Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Evolution of the Limousine

Although they have become a much more common occurrence for different special events of ordinary people, you may not be able to help wondering if there is someone of great importance hidden within the limo in Chicago that just passed you by. But why do limousines bring to mind images of the rich and famous? Where exactly did these luxury vehicles come from?

Early Beginnings

For centuries, people have been escorting their royals and figures of importance, whether carrying them within a litter upon the back of servants or within a horse-drawn carriage. The first conveyances that were determined as limousines, however, were created in France in the 1700s. The carriages were often ordained in gold and pulled by the best horses, and had the passengers within an enclosed space while the driver was on the outside.

The name itself may have been derived from a heavy cloak worn by shepherds in the Limousin region of France. It is thought that either the name was given to the coaches because of their resemblance to the cloaks, or because the drivers wore similar cloaks. The name also may have simply been derived from the town of the limo’s birth, Limoges.

Limos and the Automobile

In 1902, an automobile version of the limousine was introduced. This vehicle, like the carriage, featured an interior space separate from the outside driver space. In 1916, the limousine was given a definition by the Society of Automobile Engineers as “a closed car seating three to five inside, with driver’s seat outside.”

The stretch limousines you may be more familiar with today came about in 1928 in Arkansas. Originally, these vehicles were designed to carry band and orchestra members and their equipment. As a result, they were often referred to as “big band buses.” Airports and hotels also found the vehicles useful for shuttling customers, as did tour companies, affording them yet another nickname of “aiporter stretch coach.”

The Rich, Famous, and Beyond

As the limousine began gaining popularity in the 1930s, production companies decided to begin using them as well. At first they were used to take the film crew and other personnel around the sets, but over time they began to be a popular conveyance for actors and other celebrities. Many presidents have also made use of the limos.

Today, however, a limo in Chicago may carry anyone with the desire to rent one, whether for a wedding, prom, or a special night on the town. While the classic Cadillac and Lincoln stretch limousines still usually come to mind first, you can also find stretched SUVs and even trucks. One thing all of these vehicles still have in common, however, is a classy, luxurious interior passenger space, still separated from the driver’s space.

This is a guest post provided to Me, Myself & the City for its readers.

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