LCW Automotive Corp. - San Antonio, Texas
|LCW Automotive Corp.(E)
3603 Fredericksburg Rd
San Antonio, TX 78201
LCW Automotive Corp., has a 30-year history building limousine conversions that have been employed in the funeral and livery industries. In the 1970’s LCW was busy extending Cadillac conversions based on the then Cadillac formal limousines, Lincoln long cars, 46-inch Mercedes, Rolls Royce sedans into convertibles. In the 1980’s LCW was the first to deliver the Lincoln and Cadillac long door, as well as the 6-inch wide-body Lincoln with a distinctive raised roof design. The 1990’s were full of innovations for this mid-sized converter of quality conversions and LCW became Lincoln QVM and Cadillac CMC certified and have remained so to this day. They are also an active member of the QVM/CMC Vehicle Manufacturer’s Association. During 2001/2002 LCW was actively supporting the industry and expanding its presence in the funeral industry with a exciting new 48-inch Six door Cadillac that featured a 3-inch raised roof, a flat floor, a unique full-size spare tire and storage compartment and special mid-mount air-conditioning as “standard” packaging for the professional limousine. Recently, LCW has been entrusted by Cadillac with building the two West Wing TV show presidential limousines that actor, Martin Sheen, uses when he plays President Bartlett.
For 2004 and beyond, LCW Automotive plans to offer a new line of limousines that represent the changed needs of the new breed of limousine operator and private user of today. Some of the upcoming innovations include an exclusive Lincoln undetectable “Raised Roof System” for 2004 that will be available for the corporate and VIP models.
Carlos Allen and the Modern Custom Coach
Carlos Allen came into the business independently of the U.S. limousine activity during the 1960s. He said, "I have been a coachbuilder since 1952. At first... I built sports cars. Then I got tired of making cars smaller and faster, so I decided instead to make them longer and more elegant."
Born in Mexico to an American father and a Spanish mother, Allen grew up with dreams of becoming a classical guitarist and a race car driver. Allen ended up with a variant of his ambitions but one in which he found great satisfaction: he applied artistry to cars. In the early 1950s, he toured European coachbuilders and was struck by the flair and tradition of the Old World craftsmen. He returned to Mexico and put that experience to work on small platforms, such as MG, Volkswagen, and Austin, which he converted to race cars with lightweight aluminum and fiberglass bodies.
Allen built his first stretch limousine in 1966, which he designed on a napkin in a restaurant with friends. "Let's make cars for the rich," he told them, "not the crazy." Allen turned to his friend, Lincoln dealer Bob Eagle, who ordered 50 limousines to sell through his dealership, one of the largest in the country. Allen was henceforth known for the beautiful and elaborate interior limousines. Allen came as close as any to the craftsmanship ofthe 1920s Custom Era. "His lifelong ambition was to be an official Rolls-Royce coachbuilder," says John Patti of his friend. "Just like Mulliner or Hooper." Allen's associate and fellow coachbuilder, Ken Boyar, concurs: "He was one of the world's finest coachbuilders. "
Allen was an extremely playful builder as well. He toyed with a stretch Volkswagen Bug and built on almost any platform-from Ford to Mercedes to Rolls-Royce. He was unafraid of some of the more difficult tasks of limousine building, such as oversized doors and raised roofs. His fame, however, was earned with the interior work of his cars. "Anybody can stretch a car that’s only 12 percent of the job. The other 88 percent is the fine finish," he said. Allen sold Allen Coachworks in 1989 but was back at work with a new firm in 1993, AJR Coachworks, where he worked until his death the following year.
Eagle-Allen S.A. of Mexico was an unlikely home to one of the greatest names in modern coach building. Carlos Allen started out building sports cars. When he decided to "make cars for the rich, not the crazy, " his talents went fully to the creation of stupendous limousines. (Courtesy of LCW Automotive, Laredo, Texas) Eagle-Allen is now called LCW and is located in San Antonio, Texas and Nueva Laredo, Mexico.
American Pullman Coachbuilders, was glorified in news articles across the country for bringing life to the ravaged Brooklyn area.
Actually, the applause could have come years earlier when, in 1964, the 23-year-old Ken Boyar bought into a failing body shop, Al's Collision Works. Within two years, Boyar had turned the operation around, purchased the remainder of the company,
and renamed it Auto Body Concepts, a name that reflected the professionalism Boyar injected into the business. There Boyar developed a unique frame-straightening system, as well as immersing himself in all aspects of auto repair and restoration. Boyar again reinvented the company in 1973 by renaming it MacGregor Custom Coach and moving facilely into the customizing business.
With the MacGregor name, Boyar developed a reputation for quality custom work, an expertise in high-end paint jobs, and a set of impressive New York A-list clients. By the late 1970s, MacGregor was a leading national installer of sunroofs, a skill that brought the company into Boyar's next formulation as American Pullman. Already having dabbled in limousines since 1978 and having developed a strong relationship with Classic Coach of Orlando, Florida, the two companies in 1982 developed tooling and designs for a new line of stretch limousines, which were then coming into great demand in New York City. American Pullman was soon churning out 36- and 46-inch stretch Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Lincoln limousines to the tune of several hundred vehicles per year by the mid-1980s.
During this time, Boyar developed a close relationship with Carlos Allen. American Pullman was building primarily on General Motors chassis, while Allen built on Lincolns, which Boyar sold for him. Allen convinced Boyar to join his operation. Boyar closed American Pullman and opened APC Sales Corp. to market the limousines he and Allen built under Allen Coachworks. He also established a limousine maintenance facility to attend to existing limousines in the N ew York area (today managed by Boyar's son, Adam). Boyar split his time between New York and Laredo until 1989, when Allen Coachworks was bought out.
Boyar's next move came in 1992 in the form of Laredo Coachworks, now LCW Automotive Corp., which successfully grew into the 1990s. Boyar also carried forth with LCW Automotive his track record for innovation. As before at American Pullman, Boyar today insists on employing OEM materials and standards wherever possible, such as electrical components, body mounts, and drive shafts. Drawing further from Boyar's experience in frame repair, LCW Automotive has developed a proprietary laser-guided cutting system that ensures the lowest tolerances in chassis stretching in the industry. The net effect is a smoothness which, when combined with LCW Automotive's innovative use of composite insulation materials, makes for a uniquely quiet ride. Appropriately for its Texas location, the company has also developed the most powerful air conditioning system used in production limousines. Today LCW Automotive is among the largest builders in the country, although Boyar prefers the descriptive "quality, innovation, and design." Above all, Boyar says as he looks back on his long career, he counts himself most content with "a good life, a good factory, good people," and, as he used to say at American Pullman, "making good cars better."
Amid a ravaged Brooklyn neighborhood, Ken Boyar turned a small body shop into a major limousine player of the 1980s, American Pullman Limousine. (Courtesy of LCW Automotive, Laredo, Texas)
xxxxTexas-Based Auto Firm Builds Two Limos for 'West Wing'
By G. Chambers Williams III, San Antonio Express-News
Fans of NBC-TV's hit drama series "The West Wing," take note: That limousine you'll see President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) tooling around in during this fall's fourth season of the show was built by a San Antonio-based limo manufacturer.
In fact, LCW Automotive at 3603 Fredericksburg Road has built two of these long, black 2002 Cadillac Sedan DeVille limos for the show, both of which were completed last week at the company's factory in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and shipped from the San Antonio headquarters to the "West Wing" set in California this week.
"We got the contract to build the two limos from General Motors' public relations department, which is providing them to the show," LCW chief executive Kenneth Boyar said last week at the company's San Antonio headquarters.
LCW is among an elite group of master coach builders certified by General Motors and Ford Motor Co. to build limousines that come with factory warranties and backing.
Boyar was working hard last week to get the two vehicles ready for the show, but was distracted a bit by the cleanup of flood damage at the shop from the big rainstorm July 1. A wall of water came rushing down Gardena Street, which runs perpendicular off Fredericksburg Road in front of LCW's headquarters.
The business filled with more than a foot of water, and cars from up the street, as well as huge Dumpsters, ended up on LCW's property.
"We're still trying to get the carpet dried and to get the odor out of it," Boyar said.
Luckily, neither of the "West Wing" limos had yet been delivered to the headquarters building from Nuevo Laredo - they were brought up later in the week after Interstate 35 reopened, Boyar said.
Boyar, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native, said his company has been building its limos at Nuevo Laredo since 1975, but until 1992, it was headquartered in New York.
He moved the headquarters to Laredo in 1992, then to San Antonio nearly two years ago "to get back to a city," he said.
The "West Wing" limos are just two of about 300 limousines the company will build at the Nuevo Laredo facility this year.
But they are special units, he added.
"We designed them, as requested, to look identical to the ones that President Bush uses, and we did that as well as we could without actually getting inside one of Bush's cars to photograph it," Boyar said. "We weren't allowed to do that." While the two cars that LCW built for the show look just like the two used in Bush's official motorcades, they aren't quite as heavy-duty - they don't have the bulletproof steel and glass that the president's vehicles require.
"We built them on a commercial Sedan DeVille chassis that General Motors builds for the limousine industry, but it wasn't the heavier chassis that GM provides for cars such as the president's," Boyar said. "Outwardly, though, they certainly look the same." In the ceiling of each of the "West Wing" limos, LCW installed two moon roofs, with opaque glass so no light comes through, but able to be opened so the camera operators can film through them, he said.
The middle seats are quickly removable so a camera crew can set up there to film the "West Wing" president and his guests as they sit on the cushy back seat, just like Bush does.
There are flags on the front fenders, two seven-inch LCD television screens - one at each side of the rear seat - and lots of other touches also found in real presidential limos.
Although the limos are considered merely props for the show, they are fully functional vehicles, and could be driven anywhere.
The chassis for the limos came from Detroit, and were cut in two and stretched by 70 inches for the "West Wing" show. As completed, each car is 23 feet long, and costs about $150,000.
"We stripped out the interiors, placed the vehicles on our cutting fixture, cut them in half, stretched them, then started installing our custom interiors," Boyar said. "We do all of the interior work ourselves, including the fancy woodwork and leather upholstery." The finished limos were taken on open trucks to Fort Smith, Ark., where they were put into closed trucks for transport to the show's set in Sun Valley, Calif., he said.
"They will be used over and over in the show," Boyar said.
LCW's limos are sold about half to the funeral industry and half for commercial livery, VIP and corporate transportation use, he said.
This is not the first time the company has provided vehicles for TV shows or movies, said Boyar, who has been building limos since 1964.
"We recently did one for 'Sex and the City,' and we did them for 'Law and Order,' among others," he said.
And just last week, one of LCW's limos was driven in mobster John Gotti's funeral procession, Boyar said.
"We didn't specifically provide one for that event," he added. "It just so happened that one of ours was used in the funeral."
As for "West Wing," the one-hour drama series from Emmy Award winners Aaron Sorkin ("A Few Good Men"), Thomas Schlamme ("Tracey Takes On") and John Wells (NBC's "ER") won nine Emmys in its first season, 1999-2000.
In its first two years, it won the Emmy for top drama show.
The show offers behind-the-scenes glimpses into the Oval Office as seen through the eyes of its eclectic group of frenzied staffers and the first family.
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