Whether we’ve stared longingly at one, or had the pleasure of riding in one, the limousine has, since the early 1700’s, offered a luxurious and stylish mode of transport to get the rich and famous from A to B.
The words “limousine” and “chauffeur” have been used since before the 20th Century when carriages and trains required professional drivers to manage horses and steam engines. In addition, the word “limousine” originated from the Limousine region of France where shepherds would use an over-sized, hooded garment to protect themselves from the weather. The drivers of automobiles later used such a garment as they sat in the open and exposed cockpits, whilst their master and owner of the vehicle rode in luxury in the rear seats.
Commencing with the Sedan Chair, pictured top left, around the 1720s, right through to the new Millennium version of the American White Stretch Limousine, pictured bottom left, each mode of transport has reflected a sure symbol of status – oozing wealth, class and sophistication.
Leaving behind the Sedan Chairs and the Horse-Drawn Carriages, the first “Stretch Limousine” was created in Forth Smith, Arkansas in the United States of America as early as 1928 by a coach company named Armbruster. The cars were primarily used to transport famous “big band” leaders, such as Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, and orchestras, as well as their musical equipment and instruments, across the US. As a result, the early stretch cars were referred to as “big band buses”.
Moving into the 1930s and 40s “Airporter Stretch Coaches” were produced and used throughout America by hotels to transport guests from airports, and by sightseeing tourist companies to take groups of guests on tours. Of course around this time Stretch Limousines were a “must have” by all Hollywood actors and actresses, in addition to the practical use of transporting film crews and stage personnel around the moving sets.
In 1962, Armbruster merged with Stageway Coaches from Cincinnati in Ohio, USA, and became Armbruster-Stageway Coachbuilders. In 1974, the first six-door funeral limousines were built on Cadillac chassis, and eventually a product line of Lincoln Stretch Limousines was included due to the growing popularity of Lincoln within the limousine and funeral industries, however the general mission statement for the cars and the company was simply “to move people from place to place, only in larger cars”.
Moving into the 1960s and 70s limousines were increasingly used for general use by American presidents and movie stars, and due to their increase in popularity, many more custom coachbuilders began trading. In addition, Federal Coach bought out Armbruster-Stageway in the late 1980s, although the tradition commenced nearly eighty years ago remains.
Today’s Stretch Limousines can be used for any purpose to make any occasion a day to remember. Cars can be custom-crafted on any chassis that the owner desires, and in terms of the accessories included in the model, the sky’s really are the limit!