Executive Coach Builders - 1976-present - Springfield, Missouri - Seymour, Missouri


This company was created by John Bumgarner, in Springfield, Missouri. He was a former farmer, mechanic and a used-car dealer. It had made a good business with a Stretch sedan once, on which it began 1977 with three employees to build even such vehicles. Within 4 years its company had already 56 employees and built 12 cars per month. In 1981 the company was purchased by M. J. Rosenthal & Associates and Merrill lynch Interfunding, In  1989 the firm purchased Armbruster Stageway, the nations oldest airport limousine makers.

Executive coach of builders sells about 15 per cent of their sedans with extras such as color television, video recorder, electrically hinged beds, gilded telephones and similar nic-naks, the majority however (75 per cent) go to limousine services.

Executive Coach Builders

Executive Coach Builders - Springfield, Missouri later Seymour, Missouri 1976-present

This company was created by John Bumgarner, in Springfield, Missouri. He was a former farmer, mechanic and a used-car dealer. It had made a good business with a Stretch sedan once, on which it began 1977 with three employees to build even such vehicles. Within 4 years its company had already 56 employees and built 12 cars per month. In 1981 the company was purchased by M. J. Rosenthal & Associates and Merrill lynch Interfunding, In  1989 the firm purchased Armbruster Stageway, the nations oldest airport limousine makers.

Executive coach of builders sells about 15 per cent of their sedans with extras such as color television, video recorder, electrically hinged beds, gilded telephones and similar nic-naks, the majority however (75 per cent) go to limousine services.

Executive Coach Builders


Around 1975, John Bumgarner sat in a friend's dealer­ship in Little Rock, Arkansas, browsing through TheWall Street Journal.  Bumgarner was an automobile distributor who bought and sold new and used cars. Always looking for a great deal, an ad in the Journal caught his eye: a Series 75 limousine for sale cheaper than a regular Cadillac. By the next year, he had up to 15 "Seventy-Fives" sitting on his lot in Springfield, Missouri, and ads running for them in, of course, The Wall Street Journal. This put him in a good position when Cadillac announced its 1977 line, making 1976 the last year of the "big car." Smelling a similar opportunity to the rush on the last Eldorado convertibles, Bumgarner struck deals around the country for approximately 40 Series 75's.

Bumgarner's next find was a stretched Lincoln limou­sine owned by a wealthy farmer who was ridiculed for it by locals as a "high-roller." The man dumped the car at auction, which Bumgarner knowingly grabbed. Before selling the "Farmer's Car," Bumgarner went to a local auto shop run by Rick Bryant and asked him to "fix it up." Bumgarner turned it around for a quick $3,000 profit. He took note of the coachbuilder's name­plate and set off to buy several more. However, those deals simply were not right. Bumgarner ordered two cars and was shipped three. One had no rear heater. It turned out that the Farmer's Car had been built by Carlos Allen, but the next examples were not up to Allen's standards. Doug Donalson, who worked for Bryant at the time, recalls one of those cars. "As little as we knew, we knew it was wrong. It had stadium seats for the jump seats, and all the electrical went through one wire." Bryant, Donalson, and co-worker Craig Serby did what they could. "Let's just go ahead and try to build a quality car," Bumgarner told them.

That was 1977 and the birth of Executive Coach Build­ers-and of not a few industry legends. Opulence was the game, and the old tricks of the 1920s had returned. Executive Coach Builders' first car was sold to the Circus Circus hotel in Las Vegas, with the next examples going to Barron Hilton and other 1970s personalities, including Adnan Khashoggi, Linda Carter, and Natalie Cole. Khashoggi bought two. One of Khashoggi's cars cost $48,000 and featured a sunroof; television and video recorder; $4,000 mobile phone; armrests with built-in controls for the partition, stereo, and temperature; and Donalson's novelty, the dual divider, with separate glass and solid panels. A center cushion that was stored in the trunk could be placed between the seats to form a bed.

Bumgarner sold Executive Coach Builders in 1981, although he worked with the company from 1988 to 1993. That year, he officially rejoined the industry with the formation of Springfield Coachbuilders. "Just like the old times," he says. He hired a few people who "liked the way I do business," and today he gladly runs the company "my way." As he explains it, "We're a small operation. For us, a meeting lasts fifteen min­utes. The cars are hand-built, top-end cars."

A 1983 buyer of Executive Coach Builders, Ron Farris, might have invented the slogan, "I'm not just the owner...," for his first acquaintance with the company was as a client earlier that year. He liked the car so much that he bought the company. Executive Coach Builders spent the remainder of the decade riding the top of the stretch limousine wave. However, typical of growing industries, original partners formed new and competitive enterprises, and talent jumped from one company to another.


When John Bumgarner founded Executive Coach Builders in 1977. it was the beginning of coachhuilding in Springfield. M0 From a modest be­ginning in a small bodyshop, Executive Coach Builders became known as a successful builder of finely crafted limousines Less than a decade later. Springfield was also the home of Corporate Coachworks and DaBryan Coach, and the city had become one of the most notable centers of limousine manufacturing in the country.

John Bumgarner sold Executive Coach Builders to Rahn Farris in 1981 and pursued other business in­terests. He continued to live in Springfield, however, and remained in contact with a number of people in the limousine industry. Bumgarn­er reminisced with Limousine & Chauffeur Editor and Associate Pub­lisher Scott Fletcher during a recent visit to Springfield.

L&C: How did you first get into the limousine business?

Bumgarner: Well, I've always bought and sold automobiles and, in the early '70's, I started wholesaleing automobiles. I bought, recondi­tioned, and re-sc.d cars on a large scale I was always fascinated with limousines, and I had the occasion to buy one, play with it awhile, and then sell it.

L&C: Were you based here in Springfield?

Bumgarner: Yes. We were in Springfield. I was raised in a small town close by named Marshfield. I've been in Springfield since 1968.

In '75. The Wall Street Journal was advertising used limousines from New York that seemed cheap, so I bought a half a dozen at a time and sold them. Then in 1976, somebody had a '76 stretch Lincoln down south someplace. He was a cotton farmer. and it was an embarrassment to him because people made fun of him. I checked the car out and supposedly it was made by Phaeton Coach in Dallas. So I bought the car, had it awhile, and then made $3,000 dollars wholesale.

Later on that year. I decided I'd shop around and buy three new '77 limos. Now bear in mind. I thought I'd had a '76 Phaeton. So I went to Chicago and visited Moloney, and their pace was quite a bit higher than Phaeton Coach. At the time, I think some cars were also being made in Canada by Andy Hotton.

Well, I decided to go ahead and order three premium Lincolns through Roger Harris of Phaeton Coach without even going down to Dallas. After all, I thought I'd already owned one of his cars. So in mid­winter, the cars are completed and I pick them up and they're junk.

L&C: Could you tell that immediately?

Bumgarner: Immediately. I took my wife along and we picked up one car. It didn't even have a heater in the back. I got home and did a little research. As it turned out, the car that I had thought was a Phaeton Coach was actually made by Carlos Allen in Laredo, TX. It was a pretty good car at the time.

At this time, I was having work done by Rick Bryant who had a bodyshop in Springfield. Doug Donalson worked for him and there was another fellow named Craig Surby. All they did was work on used cars for me. So I hired them to re-do these cars.. or at least get rid of them.

Somewhere along in this way, I decided, that if Phaeton can build a car like that and sell it ... Surely I can build a better car, even better than a Moloney, and do rather well with it. So, with those three people at this bodyshop... l leased a small building, got a car, and commenced building limousines.

What we did first was load up Doug and Rick and Lyle Crowder. who's a salesman, and myself ... and the four of us flew down to Phaeton Coach in Dallas. I just wanted them to see basically what Roger Harris does. So he gives us a grand tour and we come back home and they say.     I think we can do this too.''

I had bought a lot of wrecked cars and rebuilt them ... Buy two wrecks. cut them in half, and make one. Ob­viously, this is a lot easier than work­ing with wrecks. You're working with perfectly straight new cars. It looked easy to me, and to them too once we got it going.

L&C: Who was designing the first cars? Were you trying to create it from scratch?

Bumgarner: We went from scratch. We did a little copycat work from the Moloney who was the leader at the time. Our first cars were 36-inch stretches because Moloney was and that's just the way it had to be.

What we did was take our ideas from other people and try to refine and improve them. I think we were the first ones that really got gutsy and did a 42-inch stretch. That worked real well. Then we tried to come up with keen ideas that worked and made our cars more saleable.

L&C: And you sold them locally?

Bumgarner: We sold them nation­wide. They were sold through the Wall Street Journal originally. Bear in mind, in 1977 the limousine services weren't as popular as they are now. On the east coast, they wanted price and they couldn't care less about quality, so it was a little tough to get in. And the theory was, from the be­ginning, to build a quality car and eventually get to where an Executive coach would have a higher resale value so you could justify buying one. That was the original idea.

L&C: Did the company grow quickly?

Bumgarner: It was gradual. We real­ly had pretty good luck at selling. We sold about everything we built. I remember one time in '79, I woke up and had ten cars finished and thought "Well, this is it.'' But within a month they were all gone and it was behind me.

I had one salesman, Lyle Crowder, and in about '79 I hired Mel Lipschitz who now works for Executive in New York. He did a fantastic job and things just moved along. We moved from the small facility to about a 10,000 foot building, and within less than a year we'd outgrown it. Then we moved into the building that DaBryan Coach now owns.

L&C: How were responsibilities divided?

Bumgarner: Well, Rick was the fore­man and Doug was second in com­mand. As a matter of fact, that's how DaBryan came to be. Rick and Doug had some differences of opinion over a period of about a year. Finally, Rick quit and started DaBryan Coach with Gary Dabney.

L&C: When Rick left ... Doug Donal­son became your foreman?

Bumgarner: He was the foreman until I sold out. And he remained in that capacity for Mr. Farris.

L&C: Who else did you have work­ing for you in those days?

Bumgarner: I had Jerry Ahart, who is still with Executive, as my number­two man. A lot of the names escape me right now. A lot of the people who eventually wound up at Corporate Coach worked for me. When Doug left, he took alot of the line employees with him.

L&C: How big did your operation get before you sold it?

Bumgarner: Well, we were at 12 to 14 cars (per month) and had sixty­some employees. Actually, we had outgrown the building on Traffic Way. It was completely stuffed.

L&C: The limousine industry was growing along with you, wasn't it?

Bumgarner: Yes. The market in California really did well. Melvin did well in New York with private in­dividuals. Then he started edging in to the limousine services there and that helped tremendously.

And the fact that we always had cars in the works that could be deli­vered fairly soon was an advantage. Back in those years Moloney didn't stock any cars. If you wanted a car, you called and bought it and waited your turn, whereas we tried to keep cars in different colors on the produc­tion line.

L&C: How did your vehicles compare with those of other coach­builders?

Bumgarner: Oh, we had them beat hands down. We were the cream of the crop. One of the things that helped sales was the privacy divider. On weekends, I'd go on research and develop missions to places like Kansas City and St. Louis, and I got tired of hanging newspapers over that glass divider. So I got with Doug and I said, ''We've got to come up with some kind of power device for when you're interviewing people and you want to have privacy.'' So we came up with a divider and that little thing sold a lot of cars.

Then everything we did ... we tried to do first class. We tried to stand be­hind our products. We'd eat a lot of things we shouldn't have eaten. but I think it paid off.

L&C: Did you experiment with Cadillacs or other kinds of cars?

Bumgarner: We did some Cadillacs. They were tougher to build and the employees didn't like them because they were harder to work on. We didn't get enough extra for them to justify it We did some one of a kind cars and, looking back, they were dead losers.

L&C: Did you have any idea what would happen to the industry in the early '80's?

Bumgarner: I had no idea. At that point in time. I sold Executive for a lot of personal reasons The feeling in the Springfield financial community was like, ''Who buys those cars?'' Rahn Farris can verify that for you. Like one day, I took a banker to lunch because I wanted to get a line of credit just to floorplan the cars. This didn't have anything to do with investing in the business. So we go to lunch in a new Lincoln limousine, and had a good time, and I took him to the plant where he says, ''You cut those cars in two?'' He was not very understanding and it was a very dis­couraging day.

But, I separated from my wife in 1980. I was trying to run the whole show and I couldn't do it. So I got dis­couraged, sold to Rahn, and that was that. It was a bad thing to do. I should have stuck around.

L &C: Were you tired of the business?

Bumgarner: I liked the business but it was the pressure. I wish I hadn't sold the company. I wish I had given someone half of it and said, ''Here's half ... You come and run it. I want to go down in the shop and do creative things.''

L&C: What were you actually doing when you say you were ''running everything?''

Bumgarner: I was involved with ev­ery little thing. I took part in purchas­ing and in the development of new systems and ideas. I was the guy that everyone talked to. So after awhile, it was a little bit hectic. But I had brought it on myself.

The basic idea behind the compa­ny as I started it, and these other fel­lows have continued it, is to try and produce a top quality car. From word of mouth and the things we see, I think we've pretty well done it.

L&C: Have you considered getting back in the business?

Bumgarner: Yes. At one time, I spoke to John Gore (founder of Southampton Coachworks of Farmingdale, NY) about starting a second Southampton plant in Springfield to produce cars for the western half of the country. After several weeks of research, we dropped the idea because the market seemed to be a little soft at that time.

John has been very successful with his operation in New York. Before he started his own company, John was a sales rep for DaBryan Coach. When he moved to New York, he was able to hire several key people away from Spring­field to work for him. To me...that was an astounding feat.

L&C: Was that any different than the way DaBryan got started?

Bumgarner: No. It really wasn't.

L&C: It's like the way that Moloney spun off into O'Gara, and Limousine Werks, and Carolina Coach.

Bumgarner: We started selling the O'Gara brothers cars in Beverly Hills, in 1979 or 1978. They were going to be our reps out there. So then I hear a rumour that they're tearing one of our cars apart for some reason.

Then they say, ''John, we've got this deal to sell thirty cars in Japan. We want you to build us this one test car. though, that has nothing in it. We don't want a center console. We want center bench seat, no TV, and no radio because everything's different over there and they'll do their own thing. But we've got to have it for a certain price."

So we argue around and Lyle Crowder said, ''Let's go ahead and do it because we can get thirty cars and it'll be such a wonderful deal.''

Now, I'm kind of smelling a rat. But after awhile, I gave in and build them a cheap conversion for sixteen thou­sand dollars or whatever it was. Well, that was it ... They'd started their own company in California, using my cars.

L&C: So they chose your cars to model after?

Bumgarner: Right. See, we were doing the trick cars then. We were building forty-two and forty-eight inch stretches_

L&C: Why do you think the limousine business took off the way it did?

Bumgarner: I think it got to be a trendy thing to be seen in a limo. plus I suspect the drunk driving laws also helped. If you have money ... you don't want a DWI so you have a limo come by and pick you up. I can remember back when people around here didn't know the differ­ence between a limousine and a hearse.

L&C: Did you ever build hearses?

Bumgarner: I did a couple of hearses ... a couple of '79 Lincolns. They were a snap to build and they were good looking cars.

L&C: What happened to the compa­ny after you sold it in '81?

Bumgarner: Well, Rahn Farris pret­ty well expanded the thing. He stayed along my same lines for about a year and then, in about '82, the in­dustry took off and they expanded to a bigger building.

L&C: Did they operate differently than you had?

Bumgarner: I wasn't really that close to them. They expanded the number of employees, put on second shifts, and probably did everything in­house. There were some things that we farmed out. It pretty much re­mained the same type of operation because, basically, it was the same people.

L&C: What did you do after you sold Executive?

Bumgarner: I sold limousines for awhile, then I started making dupli­cate wire wheel covers. This was dur­ing a time when the theft rate was high and a new set for Lincoln or Cadillac was five or six hundred dollars. So I went to Taiwan and made a deal with a company to develop wire wheel covers. They're patented, so I had to get a patent attorney to see what we could change to avoid patent infringement.

Well, once again, I wanted a qual­ity product so we decided to make them out of stainless steel just like they do in the U.S. It's hard to work with but, after two years, we finally had a load of wheel covers come over. They sell good, and I've got an exclusive contract with this company in Taiwan, so they won't sell to anyone else. But in Taiwan, everyone is relat­ed to everyone and, by the time I abandoned this project at the cost of half a million dollars. over twenty-two manufacturers were producing wire wheel covers. In fact in this one little town, everybody was making wire wheel covers within six months.

In the last year or two. I've dabbled in some wholesale used cars and have been traveling and enjoying life. I've thought about getting back in the business. As a matter of fact, the rea­son I didn't do it about a year ago was that the market was pretty soft. Buyers were simply interested in price because insurance and other expenses were high. They didn't care about the name or the quality. Now I understand the market's back up.

L&C: So you enjoy building limousines more than wholesaleing?

Bumgarner: I like sales and I like building. I don't like sitting there figuring the books ... and that's probably the most important part.

L&C: Do you think there's room for a fourth coachbuilder here in Springfield?

Bumgarner: I don't know. I per­sonally can't see how it would work because it looks like there's a lot of competition. If I were going to do it today, I think I'd select an area like John Gore did. He's in New York, and the way his business succeeds is by being there and having cars. If someone has a problem ... they drive twenty miles and see him. It costs a lot of money to ship these cars around the country. You're looking at six hundred dollars now just to get a car delivered from here to L.A.

The Springfield scene is a unique thing. At one time, Executive want­ed to bury DaBryan and they would have done anything in the world to get buyers away from them. Then, Bob Cann goes to work for Execu­tive for awhile, and later he and Doug Donalson jumped up in the middle of the night to start Corporate Coach­works. After that, DaBryan and Ex­ecutive became friends and they wanted to bury Corporate. It's been an interesting thing to watch from the sidelines.

L&C: Why don't you see limousines on the streets here?

Bumgarner: Well, a fellow who used to work for me has a service. He just does moderately. He's got some fac­tory limos and one stretch. When you start quoting people sixty bucks an hour ... that's a lot of money around here. And then there are a lot of wealthy people here who wouldn't be seen in a limousine.



    For more information please read:

Limousine & Chauffeur - Nov/Dec 1987

The Professional Car (Quarterly Journal of the Professional car Society)

Gregg D. Merksamer - Professional Cars: Ambulances, Funeral Cars and Flower Cars

Thomas A. McPherson - American Funeral Cars & Ambulances Since 1900

Carriage Museum of America - Horse-Drawn Funeral Vehicles: 19th Century Funerals

Carriage Museum of America -  Horse Drawn - Military, Civilian, Veterinary - Ambulances

Gunter-Michael Koch - Bestattungswagen im Wandel der Zeit

Walt McCall & Tom McPherson - Classic American Ambulances 1900-1979: Photo Archive

Walt McCall & Tom McPherson - Classic American Funeral Vehicles 1900-1980 Photo Archive

Walter M. P. McCall - The American Ambulance 1900-2002

Walter M.P. McCall - American Funeral Vehicles 1883-2003

Michael L. Bromley & Tom Mazza - Stretching It: The Story of the Limousine

Richard J. Conjalka - Classic American Limousines: 1955 Through 2000 Photo Archive

Richard J. Conjalka - Stretch Limousines 1928-2001 Photo Archive

Thomas A. McPherson - Eureka: The Eureka Company: a complete history

Thomas A. McPherson - Superior: The complete history

Thomas A. McPherson - Flxible: The Complete History

Thomas A. McPherson - Miller-Meteor: The Complete History

Robert R. Ebert  - Flxible: A History of the Bus and the Company

Hearses - Automobile Quarterly Vol 36 No 3

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Automobile Manufacturers Worldwide Registry

G.N. Georgano & G. Marshall Naul - The Complete Encyclopedia of Commercial Vehicles

Albert Mroz - Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks & Commercial Vehicles

Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark Jr. - Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942

John Gunnell - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975

James M. Flammang & Ron Kowalke - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1976-1999


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