When it comes to automobiles, the limousine is the epitome of luxury and style. Special occasions like weddings and other once in a lifetime events highlight the esteemed status of limos. When prom season rolls around, the privilege of driving mom and dad’s Volvo to prom is no longer appealing. Limousines are the only option when it comes to high-class and all-star appearances, even for teenagers.
So where did the limo come from, and how did the vehicle achieve its sterling reputation?
When thought of simply as a chauffeured vehicle, the limousine dates back to the 1700’s, when lavishly decorated horse-drawn carriages were used to transport the well-to-do from one place to another. The actual word, “limousine”, is thought to have originated from the French region of Limousin. Historians believe this is because of the resemblance between the covered portion of the vehicle and a popular style of cloak in Limousin. The distinguishing feature of limousines was that passengers enjoyed their privacy in a separate enclosure from the driver they employed.
In 1902, the first motorized limousine was produced, yet the driver of the vehicle was still forced to sit outside while the passengers enjoyed an enclosed compartment. At this point, limousines weren’t necessarily longer than regular cars, seating just 3 – 5 people. It wasn’t until 1928 that a Fort Smith, Arkansas company named Armbruster created the first “stretch” limousine. It’s initial primary use was to transport jazz celebrities and their big bands from gig to gig. As time went by, however, other groups began to embrace larger seating areas, and “stretch” limousines became standard.
The rise of the movie industry and its stars, as well as drinking and driving laws that required a sober driver to be physically separated from the consumption of alcohol, caused the popularity of the limousine to explode. They became popular for airport transportation, funeral processions, and as the travel option of choice for the rich and famous. Today, the luxury stretch limousine remains all the rage. Stretch limo makers and designers now purchase popular car models from manufacturers and redesign them into custom-made limos. Hummer, Cadillac, and Rolls Royce are just a few of the luxury car companies that have transitioned into the stretch limo business over the years.
Since its inception, the limo has gone from a simple uncovered driver with a private covered carriage to the ride of choice for those who prefer to travel with comfort and class. From city to city, uptown to downtown, these glamorous vehicles have come a long way from their simple beginnings. As their deep-rooted history shows, limos are more than just a form of transportation.