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The Lap of Luxury


Although I don’t have any kids who are high school-aged right now, I’m sure that in another 12 or 13 years I’ll be chipping in for a shared limousine to prom right around this time of year. I’ve already seen advertisements around town and on social media boasting about the best car services and fanciest places to dine. I’ve even seen a few ads for some crazy stretch vehicles that I never would have considered, including a Hummer and a pink Mini Cooper. For my money though, nothing will ever beat that classic Town Car limo for style and versatility.

During my time as a service writer and apprentice for a body shop, I garnered a reputation for working on some of the weirder and wilder vehicles out there. These ranged from rare exotics to overseas imports and classics, all the way to hearses and limousines. The limos were often some of the most fun to work on. They had a quick turnaround and were almost always black or white. Any accident that was bad enough to require a custom limo shop for repairs was often enough to total the vehicle, so we only ever did minor body repairs, never structural or mechanical work. And after all, who doesn’t love getting a little taste for how the rich and famous get around?

I worked in the D.C. area, where first impressions are critical. Unfortunately for drivers, the streets are also unforgiving and generally very convoluted. Needless to say, there were a fair number of limos and limo companies that needed body work on a regular basis. Special facilities are required to cut and assemble limos, and your everyday body shop isn’t up to the task of major structural work. However, the stock bumpers, fenders, quarter panels, and doors are all fair game, and matching custom fiberglass panels to existing materials can be tricky. It takes roughly 45 days and just as many men to design and build a custom uni-body limo. And since they’re working vehicles, time is also money.

Before 2011, the Lincoln Town Car was the gold standard for most limos and hearses. Other cars could be stretched, but they weren’t meant for the daily grind that a Town Car must endure. The Lovely Lincolns, as we used to call them, were the last production cars built with a body-on-frame design, so when Ford discontinued the model and introduced the MKT, there was quite a stir in the industry. Of course, Ford, being the world-class manufacturer that they’ve always been, predicted the backlash. All current MKT Town Cars are built to be disassembled, cut, and stretched. And if you were ever wondering about the safety and structural integrity of a limousine built on a Ford platform, keep in mind that these are the same design teams and engineers who worked on the Ford GT uni-body that broke a car crusher.

Though they may look unwieldy, limousines - and especially Town Car limos - are often some of the toughest vehicles on the road. They’re fun to ride in and fascinating to work on, and if I ever fall into a huge pile of money, I’ll definitely have to consider hiring a driver to chauffeur me around.

-Trey Fennell

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