When Were Limos Invented?

Limousines are one of the most classic car designs and their history is older than you probably think.

When Were Limos Invented?

The limousine might be the most famous type of luxury car in the world. The concept of the limo dates back several hundred years but the first automobile limos were manufactured at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Since then, limousines have gone through a lot of changes and have been adopted for a wide variety of uses.

Carriage Limos

Believe it or not, the first limos were not cars. The concept of a limo dates back to the days when people got around in horse drawn carriages.

The concept of the limo dates back to the 1700s. Back then, a limo referred to a fancy carriage that wealthy people used to get around. These carriages would be driven by the finest horses. The carriages themselves were elaborately decorated with gold and detailed carvings. They were also driven by the best drivers that money could buy.

These carriages most resemble modern stretch limos in the fact that the driver sat in a separate compartment from the passengers. The driver was not sitting in an enclosed compartment, because they had to drive the horses. As time went on, it became more common for carriages to be designed like this and non-wealthy people had easier access to them.

First Automobile Limo

The first automobile limo was invented soon after the first automobile was invented. The first automotive limo was invented in 1902, less than twenty years after the first practical cars were being manufactured.

These were distinct from the other early cars because the driver sat in a separate and enclosed compartment from the passengers. These cars were called “limousines” because the design of the cars looked like the fancy cloaks that people in the Limousin region of France would wear.

Having these distinct compartments for drivers and passengers was important to the popularity of limousines. This allows passengers to legally consume alcohol without violating open container laws.

The Stretch Limo

But limos as we know them today still had not come around yet. Early limos were much more compact than the stretch limo that you probably rode in to your junior prom.

In the 1920s, the invention of the Cadillac chassis allowed companies to build longer limos. In the early days, these were mostly used by musicians. This is because stretch limos could transport multiple band members and their musical equipment from location to location.

The first company to build a stretch limo was Armburster, a car company that was based in Arkansas. They were typically painted entirely in white or black.

In addition to ferrying jazz stars from place to place, they were also used by luxury hotels to transport wealthy guests and movie studios to ferry troupes of actors from one place to another.

Growing Popularity

As limos became more and more of a symbol of status and wealth, luxury car companies started making their own lines of limos to cater to wealthy buyers.

There came to be many different designs, including the now infamous open top limo that President John F. Kennedy was riding in on the day that he was assassinated. The open top limo has become an enduring symbol of the Kennedy assassination, and this is the reason why modern politicians do not use them.

Funeral Cars

But eventually limos stopped being seen exclusively as vehicles for celebrities and the wealthy. In fact, during the 1970s they became more commonly associated with funerals. While a hearse was usually used to transport dead bodies to funerals and grave yards, the mourners had to be transported too.

The easiest way to transport a large number of mourners at once was to put them in a limo. This is why for a long time limos were a standard image of funeral processions.

Party Vehicles

Nowadays, limos are much more accessible to the average person. They are no longer just seen as an accessory for the rich, they are also party vehicles for the middle class. It is a popular tradition for teenagers across America to rent out a limo with their friends to carry everyone to their high school prom.

Modern limos often include features like minibars, sound systems, refrigerators, and extra comfortable seating. They are often rented at things like prom, weddings, award ceremonies, business trips, and other high class affairs.

Modern Limos

Nowadays there are countless variations on the classic limo design. There are limos that are based on SUV and Hummer designs, there are also limos that resemble vans and buses. The future is bright for the limousine and there are more options than ever before.

Final Thoughts

Limos have a fascinating history. They are one of the most famous types of car in the world, but the concept of a limo predates the invention of the automobile by a couple of hundred years. During the time that they have been around, they have evolved considerably.