Limousine The Complete History of the Limousine
First limousine ever made
The first limousine ever made was created in the 1720s, as far as history can tell. It was patterned after the Sedan Chair (a mode of transport which was carried by people) and it was used in pre-revolutionary France, probably as a means to chauffeur the upper class. Of course, there are no photographs of this limousine, because photography as we know it was not developed until the 1820s.
The word limousine actually derives from the French region Limousine. Apparently, this name was given to vehicles that could seat three to five people because the hood that covered the vehicles resembled that of the hood on the cloak used by shepherds in Limousine.
Horse-drawn carriages that could seat three to five inside were not uncommon throughout the mid-late 1700s and 1800s. Horse-drawn limousines were used to transport groups of people, however as far as we can tell they were not limousines in the traditional sense of the word – they lacked a completely separate compartment for passengers.
Horse-drawn limousines have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years and are typically used for weddings.
Who invented the limousine?
This is a very good question. We do not know who invented the first horse-drawn limousine, and unless we invent a time machine nobody ever will, however we do know that Armbruster Coach Company is considered to be the first true limousine company, having developed the first stretch limo in 1928.
Internal combustion limousines
The first petrol-powered limousines, or automobile limousines, were built in 1902 and were designed so that the passenger effectively sat outside under a covered compartment – this was to give the passenger privacy away from the chauffeur. Although history is quite hazy as to which manufacturer created the first ever fully enclosed engine-powered limousine, the 1908 Studebaker-Garford B limousine with its open driver’s compartment for the chauffeur is the most iconic limousine of the early 1900s. Very few of these limousines are known to exist today, and it could very well be that Studebaker was designing this limousine at the turn of the 19th century.
Another iconic fully-enclosed limousine of the early 19th century is the Winton Six, produced in 1915.
In 1916, the Society of Automobile Engineers published its definition of a limousine: “A closed car seating three to five inside, with driver’s seat outside.”
The first stretch limousine was created by a coach company called Armbruster in 1928. This concept took limousines to the next level, offering unrivalled space for passengers. This form of limousine back then was used to transport only the richest of passengers, and big band leaders, such as Glenn Miller.
Modern limousines come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re more accessible than ever. Their use in the celebrity and corporate world is well-known, but they’re no longer considered to be a mode of transport reserved only for the rich and famous. That’s because unlike in the early 1900s, people rent limousines rather than buy them outright, unless one runs a fleet operation.
For only the rich and famous…
Historically, limousines were for the upper class. Nowadays, anybody can hire a limousine, but there are certain models out of the reach of even well-off people. The three most expensive limousines you can buy today are the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which starts from $154,000, the Cadillac One (Government only), which starts from $300,000.
Another History of the Limousines
History of the Limousines Industry
“Who’s in it!” a smile, excitement, people stop and look. The moment a limousine arrives there is a sense of elegance and mystery. Everyone wants to know who’s behind the tinted windows. Nothing makes an event more spectacular than arriving in a beautiful chauffeur driven stretch limousine. From The President of the United States to movie stars, business tycoons or an anxious bride to be, someone special is about to appear.
We all love limousines. But when did it all start and who made the first limousine?
It was always considered a sign of wealth, power and prestige to travel in comfort and style. Whatever might carry a person as long as he did not have to walk from one place to another. In 1555 the first carriage appeared in England, built for the Earl of Rutland by Walter Rippon. Within a few years every nobleman had a carriage and its symbolism for prestige and wealth were well on their way. To build these elaborate coaches a new industry would be created; Coachbuilders.By the late 1700s there were more than 14,000 carriages in Paris. Social distinction was no longer marked by owning a coach but by its luxury and ostentation. Much like a stretch limousine the royal coaches were gilded and had beautiful decorations. A horseman would drive and care for the horse and carriage. In the late 1800s“livery carriages” would appear with professionally dressed horseman and a luxury carriage.
It wasn’t until 1899 when the first limousine would be built in Paris. This limousine was a small buggy like vehicle in which the driver and passenger were in separate compartments. Slowly the horseman would be replaced by the chauffeur and stables would be replaced by garages. The coachbuilders transformed their craft and began building elaborate passenger compartments for these new horseless carriages.
In 1921, James P Carey would revolutionize the industry when he purchased an existing cab company in New York
City and transformed it into a luxury limousine service which would grow to the $120 million Carey limousine empire. After the Great Depression and World War II, limousine services were few and far between. Cadillac created a factory made Fleetwood Series 75 limousine soon after the war. Funeral homes would have a need for these Cadillac’s which would soon become the new standard for limousines.
Throughout the 60’s and 70’s the limousine industry would gain momentum. Movie stars and the ultra rich would still dominate the market. It would start to become more acceptable for an average person to rent a limousine for their wedding day or special occasion.
In 1978 there were less than 1,500 limousine operators. It wasn’t until the “Roaring Eighties” which would truly give birth to the limousine industry as we know it today. This economic explosion of Wall Street and “Yuppies” would make the stretch limousine a prop in every movie script in Hollywood. Corporate America was eager to show its wealth and hire limousines as perks for their key employees. There was steep competition to have the biggest and best limousine available. The coach building industry from years ago was thriving once again. The Cadillac 75 series had a tremendous run of success but was now being replaced by custom made stretch limousines. Newspaper articles would feature these cut up cars which were made into limousines. Each one had more amenities
and features than the next. Limousine operators started to pop up through out the country buying any type of limousine they could get their hands on. There were no safety standards for these new vehicles and barely any state regulations for opening your own limousine business. The market started to become saturated with cars and coachbuilders.
It was this explosion that created the first limousine industry publication. In April of 1983, the first issue of Limousine and Chauffeur magazine was sent to limousine operators and builders around the country. It was this publication which tied together our industry. There were no associations, no training programs, no industry standards and no lobbying groups. It was Ty Bobit, of Bobit Publishing who owns Limousine & Chauffeur, who started to set the standards. Ty Bobit organized our first industry trade show in Atlantic Cityin 1984 and organized the National Limousine Association that same year. The NLA has since worked to guide the industry, set standards, and act as our voice with government issues.
The stock market crash of 1987 slowed and reshaped our industry. With corporate layoffs and rising unemployment
corporate Americaslashed the flamboyant stretch limousine. Fortunately, executives had become accustomed to this level of luxury and service. Although the stretch limousines were out, chauffeur driven luxury sedans were deemed acceptable. Many new operators did not change with the times and their business suffered. Those who reinvented their businesses to incorporate luxury sedan service did well. The stretch limousine is still a vital part of any operators’ fleet but industry leaders will tell you that sedan service is the backbone of their business.
In 1990 Lincoln introduced a new model Town Car; this came about at a difficult time in our industry. Still recuperating from the ’87 crash there were not too many businesses which could afford these new vehicles. This was the demise of more operators which were struggling to stay in business. It was not until the mid 1990s that our industry had taken its blows and was experience steady growth again. The people who were still in business had weathered the storms and emerged all the stronger.
Exotic stretch limousines started to take over the market in the mid 1990s. Corvettes, ’57 Chevy’s, and the Sport Utility Vehicles stretched to your wildest imagination. Much like the 80s this brought another wave of entrepreneurs to the limousine industry. These vehicles catered to the party crowd. Proms, weddings and bachelor parties love the novelty of being chauffeured around in 35 foot long super stretch Navigator limousine. As we approach 2000 there are now close to 10,000 limousine operators in the nation. Once again we start to experience market saturation.
The tragic events of Sept 11th 2001 mark another turning point in the limousine industry. All business and leisure travel stop. Our entire economy stops for 3 days following this tragedy. The secure world in which we thought we lived was changed forever. Weddings are postponed, anniversary celebrations are canceled, and every celebration which may require a limousine is now put on hold. Once the airports opened and the rebuilding began it was not like hitting a light switch. The memories of these events have been deeply embedded in our society. Years later we are still slowly rebuilding our confidence in travel. Our economy is still suffering but recovering slowly. Many of those who flooded our market in the late 1990s did not make it through these difficult times. Even seasoned veterans have had to make deep cuts to keep their businesses alive. We sold off cars, laid off employees, and moved to smaller facilities. Every company was affected and we scrambled to cut expenses.
The recession of 2008 took its toll on the limousine industry just as it did with all businesses across the country and the world. Limousine operators who survived cut back their fleets and made their companies more efficient. Car manufacturers had stagnet sales and were not bring any new models to stir excitement. Operators just held on to their aging fleets and weathered the storm.
2012 – 2013 marks a turning point once again in the limousine industry, Lincoln and Cadillac have bounced back from near bankruptcy, and released some exciting new products. The Cadillac XTS and Lincoln MKT “Town Car”. The Lincoln Town car had not had a major exterior redesign since 2003, the Cadillac since 2006. With the economy now making a slow recovery and the exciting new model changes we are positioned for an exciting recovery to our industry. The end consumer has started to see excitement in the sleek new redesign of our vehicles.
2014, it looks like we’re off to a good start. The housing market is turning the corner and consumer confidence is up. We’re seeing the purchase of new sedans and stretch limousines again. If you’ve been thinking of starting or growing your business this is the time.
Wheels of Gold