Passing a stretch limo on the highway often involves quite a bit of staring. When you’re the one in a limo, this is typically seen as taking an event to the next level. Clearly, there’s something special about these vehicles. However, few of us probably put much thought into how limousines reached the stage they’re in now. As crazy as it might sound, the concept behind limousines actually dates back several hundred years.
Today, we invite you to sit back, relax, and enjoy this brief history of limousines!
The very first hint of the limousine concept dates back to the 1700s, though they aren’t at all like what many of us think of upon hearing the word “limo” today. During this time, wealthy individuals got around in covered horse-drawn carriages. The chauffeur was separated from the passengers, with only a hooded cloak to defend against the elements.
The first automobile limousines originated in 1902, less than two decades after the invention of the first practical automobile. The separate, covered compartment of these early engine-powered limos that the driver sat in was said to resemble a cloak worn by the people of the French region Limousin, leading to the word “limousine.” To this day, we’ve retained the concept of a limousine involving a driver separate from passengers. This partition also allows for passengers partying in the back of limos to consume alcohol legally.
It wasn’t until the late 1920s that the “stretch limo” phenomenon really began, when an Arkansas company constructed a longer version of a standard limo. Shortly thereafter, Cadillac chassis were implemented, resulting in a proliferation of longer limousines. These newfangled vehicles were initially known for ferrying musicians and their equipment from gig to gig, leading to the nickname “big band buses.”
As time went on, limousines began to develop more of a reputation for carrying the rich and famous, such as Hollywood stars and politicians. They were also used more frequently for transportation to and from hotels, and on sightseeing tours.
More Recent History
The 1970s saw the stretch limo amassing a reputation as a “funeral car” to transport mourners. This perception gradually shifted to more of the way we think of limousines today, as a means to get several people from place to place in a classy way.
Along with the increased uses for limos came a greater demand. Today, going somewhere in a limousine is far more accessible to the general public than it was in earlier decades. More recent years have seen companies trying to outdo one another by installing ever-more luxurious and outlandish features into their limos.