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Limousines come in all shapes, but they’re all big when talking about size.
The focus is very much on passengers in the back seats where comfort, space and luxury are what counts more than driver satisfaction. That’s not to say every limo is a barge on wheels. Several have become regular offerings alongside the rest of a car maker’s range.
There are very few off-the-peg limos now and most are bespoke builds by specialists coachmakers, which is apt when the roots of the limousine lie in horse-drawn carriages. Yet there are still a few for those who want the ultimate in leg room and opulence. We’ve corralled the best of the stretch to give you the best limos in order of date:
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Cadillac 75 (1936)
The 75 has a history of being Cadillac’s flagship going right back to 1936. Its extra length was devoted to rear seat passengers and it could accommodate up to eight thanks to fold-up occasional rear seats and three abreast on the front bench. All of this came in a standard package right off the line and it reached its zenith for the 1959 model year with fins and chrome to match the 75's size.
Later renamed Seventy-Five, time was called on the model in 1987 when the Fleetwood came to an end, though the writing had been on the wall ever since the mammoth 7.0-litre (425cu in) V8s had given way to mere 4.1-litre (249cu in) motors. Since then, Cadillac has not built a limousine as part of its over-the-counter range, but you can still pick up a Seventy-Five from £6500 ($10,750) for a clean-lined, handsome 1960s version in usable condition. Alternatively, get yourself elected as President of the United States - whichever is easier. Note: 1938 model pictured
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Rolls-Royce Phantom V (1959)
For a car of such elegant proportions and obvious royal connections, the Rolls-Royce Phantom V is available for surprisingly modest sums. Root around the classifieds hard enough and you can find them from just £60,000 (and $90,000 in the US) which bags you a huge amount of stately limousine for the money. No two will be the same, even though Rolls-Royce offered a standard range of bodies from coachbuilders such as HJ Mulliner, James Young and Park Ward. All are powered by the smooth 6.23-litre V8 coupled to a four-speed automatic gearbox.
In total, 516 Phantom Vs were supplied, with several making their way to the Royal family and other heads of state around the world. However, Beatle John Lennon caused an uproar in 1967 when he had his 1965 Phantom repainted in psychedelic colours by artist Steve Weaver, though the design was really inspired by Romany gypsy patterns. Lennon also had a television and radio-telephone installed. He also set up a double bed in it, as you do, though most Phantom Vs have a more formal bench and tip-up occasional seats to carry as many as six passengers. Lennon's Rolls is now on display at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Canada.
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Checker Aerobus (1962)
Where most limousines place luxury and comfort at the top of the agenda, the Checker Aerobus was all about fitting in as many passengers and luggage as possible. The reason for this was in its name: it was used to ferry people between airports and city centres. So, Checker Motors came up with a lengthened version of its iconic yellow cab and put it into service with six or eight doors and as many as 15 seats in the longer wheelbase models.
Saloon and station wagon models were offered, with the latter model always more popular for its added luggage capacity. Speed was not a great consideration for the Aerobus, even though it used V8 engines from 5.2 to 5.7-litres in capacity. Today, a Checker Aerobus is a sought-after classic and costs from $24,000, though you will need to have somewhere to park its 236in (5982 mm) length.
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Mercedes S600 Pullman (1963)
Mercedes-Benz was the only company to truly rival the imperious pomp of a Rolls-Royce Phantom V when it launched the 600 in 1963. Nicknamed the ‘Grosser’ meaning ‘grand’, it dwarfed most cars of the period even in standard 5450mm (214.6in) length. Choose the Pullman and that stretched out to 6240mm (246in) to accommodate a pair of rear-facing seats. You could also pick a six-door model if you wanted to avoid passengers clambering to get into their chairs.
Power for all 2677 of the 600s built, including 428 Pullmans, came from the famous M100 V8 engine. This 6.3-litre motor used fuel injection to deliver 250bhp to whisk the Pullman up to 125mph. It also had to provide the energy for the 600’s many hydraulic systems used to power everything from the brakes to the windows and door locks. Today, you’ll shell out anything from £80,000 ($105,000) for a standard wheelbase model and up to £700,000 ($895,000) for an immaculate Pullman. There is a risk however that if you buy one of the latter your friends may conclude you are suffering from a severe bout of megalomania.
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Daimler DS420 (1968)
With a production life spanning 24 years, the Daimler DS420 can lay claim to being the longest-running factory limo ever offered for sale. It was also one of the just plain longest at 5740mm (226in) in overall length, which was used to good effect inside to offer up to seven seats when the fold-up middle ones were fitted. There was also a factory landaulette convertible offered alongside the saloon.
Much loved by mayors and civic dignitaries, the DS420 was based on a lengthened Jaguar MkX platform and used the 4.2-litre dXK six-cylinder engine. This gave the DS surprisingly deft performance, but it was an old engine design by the time this limo was retired from the line-up in 1992. However, it remained popular with the Queen Mother who bought one of the last three and it remains in the Royal fleet alongside another pair of state DS420s.
Such regal transport can now be enjoyed by anyone from £4000 if you don’t mind looking like a cheap wedding car hire driver of funeral director. They are much rarer in America and have a commensurately better image – with higher starting prices, in the region of $20,000.
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No 1980s Cold War film would be complete without a ZIL-2104 sloping into view in all its menacing girth. Built purely for the leaders of the Soviet Union, only 106 were ever made, so you knew to get out of the way if one of these 3.4-tonne (7495lb), 6300mm (249.6-in) leviathans came into view.
Yet despite their size, weight and imposing looks, the ZIL was quite sparsely appointed. Leather upholstery with electric seat adjustment, air conditioning and a cassette player were about your lot. It says more about the people inside the car that 4104s also came with bullet- and radiation-proof glass. They also had a huge 120-litre (32 US gallon) fuel tank to cope with the 7.7-litre V8’s thirst. If you can track down a ZIL-4104 today, expect to pay from £230,000 ($300,000), though they often make nearer a cool million in their homeland.
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Mercedes-Benz V123 (1976)
Mercedes venerable W123 platform gave birth to saloon, coupe and estate models, but was also responsible for the V123 factory limousine. A staple of funeral directors and embassies around the world from its launch in 1976, the seven or eight-seat configuration used the standard saloon’s front end coupled to an elongated pair of rear doors and flip-up middle row seats.
For obvious reasons, this model was referred to within Mercedes as the ‘Lang’ version and was also offered with just the front cab and a bare chassis. These V123s were supplied to outside coachbuilders for ambulance and hearse bodywork, as well as some limos that used the standard saloon’s rear doors and an extended middle section of body and glass. Power came from 240D and 300D diesel engines, as well as the more refined 250E and a handful of 280Es.
Some V123s even followed their five-seat counterparts into work as the celebrated and unburstable ‘Munich taxi’. Some 13,700 V123s rolled off the production line and because of that large number, a half-decent one now costs from as little as £2500, and $3250 in the US.
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Over the top or neo classic fun, the Zimmer splits opinion with the same bluff force as its big chromed grille. Built in New Jersey, the story started in 1978 with Paul Zimmer setting the template that all current models follow. The company was then bought by Art Zimmer in 1997 and continues to supply the rich, famous and showy with convertible two- and four-door models.
Like all Zimmers, the long wheelbase four-door saloon is created from a Ford Mustang donor, complete with 5.0-litre V8 engine and automatic gearbox. Using the Ford’s bodyshell also means this retro limo comes with modern kit such as airbags and meets California’s strict emissions laws – an essential when so many customers live there. If the looks appeal, a Zimmer limo costs from $357,000.
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Lincoln Town Car (1980)
Launched in 1980, initially as a 'Continental Town Car', the Town Car name had been around since the 1950s, but here was a car marketed directly at those who wanted to enjoy it from the back seat. Comfort takes precedent over handling and Town Car has been a mainstay of private chauffeurs in the USA, as well the stretched version being popular for weddings and prom nights.
Power has always come from a V8 engine, with the earlier Town Cars using the 4.9-litre Windsor V8 before switching to 4.6-litre unit in later third generation models. Either way, performance is leisurely but suits the easy-going nature of this factory-made limo that can be bought from just $1000.
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Maybach 62 (2002)
The Maybach name was famed in pre-war Germany for its luxury cars, and then during the war for making powerful engines for tanks including the much feared Tiger. Since 1960 Maybach's been part of the Mercedes family, though the name wasn't used. In 2002 however the Maybach name was reborn by Mercedes, and its 62 was launched on the Queen Elizabeth 2 ship to conjure up the right atmosphere of luxury and relaxed cruising. That was guaranteed thanks to a 6165mm (243in) overall length and seating deliberately limited to just two seats in the back. This was very much a car for the super-rich, a private jet for the road, rather than just another posh taxi.
Performance was also aimed at those who regard time as money as the 62 could waft from 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds thanks to a twin-turbo 5.5-litre V12 engine producing 605bhp. Even so, with a barely remembered brand name the 62 was a slow seller and the shorter wheelbase 57 did little to retrieve the situation in the face of a global recession. Production halted for these Maybach models in 2012 with around 3000 sold. Find one today and you’ll pay from £60,000 and $100,000 in the US for a 62.
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Bentley State Limousine (2002)
As presents go, a one-off Bentley State Limousine has got to be one of the best. That’s exactly what Bentley created for Queen Elizabeth II for her Golden Jubilee in 2002 and the two cars have been in regular use since. So, this is definitely not one of those gifts that gets used once out of politeness and then tucked away.
This unique design is based on an Arnage platform that’s been extended by 830mm (32.7in). The bodywork by Bentley’s Mulliner division uses a higher roofline than the Arnage to help Her Majesty get in and out in a dignified manner and the rear doors hinge to right angles for the same reason. And should the Queen want to get home in a hurry, there’s a 400bhp twin-turbo 6.75-litre V8 engine that was lifted from an Arnage R to give this State Limousine a top speed of 130mph. In reference to the Queen’s love of animals, the cars have seats made from cloth, not leather. Heavily armoured, the car weighs in at 4008kg (8818 lb).
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Hummer H2 (2002)
The Hummer H2 failed to find many friends as an upmarket SUV, but it’s enjoyed a whole new lease of life as the base for stretched limousines. Some of these creations have extended to as much as 12.3-metres (484in) and need three rear axles to cope with the weight and strain on the chassis. There’s seating for as many as 24 people in the back of these lengthened leviathans.
The reason for the Hummer H2’s popularity with limo convertors is that it comes with a powerful engine and simple separate chassis that makes it easy to cut and extend. Also, the flat-sided bodywork makes it easier to blend in new panels and glazing. If you fancy ferrying prom night parties around, an H2 stretch will set you back from £35,000 (UK) and $60,000 in the US, though you will have to plan your routes carefully.
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Rolls-Royce Phantom EWB (2005)
What do you call your lengthened model when the standard one is already a supreme limousine? Rolls-Royce decided on the Phantom Extended Wheelbase, or EWB for short, so to speak. It arrived at the Geneva Motor Show in 2005 and found immediate favour with those who run the car, and world, from the back seat. The engine is as powerful as its owners and the 6.75-litre V12 generates 555bhp.
An extra 250mm (9.8in) made it one of the most spacious saloons available, while a facelift in 2012 (pictured) brought revised and even more comfy rear cushions. For 2017, Rolls replaced the Phantom VII with the VIII and introduced the EWB at the same time as the standard saloon rather than waiting two years. It’s every inch the opulent limo, as it should be with a starting price of £434,055, and well north of $600,000 in the US.
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Hongqi H7 (2013)
Not to be outdone by the usual luxury car makers, China’s own Hongqi has come up with the H7 to take on the likes of the Audi A6L in its home market. The driver gets plenty of creature comforts, but the back seats are the place to be for up to three passengers, though two is more pleasant. There are heated, cooled and massage seats, electric adjustment and separate infotainment controls in the drop-down armrest.
The dynamic package is not quite so alluring as the H7 is based on the Toyota Crown chassis and comes with choice of 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder or 2.5 and 3.0-litre V6s. A six-speed automatic gearbox does its best, but the Hongqi is not going to worry many rivals outside of its homeland even with a list price from £33,200 ($42,900).
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Mercedes-Maybach S-Class Pullman (2015)
As this official photography makes abundantly clear, Mercedes places its S-Class limousine very much in the class of its 600 Pullman predecessor. Two engines are available - a twin-turbocharged 4.6-litre 449bhp V8 or a twin-turbocharged 522bhp 6.0-litre V12. Lengthwise, it’s 6499mm (256in), over a metre longer (41in) than the standard Maybach.
It offers a series of rear seating layouts, including a four seat vis-à-vis arrangement behind an electrically operated partition. Priced new at €500,000 (roughly £417k and $570,000), there are a few used examples out there around the world, but you’ll have to ask extremely nicely to find out how much current owners want for them.
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Bentley Mulsanne Grand Limousine (2016)
There’s a lot to take in with the Bentley Mulsanne Grand Limousine, starting with the body that’s been lengthened by 1000mm (36in) over a standard Mulsanne Extended Wheelbase model, to make 6575mm (259in) in total. That makes this the longest ever factory-produced limo and all so the two pairs of rear seats can face each other. The focus is on traditional luxury such as the veneered wood picnic tables and hand-stitched leather upholstery.
However, modern tech makes itself known with the glass partition between the front and rear cabins. At the touch of a button, the electrochromic glass can be forested to ensure privacy for those in the back. Bentley hasn’t quoted performance figures for this limousine, but it uses the same 505bhp twin-turbo 6.75-litre V8 as the standard Mulsanne EWB. As for price, if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.
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Aurus Project Cortege Limousine (2018)
If Soviet-era limos looked a little clunky next to their Western equivalents, that’s certainly not the case now with the latest Aurus. Originally developed under the Project Cortege name, this 6000kg (13,225lb), 7.0-metre (276in) long slab of metal and composite armour-plating is a cutting edge mobile communications command centre. It’s also very sprucely appointed with every conceivable luxury included as standard.
Despite being all-Russian in design and construction, the Aurus uses a twin-turbo 4.4-litre Porsche V8 engine. It makes 598bhp and other Aurus linos are planned with a V12 with 800bhp as part of the rumoured £230 million ($300 million) development plan. The car's first customer? One Vladimir Putin. It was delivered just in time for his fourth inauguration as Russian president in May 2018 (pictured).
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Presidential state car (2018)
President Trump might not see eye to eye with his predecessor, but he’s reaping the rewards of two new cars that were first ordered in 2013 by the Obama administration at a cost of $16 million. Known as The Beast, this behemoth weighs in at 9072kg (20,000 lb) and certainly looks like a Cadillac, and wears both its badge and the company’s latest design language. But it’s based on a modified Chevrolet Suburban truck chassis to deal with that weight caused by so much armour and survival equipment. Among the equipment is a fire-suppressant system, air supply, run-flats, with bullet- and bomb-proof glass. The new cars first put in an operational appearance in September 2018.
Despite its size and weight, part of the brief to Cadillac when the latest Beast was commissioned was that it had to be nimble. That includes being able to perform high-speed direction-change J-turns should the driver need to extricate the President from an ambush or roadblock scenario. Details on the car's precise specification are kept private, and the current practice is to destroy retiring limousines lest their secrets be revealed.
Two Beasts always deploy at the same time, with identical license plates – that way any possible attacker can never be quite certain which car to target. This 'doubling-up' decoy approach incidentally is also used whenever the president travels by helicopter.