grew despite a major obstacle pertaining to the price of his cars. Moloney said that in the early years, his limousine would sell for roughly $30,000 while a limousine from Cadillac would cost only $10,000.

“But as the years progressed, we were able to meet Cadillac in num­ber of limousines produced and, today, we parallel Cadillac in prices,” Moloney said.

Moloney Coachbuilders now employs 150 people at its 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Schaumburg, Illinois. Its production will near 700 cars this year. It has distributors across the nation, as well as three of its own service centers (one in New York City another in Ontario, California and one at its plant serving the Chicago area). Two company trucks are constantly on the road delivering cars.

In addition, Moloney Coach-builders is opening a West Coast manufacturing facility in late 1983. Further details in this future plant site will be provided in later issues of Limousine & Chauffeur.

Matt Baines, VP of Moloney Coachbuilders in charge of its sales and marketing programs.
Matt Baines, VP of Moloney Coachbuilders in charge of its sales and marketing programs.

Matt Baines, vice president of the firm, connects the company’s success with its standards of quality. “I think that the company’s growth was due primarily to the quality and the type of craftsmanship we carry out in building the car.

“Quality has always been Moloney’s motto since the day he started manufacturing the cars. He just wanted to build a quality automobile and give the public what they’ve always asked for in a limou­sine,” said Baines.

The devotion to quality is such that Moloney Coachbuilders has taken a newly built limousine and had it crash-tested. “We built a brand new car, took it out to California and we crashed it at a test center at 31 mph. The performance of our product through the barrier test was outstanding. The framework was upheld through the crash.

“Anyone can take a car and cut it in half and stretch it,” said Baines.

“It’s the integrity of the welds and the quality of the coachbuilder that’s so critical.”

Moloney explained his basic philosophy regarding the structural strength of the car in this manner, “We probably take on the attitude of the aircraft industry. Everything is triple-tested.”

The Grand Pullman, double-cut with a total stretch of 48 inches.
The Grand Pullman, double-cut with a total stretch of 48 inches.

Moloney’s personal concern for quality is extended throughout the plant, said Baines. “From the beginning, our employees have been craftsmen. For example, our upholsterers have an average of 15 years’ experience each. Any new person who comes here works under an experienced technician for up to five years as an apprentice.”

“They are a very proud bunch of guys and we are very proud of them,” said Moloney. “I design almost everything in the car but I think that you can also give credit to a lot of the various departments in the plant. Occasionally, some of the people in the back will present a new idea and it will be tested and put into production. Over the past four or five years, a number of the employees have been responsible for innova­tions. They’ve had wonderful ideas.”

The product resulting from this attention to detail, said Baines, has a reduced amount of “down time” and a higher resale value. “Our service and warranty claims are very low because when you do it correctly, you have less problems down the road.

“Obviously, this is of particular value to a limousine agency because down time is dollars lost,” he said. “We like to think that our product gives them the least amount of lost time because we do everything right the first time.”

Moloney remains actively involved in all phases of designing and building the limousines that bear his name. He is the type of company president who wakes up in the middle of the night with the flash of a new idea and heads to the plant immediately to bring the idea to life. A lover of fine automobiles since his youth, Moloney thoroughly enjoys the chance to do something new, something different, in search of that “just right” extra touch. And he is not timid when it comes to a new idea.

Baines recalls the time when Moloney first thought of installing an Oriental rug as the carpeting for the passenger section of the limousine “Moloney came into the plant and said he wanted to take this $7500 Oriental rug and cut it up and install it. He said he wanted it to look perfect. Everyone there could not believe he wanted to cut up this beautiful rug. Now, a lot of people ask for it and there are other companies doing it.

Moloney Coachbuilders employees work on  on stretching a car.
Moloney Coachbuilders employees work on  on stretching a car.
“He’s introduced some things that are hard to appreciate unless you own a limousine,” said Baines. “And at this stage in the industry, you can see what to do to build a limousine but when there weren’t stretched limousines, you had to think those ideas up yourself ... like the rear facing seats or the wide pillar posts. These things were innovated by Earle. It’s just a knack he has for finding what people really want.”

Moloney adds, with a definite sense of glee, “I’ve gotten a belly laugh over the years when even the mistakes we’ve made have been copied, as well as all the good ideas.”

His involvement with the company’s day-to-day operations is such that Baines said Moloney can look at a weld inside the car and identify which of his employees had done the welding. Moloney test drives a good portion of the cars rolling out of his plant. If he is I unavailable, each car is test-driven by someone in upper management.

Moloney Coachbuilder’s latest innovation involves the production of armored cars, using a new lightweight process. According to the company, a car outfitted with Moloney’s standard protective features can withstand “all superpower handguns and submachine guns.” Baines said the market for this type of product is growing, particularly in light of the stepped-up number of terrorist acts in recent years. He believes that demand will also grow for limousine services that can provide special clients with high level security.

In regards to Moloney Coach­builders’ regular line, Baines said the most popular model is the Pullman, which can be either a Cadillac stretched 45 inches or a Lincoln stretched 44 inches. The company also produces a Grand Pullman — a Cadillac stretched 48 inches; a Flagship — a Cadillac Seville stretched 40 inches; and a Corporate — a 34-inch stretch Cadillac double-cut for more privacy in the passenger compartment. In addition, Moloney also stretches Mercedes Benzes, Buicks and Olds-mobiles. A wide range of options are available for the cars.

One feature that is an increasingly popular option is the cockpit radio where a cassette tape player, radio, stereo controls, clock and reading lights are located unobtrusively in the ceiling of the passenger compartment.

Baines, who heads the company’s marketing efforts, advises limousine service owners to fully check out any product before they buy, including the manufacturing practices of the limousine builder. “I think that anybody who is going to buy a limousine should really check into the facts and not just purchase one according to the pitch of the salesman,” said Baines. “They should spend the money for an airplane ticket to fly to a company’s plant and see how the car is manufactured.”

“We’re in a highly specialized business here and I think that people should never buy on price alone,” said Moloney. “They should check into the coachbuilder thoroughly. They should investigate warranties. I think it’s extremely important for limousine services to be very particular because the exposure one of their cars gets is phenomenal.

“And there are certain people who don’t have the expertise to cut a car in half and stretch it. I don’t think they would like to fly in a 727 that was cut in half by a company that had no reputation for quality. The same goes for limousines,” said Moloney.

And the future for Moloney Coachbuilders? “It’s yet to be tapped,” said Baines. “We think we’re on the tip of the iceberg.”

Moloney believes that within the next five years, his company’s output will approach 2000 cars per year. Such is the drawing power of the name Moloney and the very practical type of magic surrounding it.

Related Topics: anniversary: coach builder profiles, coach-builder profiles, Earle Moloney, Grand Pullman, history of the limo industry, Matt Baines, Moloney Coachbuilders

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