Lehmann-Peterson - 1963-1970 - Chicago, Illinois
Lehmann-Peterson was founded in 1963 when Robert "Pete" Peterson met George "Skip" Lehmann. Robert Peterson was in auto racing and for many years he was a chief mechanic, building racers for use at Indianapolis. George Lehmann at the age of 21 had recieved a large inheritance from his father who died in Boston's Coconut Grove Night Club fire.
In a small Chicago garage on Harlem Avenue they took a 1963 Lincoln cut it in half and added a 34 inch stretch. They also added their plaque which read "Executive Limousine by Lehmann-Peterson". Only one prototype was constructed in the Harlem Avenue garage. (When production began, operations were moved to a shop at 2710 North Sawyer Avenue and one on Armitage Street)
Ford was impressed with the 1963 prototype especially the seating arrangement which created a conversation area atmosphere. Ford kept the car for further testing being concerned about safety and the strength of the frame with the additional length. Then on February 25, 1964, after 40,000 miles of testing, Ford and Lehmann-Peterson reached an agreement.
It was first displayed at the New York International Automobile Show in April, 1964. Over the next 6 years Lehmann-Peterson produced around 600 limousines for government official, business executive, numerous celebrities including Jackie Gleason, Spencer Tracy, The Supremes, The Rolling Stones, Sophia Loren, Jerry Lewis, Robert Vaughn, Victor Borge, Senator Robert Kennedy, Aristotle Onassis and even a 1964 "Popemobile".
In 1970 only 6 Executive Limousines were produced, Ford for various reasons terminated their relationship with Lehmann-Peterson and the doors were closed. Moloney Coachbuilders (later Chicago Armor) absorbed all assets of the company. On April 6, 1972 at the age of 34, George Lehmann died in Cook County Illinois from an inoperable brain tumor that was the result of an earlier accident while on his sailboat. Robert Peterson eventually went to work for Moloney Coachbuilders and passed away in 1995.
Text by A.R. Roalman
The automotive world's young tigers often choose the heady life of the racing circuit. They'll design, they'll build and they'll risk their lifes bringing dreams to that brink where the possible and impossible meet. Every generation has its Action Men.
Is it so old-fashioned to have a dream? Men who will bend to the cynicism of the crowd far outnumber the ones who will admit to a vision and a belief in themselves. Fortunately the automotive world has it share of the latter. Yet it needn't always be the Shelbys, the Chapmans or the Halls whose dreams are realized. The same recipe, one part vision and nine parts guts and hard work hold true off the race course as well.
One automobile dream that's true is the Lehmann-Peterson operation. Its an exciting and unusal business that exist today because a couple of car buffs had a great idea and instead of just thinking that it was to much for them to handle, did something about it.
"This started as an idea in September of 1962, and I got in it because I'm a car idiot. I'm nut's about cars" Talking is George William Lehmann, 30, and what he is talking about is $2-million-a-year business that would be the dreams-realized job of anybody who really likes to fuss and tinker with splendid, expensive cars. His business, and that of his partner Robert Wilfred Peterson, 41, is coachbuilding. It's a far cry from the world of competition. (But surprisingly, racing was the quirk that brought these two men together.)
But what makes the Lehmann-Peterson operation special is that it has an exclusive contract with the Lincoln-Mercury people to do the coachwork for all Lincoln Continental limousines. In case you've always thought that all Lincoln Continentals had a limousine like look to them, notice now one salient fact: An ordinary Lincoln Continental has a price tag of something like $5800; a Lincoln Continental limousine goes out for $16,000 to $20,000. There are other major differences between the regular Continental and the limousine, but price is enough for starters.
Meet Lehmann and Peterson for the first time and you see quickly who is the salesman for the outfit and which one handles the shop. Lehmann, son of a wealthy Chicago family, is a slim, fast-moving, fast-thinking bachelor who wears vests, natty clothes, has two secretaries whose accents are heavily British, and an office that is modern, quiet, handsome, clean and full of gadgets. He owns five Dodge motor homes, an Iso, a 1935 Packard convertible, a chauffeur-driven Lincoln Continental, a Lincoln Continental convertible, a Mercury sedan, a Mercury station wagon, two motorcycles, and a snowmobile.
Peterson, on the other hand, is a chunky, reserved man. A visitor might find him in the company's shop among grinding wheels, strips of plastic and leather, noise and paint. When asked to pose for a photograph, Peterson wouldn't think to put on a tie. When Lehmann strolls in with some artist's renderings of a proposed job he has sold and asks Peterson for prices on the different phases of the work, Peterson gives one- or two-word answers. Lehmann explains the job specifications in detail; Peterson tells him, with an efficiency and finality that is awesome, how much the job will cost.
Peterson owns a white Lincoln Continental with a dented front end. He is the mechanical end of the business.
That's how the two of them got together. Lehmann had owned a racecar that got banged up. He brought it to Peterson to see what might be done to make it right again. They got to know one another and, in the course of working together, got the idea for a Lincoln Continental limousine.
They knew that corporations were buying large numbers of cars from Lincoln-Mercury or Ford dealerships for salesmen and others who used motor vehicles in the company, often also would specify that they wanted a limousine for top-echelon corporate functions. At that time, Lincoln Continental and Ford dealers would have to shuffle their feet and admit that they, through the Ford or Lincoln-Mercury operations, couldn't offer a limousine. Reluctantly, they would have to advise the customer to go to a GM dealership for a Cadillac limousine. It broke their hearts to give the GM people even a small foot in the door. They knew from hard experience that GMers soon would be bidding for the rest of the business, too.
Lehmann offered to buy a Lincoln Continental if Peterson would turn it into a limousine that they could take to the Lincoln Continental people in Dearborn. Peterson said he would, so Lehmann got a date with Lincoln Continental brass.
Peterson built the limousine in the used-car lot garage-which quickly proved too short. When the job was done, one of the obvious differences between the regular size Lincoln Continental and the limousine they built in 1962 was that the limousine was 36 inches longer.
When the Dachshund-like Lincoln was completed, Lehmann and Peterson climbed aboard and drove it to Dearborn.
There they found a terribly polite, but definite, show-me attitude. The LC people started the prototype through three months of tests-torsion, acceleration, braking, and a few others, such as eye-appeal-were impressed enough to agree to refer all future requests from limousine customers to the Lehmann-Peterson shop. But now the Lehmann-Peterson operation yearly changes about 110 ordinary Lincoln Continentals into limousines.
"We made two limousines that first year," says Lehmann, recounting the origins of the idea turned into a profitable business. "One was for the President of the United States. The other was given away on 'The Price is Right,' the television quiz show. The woman who won it did something I can't understand. She sold the car to a used car dealer. There were only two 1963 Lincoln Continental limousines ever made. One went into the presidential fleet. The other ended up on the used car lot. Some collector could do very well by himself if he got the give-away car."
What happens now when somebody walks into a Lincoln Continental showroom and says he would like a car, but the ordinary Lincoln Continental looks a little too well, ah, ordinary? It's likely that the salesman, if he is at all alert, will offer the customer a coffee, or maybe a snifter of expensive brandy, and invite him to sit right down and talk over the matter. "What would You like in your Lincoln Continental?" the salesman might ask. "Like a built-in bar, such as wealthy comedian Jackie Gleason recently ordered? No trouble. The Lehmann-Peterson people can do that. How about a television set? 'That doesn't require too much jiggling. Want to give your chauffeur his own reading light in case he spends several hours a week waiting for you while you work into the dark hours of the night? Why, of course.
"Want to stretch the car about three feet and make it a full-fledged limousine? We can handle that through Lehmann-Peterson," the salesman points out. "Or, if you would like your car stretched only nine inches or so, so it doesn't look too ostentatious, Lehmann-Peterson can handle that, too. Want your wheels gold-plated? Don't think too much of it.
"Like some more brandy?" asks the salesman, as he goes down the list of other things that the customer might want. "Two continental spare tires on the rear? Sure, the Lehmann-Peterson people have experience with that." They built, in fact, two such cars for a Hawaiian businessman who considers the two rear spares his trademark. At the moment, they certainly are. So far as the Lehmann-Peterson people know, he is the only man in the world with a Lincoln Continental limousine with two spare tires on the rear. His LC convertible also has two spares.
"Want special velour interiors? No problem, just tell me what color you want, Red? Baby blue? Gold? Have a little trouble with your back and find it difficult to bend over as you get in and out of your car? Lehmann-Peterson people will incluse a special seat that electrically slides outside the car. Sit down in the seat a push a button The seat rises slightly, turns , and slides back into its regular position" It cost more, of course , but whats's money to a millionaire with a sore sacroiliac?
What the salesman doesn't mention, naturally enough, is money. It takes the time of skilled mechanics and good craftsmen to do such things. "One of the reasons that other coachbuilders either have gone out of business or are going downhill while we're going the other way is that we price out our jobs realistically," says Lehmann. "You can lose your tail in this business if you don't know what you're doing. We had a woman come in here with a Cadillac limousine that she wanted turned into a station-wagon limousine. We could go broke in no time if we didn't know how to estimate such jobs. There's always about $10,000 involved in making a full-sized limousine from a Lincoln Continental."
Ten thousand dollars? That's a chunk of extra dough for any car. What does a customer get for that kind of cash?
The standard conversion from a Lincoln Continental sedan to a limousine starts in a corner of a small shop on Chicago's northwest side. People in the neighborhood, which is a fairly seedy one, probably would be amazed to know that some of the most expensive cars in the world roll out of the Lehmann-Peterson operation, which Doesn't even have a name on the front of the garage where the actual work is done. (Lehmann's office, in another location in the city, is small and unpretentious. It merely says "Lehmann-Peterson Coachbuilders.")
The first step in the elongation is to cut the car in half at the center roof post. Lehmann abhors the words "saw in half" because he thinks it makes people think that, somehow the car Ultimately will be weaker. "Say disassemble," suggests Lehmann.
The fact is, they saw the car in half. But buy that Lincoln Continental limousine, anyway. The limousine actually is stronger than the car from which it was built. After the car is sawed crosswise, it is fitted with several important items:
* An additional Lipper roof pillar on either side of the car. The Lipper roof pillar is the piece that extends vertically from the top of the window line to the bottom of the roofline.
* Four additional supports are built across the roof of the car. These are called "cross-roof supports," they extend horizontally across the inner roof surface.
* A 0.125-in. steel plate along each side of the car from the driver's compartment to the front of the rear cushion. In case you don't know what 0.125-in. steel is, get yourself a ruler and take a look at how thick an eighth of an inch is. Then find yourself a chunk of 0.125-in. steel. It will be only slightly thinner than tank armor.
* Two 0.125-in. structural supports get built into the driver's compartment. These are boxlike units that help give the limousine rigidity like nothing you've ever seen.
* Then they put in a 0.125-in. cross-one side of the new center of the car to the other.
* Then a new 34-in.section is welded into place on either side of the car and ultimately, a new roof is put on.
The Lincoln Continental people have subjected the limousine to torsion stresses in a grueling test of its rigidity. They hate to admit it publicly, but it is more rigid than the standard Lincoln Continental, and standard Lincoln Continentals are pretty sturdy hunks of car.
Obviously, this car is doing to weigh more than the standard version. Stick in slabs of steel, weld in 34 inches of metal on either side and add a longer drive shaft, and you're bound to have more weight.
"No problem," says Lehmann. "The Lincoln Continental engine was made to push the Linco ln Continental convertible, which weighs 5712 Pounds. The Iimousine weighs 5939 pounds only 227 pounds more. We've never ever-had any complaints from anyone about acceleration."
In addition to putting on extra metal and a new shaft, the Lehmann-Peterson limo has a longer exhaust; longer fuel lines; special parking brake cables; eight-ply tires; special springs, shocks and wheels; and a new roof that has been riveted in place. ("The rivets are completely covered with body lead," Lehmann likes to point out.)
It gets all the goodies that the customer wants as the car moves through the stretching operation. Some customers want a two-inch-higher roof, which runs about $900 more, to allow tall men to wear their hats while being chauffeur driven. With individualists like Elvis Presley, Hugh Hefner, Governor Rockefeller, The Supremes, and even Henry Ford ordering limousines from the Lehmann-Peterson shop, you can imagine that there are a fair number of unusual additions hung on the limousine they crank out. One customer wanted port holes instead of the somewhat standard "opera" window that goes into most limousines.One prospective customer even came to the Lehmann-Peterson people with a suggestion that they produce an all-gold limousine without rear windows. The car also was to have had a safe in the back. Lehmann gave a price quotation for the job, but he never heard from the customer again.
But the Lehmann-Peterson people don't confine themselves to making Lincoln Continental limousines. "We made a 1967 Chevrolet into a limousine," says Lehmann, and his company also has limousine-ized a chauffeur driven Pontiac that carries around the Right Reverend Cody, Roman Catholic Cardinal of Chicago.
About 40 men work in the Lehmann-Peterson garages and offices. While their time is mainly involved in meticulously changing Lincoln Continentals into limousines, they also get involved in some secret projects. For example, they are now working on an ambulance for the Mercury Division of Ford Motor Co. "It will be like nothing anybody has ever seen," says Lehmann. A Study of the prototype in his shop is convincing evidence that he is right.
Also in the shop is a fire truck that is being built for AnsuI, the fire-equipment people. It, also, is like nothing that ever bellied up to a big flame. It obviously isn't designed to compete with the big LaFrance stuff, but it certainly is going to open some eyes and put out some fires.
But don't get any wild ideas while reading this. Don't go picking up the phone and asking for a new limousine with red trim, one-way glass (such as Victor Borge has), rear compartment air conditioning (such as practically aII Lehmann-Peterson limousines have), a built-in telephone (common in $18,000 cars these days), and a few other nice things to be driven around to your front door. It takes about two months under ordinary circumstances-four in the fall when orders start to pile in-to get a Lehmann-Peterson limousine. In the meantime, you'll probably just have to drive around in an ordinary Lincoln Continental. How rough can life be?
An undetermined number of Lehmann-Peterson limousines were built in 1969 and one 1970 prototype
was reportedly built before the Lehmann-Peterson/Lincoln-Mercury relationship ended. One of the last of the 1969
limousines was fitted with Mark III front and rear exterior trim, perhaps in an attempt to rekindle interest at
Lincoln-Mercury, but this concept apparently did not catch on. What caused the relationship to falter is unknown.
The author was doing research on a Lincoln history in Detroit in 1980 (The Lincoln Motorcar, now long out of
print) and inquired of Lincoln-Mercury people at that time about what had happened. No one would or, most likely,
could supply the answer. There had been so many staff changes at the division that the corporate memory then hardly
went back more than two or three years. (The public relations director had been on the job for about a week! And, as
John Banner used to say, knew nothing! A good man, this fellow is now vice-president of communications for Toyota'a
Tycoons, oil sheiks and maharajas are sending their stock cars to a Chicago taffy-pull that tugs them to extravagant lengths. You, too, can have a baubled, bulletproof behemoth for $15,000 plus. By ARTHUR WHITMAN, photos (Factory Page) CURT GUNTHER - Popular Mechanics, June, 1966
The car is a shade over 22 feet long, weighs just under three tons, and has a 462 cu. in. V8 engine that develops 340 hp. Some versions are bulletproofed. A tank? Not at all-just America's newest prestige car, the Lincoln Continental Executive Limousine, made in Chicago by the Lehmann-Peterson Coach Co., Inc., the only independent shop in the country that makes limousines on a production basis.
Cadillac makes limos on its own production lines, as do Gerrnany's Mercedes and England's Rolls-Royce. Others are built on a one-shot basis, usually by ambulance makers and custom shops. Only Lehmann-Peterson is in the business of converting standard cars to limousines and selling them through dealers. Among the firm's customers are Lyndon B. Johnson, the Queen of the Netherlands, Spain's Franco, UN Ambassador Arthur Goldberg, various oil shieks and the U.S. Joint Chiefs-of-Staff. For every car made for a dignitary, five or so go to corporations who like their executives to travel in regal style. Some, like Ford, keep only a dignified one or two and use them mainly for important visitors. Others, like North American Aviation, keep a fleet of five.
Lehmann-Peterson also supplied the special car used by the Pope during his visit to this country
in Nov. 1965. The car was made for testing by Lincoln in 1962, when the coachmakers first went into business. At the
time of the Pope's visit it had been driven 170,000 miles. It was converted into a miniature throne room-complete
with special screens, lights and a public address system-on eight days' notice and at a cost rumored to be in the
neighborhood of $25,000, paid by Catholic laymen's groups. Curiously, few celebrities-as opposed to dignitaries-own
the car. "Jerry Lewis bought one of the first ones we made," says George Lehmann. "He seemed to love it for a few
months, then got tired of it. We were delighted to buy it back from him. The car itself is our best ad, and with so
few of them around at the time, we didn't want any of them trapped in garages. Since then we've learned that most
show-biz and sports types are more interested in 'pizzaz' than dignity. We have quite a few cars in Hollywood now,
but they're all owned by studios-Warner Brothers, Revue-who use them for VIP visitors. The stars seem to go in for
hopped-up foreign jobs and sportsters."
When he met Lehmann, Peterson had just sold a successful propane gas supply business that had begun to bore him. He had long been thinking there was room in the auto business for newcomers, and he thought he knew just where it was making limousines for the affluent and burgeoning executive market. After preliminary talk and planning, the two decided they could hardly manufacture and distribute a car from scratch, but that they certainly could convert existing cars-stretching them to limousine size. They approached Ford, whose Lincoln-Mercury Div. produces some 14,000 Lincoln Continentals a year, but stopped making limousines in the 1920s. They offered to convert the conventionally luxurious Lincoln into an even more opulent car, providing Lincoln would sell them through its dealers.
The Lincoln people thought this might make some sense, but only if George and Pete could meet and maintain engineering standards. They ordered two cars made and test drove them for 100,000 miles each. The cars held up beautifully-one of them, as we've pointed out, still in good enough shape to have been converted for use by the Pope and tiny, newborn Lehmann-Peterson Coach Co. found itself closely affiliated with one of the world's largest corporations. To fill dealer orders, Lincoln sends L-P standard "unibody" production cars, equipped with a limousine conversion kit. The kit consists of heavy-duty springs, shock absorbers and tires, an extra air conditioning system and an outsized cooling system. The extra cooling power keeps the cars from overheating when they spend long hours idling while waiting for passengers, as many limousines do.
Sliced in two
L-P strips the Continental's interior, removes the rooftop and cuts the car in half at the doorposts. Thirty-four-inch steel panels are inserted to "stretch" the rear compartment, and new floor pans are welded in to compensate for the added length. The roof is replaced and covered with padded vinyl. The only important mechanical change is the installation of a new, elongated driveshaft. Standard trim and fittings include a chauffeur's compartment, a rear compartment containing five seats, the biggest armrest in creation and an AM-FM hi-fi rig supported on a walnut liquor cabinet. Also standard is an umbrella, thoughtfully tucked under the front seat so that passengers are never inconvenienced by the weather. Even better, it's the chauffeur, of course, who has to remember not to leave it behind someplace. Extras include a remote-control system to signal the chauffeur that His Nibs is ready for a spin, intercoms, full-scale public address systems, and just about any gingerbread the customer wants. "We can do anything to either the interior or the exterior," explains Peterson, who does all the designing on the cars. "The only qualifications are that the customer wants it, can pay for it and that Ford doesn't find it offensive."
So far, inoffensive, paid for modifications have included oversized trunks with jazzed-up lids; running boards; bulletproof bodies (about which no one likes to talk except to say they exist); installation of photochrome glass that looks clear but grows darker as the sun grows brighter, and removable tops for cars to be used in parades and the like. Interiors have ranged from the Papal car with its hydraulic throne to a number known around the shop as "The Funeral Special." Sold to an undertaker, it is painted a dignified black but upholstered in ear-shattering scarlet. With standard equipment, the limo sells for a neat $14,666.66. With modifications, there is no price limit.
Biggest surprise is growth.
The biggest surprise the young company has had to date is the rate at which it has grown. Having converted just two 1963 models both for testing they produced 15 1964s and 85 1965s. They expect to convert about 200 of the 1966 model. Their plant has grown from a two-car garage on Chicago's West Side to three substantial buildings. Staff has increased from four to 45. Panels, floor pans and other parts for the stretched car, once handmade, are now ordered from suppliers and inventories. From every indication, the growth will continue, too. "You could reasonably say that people are standing in line for the car," says Lehmann. "Our backlog of orders varies at different seasons, but the trend is unmistakable. We're just not stretching cars fast enough."
Ford Press Release, October 2, 1966
Public Relations Department
The increasing popularity of the Lincoln Continental Executive Limousine in daily rental and livery service is stimulating sales of conventional Lincoln Continental models, according to Frank E. Zimmerman, Jr., general sales manager of Lincoln-Mercury Division of Ford Motor Company.
"During the past 12 months the number of Executive Limousines in daily rental service for socialites, diplomats and businessmen was more than double the previous year," Mr. Zimmerman said.
"We've discovered that Executive Limousines are serving a dual role of 'demonstrators' as well as chauffeur-driven transportation -- people who have never ridden in a Continental before get livery service in these special customized Continentals and become aware of a new standard in motoring luxury," he said. "The effect is especially pronounced in the New York area where sales of the Lincoln Continental this year are up 45 per cent."
Mr. Zimmerman said he expects the 1967 Executive Limousine to maintain its growing, popularity with major corporations, governments and private individuals. He noted that on a recent business trip to New York he saw three of the custom-built Lincolns at a Park Avenue intersection at the same time, one going through and two waiting for the traffic signal to change.
"While the Lincoln Continental Executive Limousine is recognized as the ultimate in prestige and luxury motoring around the world, most of all we wanted it to earn the 'Park Avenue Seal of Approval' and it has," he said.
In addition to Park Avenue, Executive Limousines are in service on fashionable boulevards in Spain, -Russia, Morocco, Bahrain, France, Italy, West Germany, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Japan and Iran, according to Mr. Zimmerman.
The manufacturer's suggested retail price of the Executive Limousine starts at about $15,000, and a typically equipped limousine sells for more than $17,000. A buyer who wants all the options and accessories and extras could spend about $20,000. The limousine is available on special order through Lincoln-Mercury dealers.
The 1967 Lincoln Continental Executive Limousine, created from the Lincoln Continental four-door sedan by Lehmann-Peterson, Inc., Chicago coachbuilders, again has a wheelbase of 160 inches and is 255 inches in length, compared to a wheelbase of 126 inches and overall length of 220 inches in the regular Lincoln Continental.
During the 1966 model year, limousine sales increased 28 per cent over the previous year. The 1967 model will be sold with the new Lincoln Continental warranty of five years and 50,000 miles for power-train components and 24 months or 24,000 miles for the entire vehicle (except tires which are warranted by the manufacturer.)
The Executive Limousine for 1967 has a distinctive wide door pillar which provides increased privacy for rear compartment passengers, particularly for occupants of the companion seats. The optional chauffeur divider window permits complete sound-proofing in the rear. The thick-padded vinyl-covered roof has a distinctive opera rear window for additional privacy. Interiors are elegant, with thick mouton carpeting and upholstery of the finest wool broadcloth or rich leathers. For 1967, the rear-facing companion seats can be folded up to give additional passenger compartment spaciousness. Standard features include an oil rubbed walnut cabinet, rear compartment clock, rear door courtesy lights, lighted armrest storage compartments and choice of AM/FM radio or AM radio/Stereo-Sonic tape system.
New options offered for 1967 include reading lights for both the passenger compartment and the chauffeur compartment, rear seat armrest storage compartment and floor foot rests. other options continued include beverage service tray, built-in television set, front and rear air conditioning, inter-cummunication system and all-leather interior. The limousine can be equipped with telephone and dictating machine.
The Executive Limousine is powered by Lincoln Continental's big 430-cubicinch V-8 engine and is equipped with Select-Shift Turbo-Drive automatic transmission to give smooth, flexible performance under all driving and road conditions. The new transmission shift provides for automatic shifting or for up-shifting or down-shifting manually as the driver desires.
The Executive Limousine is equipped with Ford Motor Company's Lifeguard Design safety features, including dual hydraulic brake system with warning light, impact absorbing steering wheel with deep-padded hub and padded instrument panel, sun visors and windshield pillars and deluxe front and rear seat belts with reminder light. Other standard safety features include double-yoke safety door latches, remote control outside mirror, non-glare (day/night) inside mirror with flexible backing and double pivot inside mirror arm, turn indicators with lane-changing signal feature, self-adjusting brakes, and 4-way emergency flasher with control mounted on the steering column. The windshield is formed of thick laminate safety plate glass, and windshield washers and variable speed wipers are standard.
The Continental Magazine, May/June, 1964
"A New Classic of the Limousine World" - An independent custom coachbuilder converts the Continental sedan into a superb limousine.
IN THE HEIRARCHY of the automotive world, no motor car enjoys such distinction and prestige as the chauffeur-driven limousine. Its marrying of elegance, roominess, and privacy represents a pinnacle of the art of automobile body styling, and because of this it has been associated throughout automotive history with royalty in Europe and with the royalty of the business, social, and entertainment worlds of America.
There is now a new and striking limousine on the American scene. It is a custom conversion of a
Lincoln Continental sedan by Lehmann-Peterson, an independent custom coachbuilder situated in Chicago. Known as the
Executive Limousine, it is 34 inches longer than the Continental sedan but is still unmistakably a Continental.
* To enhance the exterior styling, the top is heavily padded and then covered with black simulated leather.
* The rear window is reduced in size (six inches high by 25 inches wide) to insure greater Privacy in the rear compartment.
* Inside, the limousine contains a four-way power-operated front seat. Directly behind the front seat spanning the width of the automobile and rising from the floor to window level, is the divider. It is constructed of steel. Facing rearward from the divider are two permanently positioned companion seats. Separating these comfortable seats is a walnut cabinet with a hand-rubbed finished.
* A separate radio (AM-FM) for the rear compartment is contained in the walnut cabinet.
* The full-size front and rear seats along with the rear-facing companion seats, headlining, rear doors, package shelf, and divider are upholstered with the finest all-wool broadcloth available. The rear carpeting is genuine mouton.
* In many areas, additional foam rubber is installed with the upholstery to create a plush appearance of unmatched luxury. Extra insulation is added throughout the limousine for maximum quietness.
* As a final touch of luxury, the trunk is covered with loop design carpeting.
The Executive Limousine also offers several optional features. Among them are:
* Air conditioning. Those units ordered with air conditioning are equipped with a dual air conditioning-heating system. Two ducts for the rear air conditioner are incorporated into the divider. They are positioned in the center of the divider just above the walnut cabinet, and are individually adjustable so that a cool air flow can be evenly and gently distributed throughout the rear compartment. Heated air enters the rear of the limousine through two ducts located underneath the companion seats. Two three-speed fans, with rear seat controls assure air flow regulation for maximum comfort.
Those buyers who want a complete separation of the front and rear compartments may order at nominal additional charge a chauffeur compartment divider window.
* A built in television set is also available at extra cost, provision can be made for a five inch screen.
* Lehmann-Peterson will consider special request and will also offer such unusual features as a phone compartment, dictating machine or beverage compartment.
Lincoln Continentals converted by Lehmann-Peterson have been fully tested by Ford Motor Company and carry the same warranty given to all Continentals. In it integral construction, the limousine's underbody, structural members are welded directly to the floor, cross members, side rails and body sides. This method of construction results in the strongest automobile body made.
The structural solidity and rigid strength of this integral body, along with a wheelbase of 160 inches, contributes to the unsurpassed riding qualities of the Executive Limousine. Because of the extra weight, the limousine has special springs, shock absorbers, tires, fan, and radiator.
Except that Lehmann-Peterson has converted this car into something special. It remains essentially a Lincoln Continental, with all that the name implies. In its original form, prior to conversion, it was built to the world's highest standards in a special automotive plant containing the newest and finest machinery and staffed with the finest craftsmen in automobile manufacture.
The Lehmann-Peterson conversion has not altered the superiority of the basic car. Taking cognizance of the need for a motor car as beautiful as the Continental but larger, it has created an automobile that will rank and compare favorably with the most elaborate and luxurious limousines available in the world today. The result adds considerable luster and distinction to the American automobile scene.
Lehmann-Peterson Executive Limousine conversions will be sold by Continental dealers, whose warranty will include the conversion as well as the basic unit. The dealer warranty terms will be the same as on other Lincoln Continentals. The warranty may be summarized as follows: "Lincoln Continental dealers warrant to their customers: That for 24 months or for 24,000 miles, whichever comes first, free replacement, including related labor, will be made by dealers of any parts with a defect in workmanship or materials. Tires are not covered by the warranty, appropriate adjustments will continue to be made by the tire companies. Owners will remain responsible for normal maintenance, service, and routine replacement of maintenance items such as filters, spark plugs, ignition points, and wiper blades."
LEHMANN-PETERSON AND THE LINCOLN CONTINENTAL EXECUTIVE LIMOUSINES
Limousines had been sold by Ford Motor Company fairly steadily up until 1942, when overall production of all automobiles was halted for World War II. After the war, none were offered until 1958, when Hess & Eisenhardt were contracted to produce limousines and town cars, both on a standard wheelbase. This outside contractor produced about 300 of these special car conversions for Ford from 1958 through the 1960 model year. Being on the standard wheelbase, with the factory specified interior dimensions, these conversions provided special amenities, but no extra interior room.
Lincoln described the Lehmann-Peterson (L-P) limos which were first built starting in 1963 with a prototypes being 'The Ultimate Expression of Continental Elegance.' And they were, but they were also even more reliable and more strictly tested than their regular factory counterparts. This fad came to the attention of Ford executives who noticed that warranty costs were lower for the L-P limousines than for the standard Lincoln Continentals. True, here was a factory car that had been cut in two and put back together with an extended middle section, but the craftsmen at Lehmann-Peterson went over each car in detail before its delivery to the customer. Little wonder then that Lehmann-Peterson has such a distinctive reputation for qualify among American limousine collectors.
Ford had not entered into an association with Lehmann-Peterson blindly. L-P was a brand new company with absolutely no corporate track record, and here it was, wanting to market a conversion that weighed 500 pounds more than the standard factory car.
Lehmann-Peterson presented a 1963 limousine prototype to Ford for review. Sixty people of Ford went over this prototype carefully. Then they asked L-P to leave the car with them for preliminary testing. They crammed as many people into the car as possible and drove over torturous road conditions, even racing the limo into an airborne launch of one point, with all four wheels off the ground. Safety was Ford's big concern. The car stood up to these cruelties and Ford requested more time for further testing.
At this point, engineers and others went over the prototype, evaluating every nut, bolt, and weld. Ford was pleased with the evaluation and shook hands on a deal with Lehmann-Peterson for an association that lasted seven successful years.
The man with the technical know-how of L-P was Robert William Peterson, who had been building Indianapolis 500 racecars. George Wilfred Lehmann was an automobile and racing enthusiast who was also a member of a wealthy family in Chicago. They got to know each other when Lehmann went to Peterson to see about having his racecar fixed. Both men were car nuts. Lehmann asked Peterson if he'd be interested in forming a partnership to build limousines. Since Peterson had no preference as to what kind of car to use, they decided on Lehmann's choice, Lincoln. Besides, Cadillac already had a limousine available to its customers. Finally, it was just a question of getting one into their shop and stretching it. The first Lincoln Continental they did was a 1963.
'The base price was about $6,000' Peterson said. 'We did the conversion for about seven thousand. If you had three or more limousines, Ford would give you a car. That was one reason we worked with Lincoln.'
It was the extended 160-inch wheelbase 1963 prototype the two men took to Ford for testing. Lehmann had built the car in a used-car lot garage. The experience was close to that of the proverbial 'battleship in the basement.'
Lehmann said there were two limos built that year, one went to the U.S. president and the other to the television quiz show, 'The Price is Right.' The woman who won the quiz show car sold it to a used car lot.
Lehmann-Peterson eventually set up shop on Armitage Street in Chicago and over the course of its existence as a company, turned out about 500 of its elegant, rock-solid Lincoln Continental Limousines. In addition, L-P produced many special Ford LTD's and Mercury's, plus a few special projects for Ford and other customers. A fairly well known example of the latter is a four-door Lincoln Continental Mark III ordered by Grover M. Hermann, one of the founders of the Martin-Marietta Company. By Lehmann's rough estimate, its thought that about 150 cars of several types were offered in the Lehmann-Peterson shop every year (only a fraction were factory authorized limos). But the Lincoln Continental Limousines were the bread and butter of the company.
Comparing one of the L-P limos to one of the common 'livery" limos of today really defines the philosophy behind these cars. Most of the limos of today are kind of glitzy, with fancy strip lights, built-in woodwork for wine and whiskey glasses, and other variations in interior design that reflect use in today's 'livery service' (rental limousine services). By comparison, the L-P Lincoln Continentals were fairly austere, but obviously luxurious and elegant. There was no overstatement, no excess. They were the definition of class and, for that reason among others, many are still in use today.
Peterson's philosophy of building a lightweight, trouble-free limousine was the foundation for the car's appearance and re-engineering. L-P used the standard engine with no modifications. They could do this because the car was relatively lightweight. The Lincoln Continental Convertible weighed in at over 5,700 pounds, making the limo only about 200-300 pounds over that. Even the tire size could remain the same as the standard Lincoln Continentals, but the company usually used the 8-ply tires of the time. In building these cars, Peterson said that his top priority was to produce quality. Once he could do that, he said, he could then make the cars lighter and less expensive.
Looking at these limos, the design is simple, basic, and elegant. In most of these cars, there is a partition behind the driver's seat where the extension portion of the limo begins. Essentially, the extension houses two small, well-upholstered and padded rear-facing seats (not jump seats!) on either side of a walnut cabinet. The cabinet could house an optional television, AM-FM radio, or radio/tape player. Customers could also request a beverage service, telephone, a reading light for the chauffeur, gold-plated wheels, two spares, one-way glass, a roof made 2 inches higher, a continental kit, portholes substituted for the rear 'opera windows,' an electric seat that would help you get info the rear compartment, and a dictating machine (many of these options were not listed but were available).
The standard model included the AM-FM radio, mouton carpeting, an elaborate communications system controlled by the passengers in the rear compartment, rear compartment clock and courtesy lights, and an escort umbrella stored under the driver's seat. The chauffeur's seat was usually done in leather and the rear compartment in gray wool broadcloth. Most of the limos were black, but gray (either metallic or charcoal), maroon, and dark blue were available.
Like most limousines, even those of today, the primary way of getting around the very expensive proposition of extending the roof, but of the same time hiding the weld marks, was to have a padded vinyl covering applied to the roof. (Although Lehmann liked to talk about how well his company covered the roof partition rivets with body lead.) Lehmann-Peterson used this method and in doing so made the rear window smaller for the sake of privacy. In later years, a side panel just to the rear of the front doors was added to increase privacy.
A Lehmann-Peterson Limousine treatment of a standard Lincoln Continental Sedan usually took 27 days to complete in the small northwest Chicago shop employing about 40 men (Lehmann said there were six shop employees. So either there were fewer, or the other people employed did not work regularly in the shop).
2.5 days Disassembly of the factory sedan, removal of pertinent interior components, mechanical
and electrical parts, to begin cuffing the unibody.
Lincoln did not like to admit it, but these limos were even more rigid than the already super-rigid unibody production cars.
For all practical purposes, Lehmann-Peterson ended Lincoln Continental Limousine production with the 85 1969 units it produced. True, a 1970 non-unibody prototype and 16 or 17 other cars were produced, but the show was over. George Lehmann passed away and Ford was faced with newly introduced automobile safety rules. When Henry Ford II declined further involvement with Lehmann-Peterson, this pretty much ended things.
Through is production history L-P had been a beneficiary of Ford advertising Its limousines had been included in the Lincoln Continental brochures, marketed and serviced by Ford dealerships, and covered under Lincoln warranty. Without Ford's active participation, and following the death of one of the company's founders, Lehmann-Peterson management decided to go out of business.
Many celebrities, heads of state, the very wealthy, government officials, and world leaders have used these wonderful limousines over the years. Owners included Robert F. Kennedy, Spencer Tracy, Robert Vaughn, the royal family in the Netherlands, Elvis Presley, Henry Ford, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Pope Paul VI, The Supremes, Hugh Hefner, top Soviet officials, members of the royal family of Saudi Arabia, Victor Borge, Jackie Gleason, and several owners of major sports teams. The alterations necessary to prepare the limousine for Pope Paul VI were done in an incredible eight days, using 40 men working in shifts!
Lincoln & Continental Owners Club member Harvey Schofield is the owner of both Lehmann-Peterson 8-inch stretch factory-authorized specials, one a 'baby limo' with divider partition and the other a 'formal sedan' without a divider. Schofield has been ble to collect a great deal of manufacturing information on all of Lehmann-Peterson's products.
To conclude the Lehmann-Peterson Story, one must mention that these cars were the absolute largest unibody automobiles ever produced anywhere of these quantity levels. True, the unibody Lincoln's of 1958 through 1960 were the largest production unibody cars produced, but these few hundred L-P limos were over 21 feet long, about 2 feet longer than those earlier mammoths. Evidently, Robert Peterson had found a comfortable niche in that area of diminishing returns for the large-size unibody concept.
LEHMANN-PETERSON INFORMATION SHEET
EXECUTIVE LIMOUSINE INFORMATION SHEET
The over-all length of the Lehmann-Peterson Executive Limousine is 250 inches, and it weighs 5,664 pounds without air-conditioning or 5,791 pounds with air-conditioning. This classically styled solidly built limousine will accommodate eight passengers in maximum luxury and comfort. The thirty-four inches of additional length create a spacious interior that contains more room than the average limousine. In its integral construction, the underbody structural members are welded directly to the floor, cross members, side rails, and body sides. This is the strongest body made. The structural solidity and rigid strength of this integral body construction along with the 160 inch wheelbase contribute to the unsurpassed riding qualities of the Executive Limousine.
In addition to the equipment which is standard on a Lincoln Continental sedan, the Executive Limousine contains the following unique features:
* To enhance further the exterior styling, the top is heavily padded and then covered with black simulated leather. The rear window is reduced in size (6" high by 25" wide) to ensure greater privacy in the rear compartment.
* Inside, the Executive Limousine contains a 4-way power operated front seat. Directly behind the front seats spanning the width of the automobile and rising from the floor to window level, is the divider. It is constructed of steel and is upholstered as shown in the photograph. Facing rearward from the divider are two permanently positioned-companion seats. Separating these comfortable seats is a walnut cabinet (13' high by 12" wide by 16" deep) with a hand-rubbed finish.
* A separate radio (AM-FM) for the rear compartment is contained in the walnut cabinet.
* The full size front and rear seats along with the rear facing companion seats, headlining rear doors, package shelf and divider are upholstered with the finest all-wool broadcloth available. The rear carpeting is genuine mouton. In many areas additional foam rubber is installed with the upholstering to create a plush appearance of unmatched luxury, and insulation is added throughout the limousine so that maximum quietness is assured.
* As a final touch of luxury the trunk is covered with loop design carpeting.
* Those units ordered with air-conditioning are equipped with a dual air-conditioning/heating system. Two ducts for the rear air-conditioner are incorporated into the divider. They are positioned in the center of the divider just above the walnut cabinet, and are individually adjustable so that a cool air flow can be evenly and gently distributed throughout the rear compartment. Heated air enters the rear of the limousine through two ducts located underneath the companion seats. Two 3-speed fans with rear seat controls assure excellent air flow regulation for maximum comfort.
* Those buyers who want a complete separation of the front and rear compartments may order at nominal additional charge a chauffeur compartment divider window. Also available as optional equipment is a built-in television set.
Our prices to dealers, and suggested retail prices, for Executive Limousine conversion elements are set forth below. We recommend that in selling the Executive Limousine, you quote it at one complete figure (plus additional options and transportation charges a rather than breaking the price down into separate basic car and conversion prices. This will help establish the car as a finished integral unit as well as maximize your profit opportunity.
Special requests will be considered. Prices for unusual features such as telephone compartment, built-in dictating machine or beverage will be quoted upon inquiry.
As is required by law, two retail price labels will be attached to each converted unit. One label will include the car and options supplied by Ford Motor Company, and the second label will include all Lehmann-Peterson charges.
a) Transportation charges for the Executive Limousine differ from those of the regular Lincoln Continental sedan. For the correct freight charges applicable to your area, please check with Lehmann-Peterson.
b) The Limousine Conversion Kit includes:
c) On air-conditioned vehicles, it is mandatory that basic air-conditioner and tinted glass be ordered from the factory and that the rear compartment unit be ordered from Lehmann-Peterson.
Color and Trim:
Color and trim choices for the Executive Limousine are as follows: Exterior Paintwork: (5 colors) Black Satin (A); Princeton Gray (C); Nocturne Blue (H); Silver Blue (E); and Royal Maroon (X)
Padded, Simulated Leather Top: Black
If an all broadcloth interior (front and rear) is desired, the basic sedan unit ordered from Wixom should specify Code 31 (all wool Silver Blue broadcloth). If the optional leather trim front compartment is desired, Code 86 (Black) or 81 (Silver Blue) leather trim should be ordered from Wixom and Lehmann-Peterson will upholster the rear compartment in broadcloth, (The only additional charge is the Ford Motor Company charge for the optional leather trim an a sedan.)
If your customer should desire a color, material, or trim design not listed above please check this request with Lehmann-Peterson. If at all possible, we will attempt to make available colors, materials, and trim designs that will satisfy your customer's wants.
1. Dealer contacts Lehmann-Peterson to verify production schedule and
request Lehmann-Peterson sales/work order forms.
2. Dealer completes the Lehmann-Peterson sales/work order forms describing the limousine specifications.
3. Dealer returns completed forms to Lehmann-Peterson with deposit of $1,000.00.
4. Dealer orders basic Lincoln Continental sedan from his District Office per standard procedure with the exception
that it should be noted that this unit is for limousine conversion and that the automobile is to be shipped to
Lehmann-Peterson in Chicago. (2710 North Sawyer Avenue). This order should include all factory options the customer
desires, including his choice of exterior color and interior trim. In addition, the order must specify the Limousine
Conversion Kit in the remarks section.
5. Lehmann-Peterson receives car directly from Wixom and performs the coachwork outlined in the work order. Normal
production time is five weeks from the date the car is received at Lehmann-Peterson's plant in Chicago.
Under our arrangements with Lincoln-Mercury Division, the Ford Motor Company warranty to you on Lincoln Continentals converted by us to Executive Limousines will include the conversion work as well as the basic unit. Your warranty to customers will be the same as you use on other Lincoln Continentals and all warranty administration will be handled with Lincoln-Mercury Division in the usual way. The warranty may be summarized:
Ford Motor Company warrants to its dealers and its dealers, in turn, warrant to their customers as follows: That for 24 months or for 24,000 miles, whichever comes first free replacement, including related labor, will be made by dealers of any parts with a defect in workmanship or materials. Tires are not covered by the warranty; appropriate adjustments will continue to be made by the tire companies. Owners will remain responsible for normal maintenance, service, and routine replacement of maintenance items such as filters, spark plugs ignition points, and wiper blades."
Lehmann-Peterson Inc. reserves the right to change prices, specifications or design without notice and without incurring obligations.
The Lehmann-Peterson factory was located at 2710 North Sawyer in Chicago. The conversions were not done on a assembly line, even though the shop produced around 110 limousines annually.
Mortuary Management Magazine, 1963 feature article.
Lincoln Continental Limousine Offered
Designed specifically for funeral directors, a new concept in spacious automotive comfort.has been engineered by Lehmann-Peterson Inc., Chicago, exclusive custom coachbuilders of Lincoln Continental limousines. Eight passengers can be comfortably accommodated through the addition of 36 inches to the overall length of the standard Lincoln Continental. In the rear passenger compartment, room is provided for two rear facing occasional seats which offer added leg room not normally available in limousines equipped with conventional jump seats. Additionally the position of the seats provides for easy entry and exit and the intimacy of face-to-face conversation, a must when considering the welfare of the bereaved. Available within six to eight weeks after placement of the initial order, the Lehmann-Peterson limousine is priced to sell for $13.000. Standard equipment includes power vent windows, six-way power front seat, white wall tires, AM radio in the front, an AM-FM radio in the rear passenger compartment, two rear facing occasional seats with drop leaf walnut table, padded leatherette top and rear compartment mouton carpeting.
Optional equipment includes air conditioning tinted glass, autotronic eye, posi-traction drive, leather seats throughout, all the extras generally associated with Lincoln-plus a genuine leather seat, a chauffeur compartment window or anything else specified by the buyer which must be custom-designed.
Constructed with Lincoln Continental parts, the limousine can be easily repaired anywhere in the country should the need arise. The limousine is warranted for 24 months or 24,000 miles which ever comes first.
This limited edition limousine is available through authorized Lincoln Continental dealers.
President to Get Arsenal Car - 1968 Article
New Secret Service limousine to be used for official functions in Washington features 11-inch wide running boards for agents to ride on.
The Secret Service today will take delivery on two specially built Lincoln Continental convertibles that could best be described as arsenals on wheels. The two cars which will be used as security vehicles in Presidential parades and other official functions, feature hidden lockers and compartments that can hold machine guns, tear-gas bombs, and other weaponry.
By using the running boards on the sides and rear, each car can carry 17 secret service agents. The rear doors can open to allow agents to enter the car from the side running boards while the vehicle is moving. This was achieved by fashioning the doors in two sections, so that the front section can be slid over the rear half.
Built In Chicago
The cars were built in Chicago by Lehmann-Peterson Inc., which has been making Lincoln limousines for several years. They are valued at more than $20,000 each and will be leased to the government by Ford Motor company at a "nominal" cost. The removable convertible tops of the cars are made of transparent vinyl that allows agents to scan rooftops and other elevated structures. The see thru plastic is bordered by black cloth. The cars also are equipped with heavy-duty tires and wheels designed to ensure mobility under any circumstances. The frame and all suspension parts have been strengthened to accommodate the weight of the extra passengers.
Front Seat Modifications
Modifications have been made to the front seats so that a man sitting in the middle can face the rear. Both front and rear seats have been raised three inches for better visibility and the rear seat has been specially contoured to allow extra seating capacity. Each car is equipped with electronic communications systems, public address speakers, a siren, and red emergency flashers. Powered by Lincoln's 340 horsepower V-8 engine, the cars have a 126 inch wheelbase and an overall length of 221 inches, automatic transmission, power brakes and power steering and standard on all Lincolns.
The two cars are about the only '68 Lincoln convertibles you'll be seeing. Ford has dropped them from the regular production because of declining public demand.
Development of the Modern Limousine, Part III by Thomas E. Bonsall
In Part I of these series, we saw how General Motors had developed a brilliant way to design the Cadillac Fleetwood 75 Series without spending very much money at all and, in so doing, set a standard for limousine design for years to come. In Part II, we saw how James Nance — first at Packard, later at Lincoln — applied what Cadillac had done but used outside conversion houses to do the actual work.
The limousine conversion industry, like the professional car conversion industry, had risen to meet a demand for a specialized type of vehicle that was not being supplied by the major automobile manufacturers. Many potential limousine customers were unhappy at Cadillac's ascendancy because they did not like Cadillacs, or because they wanted something less common, or because they simply wanted something that could be tailored to more personal tastes than an "off-the-shelf" limousine could offer.
Several of the manufacturers, too, were unhappy to be out of the field, even though they could not justify the economic drain of attempting to compete in it. Chrysler had dropped its production seven-passenger cars at the conclusion of the 1954 model run, but was back the following year with a conversion based on the Imperial sedan. The Crown Imperials, as they were known, were built for at least ten years by the Ghia firm in Italy before the model was dropped.
Lincoln, on the other hand, had had nothing at all since the Custom series ceased production after the outbreak of World War II. The 1959 conversions supplied by Hess and Eisenhardt in Cincinnati that we covered in Part II comprised the first tentative effort to address this problem. Unquestionably the most renowned of the postwar Lincoln limousine conversions, however, were those done during the 1960s by the Chicago firm of Lehmann-Peterson, Inc.
George W. Lehmann was the scion of a wealthy Chicago family and the businessman in the firm, while Robert W. Peterson handled the manufacturing end. They got together in 1962 when Lehmann had the idea of producing stretched limousines on the Lincoln chassis. Lehmann realized that Lincoln-Mercury had nothing to compete with the 1,600 or so factory limousines that Cadillac was then producing annually. At least two 1963 limousines were built without Ford Motor Company authorization. Ford officials clearly liked the concept, though, because, starting in 1964, the cars were tested, marketed and warranted through Lincoln-Mercury Division. They were even included in the standard showroom catalog for several years running.
The Lehmann-Peterson design was more than just another conversion, though. It represented a genuine departure from past practice, and set a style that is almost universally used in the trade today. Cadillac's clever approach to the limousine problem had been the industry norm until that time. This, as we have seen, involved placing the added length behind the rear doors. The reason this made so much sense for Cadillac was that it enabled them to use standard Coupe de Ville rear fenders, and, thus, hold tooling costs to a minimum. The rear doors and the roof were the only significant unique stampings in the entire car — and the roof was originally cobbled together from the C-Special roof used by the Sixty Special until it got too bothersome to do it that way and Cadillac opted for separate tooling.
The 1961-65 series Lincoln Continental, however, had no two-door model, so Lehmann and Peterson put the "stretch" between the doors by, literally, sawing a sedan in half and inserting a new middle section. This configuration, in turn, made standard jump seats awkward, so they installed rear facing occasional seats with a cabinet in between that could be used as a bar, television console, storage area, or whatever. It was as brilliant a solution to the limousine conversion problem as Cadillac's had been to the factory-built limousine problem.
The 1964 Lehmann-Peterson Lincoln was projected at a retail price of $13,400 and 15 were built that year. Production rose to 130 units in 1966 before going into a decline. In all, some 286 production versions were built between 1964 and 1968.
One of the most famous was built in a rush for an unexpected client. When Pope Paul VI, arrived in New York City on the morning of October 4, 1964, he was escorted to a waiting Continental limousine that had been specially designed and built for him by Lehmann-Peterson on eight days notice. Lehmann-Peterson had been contemplating a parade car conversion for several months and had even selected one of the 1963 prototype limousines for the purpose. After an evening phone call from Lincoln-Mercury Division on September 22nd, the car was rushed through from design to completion and shipped to New York by truck on September 30th. The car had a detachable, transparent rear roof section, as well as side and back step plates for security personnel. The rear seat was elevated and illuminated at night. A public address system was provided to enable crowds to hear the Papal blessings.
An undetermined number of Lehmann-Peterson limousines were built in 1969 and one 1970 prototype was reportedly built before the Lehmann-Peterson/Lincoln-Mercury relationship ended. One of the last of the 1969 limousines was fitted with Mark III front and rear exterior trim, perhaps in an attempt to rekindle interest at Lincoln-Mercury, but this concept apparently did not catch on. What caused the relationship to falter is unknown. The author was doing research on a Lincoln history in Detroit in 1980 (The Lincoln Motorcar, now long out of print) and inquired of Lincoln-Mercury people at that time about what had happened. No one would or, most likely, could supply the answer. There had been so many staff changes at the division that the corporate memory then hardly went back more than two or three years. (The public relations director had been on the job for about a week! And, as John Banner used to say, knew nothing! A good man, this fellow is now vice-president of communications for Toyota'a American operations.)
Lehmann-Peterson, Inc., was dissolved in 1970 and some of its assets were taken over by Moloney Coachbuilders of Palatine (later Schaumburg), Illinois. Their first brochure, issued in 1971, used photographs of the last Lehmann-Peterson prototype and also the 1969 Mark III version. It is not known that any additional Mark editions were built, but Moloney continued to build Lincoln limousines following the Lehmann-Peterson design for many years, as well as numerous other Lincoln and Cadillac based conversions of various descriptions. The numbers produced, however, were small because conversions were expensive to build. Cadillac undercut the conversion houses by many thousands of dollars with its factory-built jobs and could have continued to dominate the segment indefinitely.
What really turned the market upside down was Cadillac's disastrous decision to phase-out the rear-wheel drive Fleetwood models in 1985. They were determined that the new front-wheel drive C-body could be adapted for limousine application and even set up a new facility, which was run by Hess and Eisenhardt, to manufacture them. Alas, the unibody design of the new car was woefully unsuited for long-wheelbase models and Cadillac's hard-won near-monopoly of the field collapsed overnight. Conversion houses from one end of the continent to the other rushed in to fill the void using the design developed way back in the 1960s by Lehmann-Peterson. Worse, they did it with Lincoln Town Cars for the most part. No one wanted to have anything to do with the front-drive C-body and Cadillac was trying to kill the rear-wheel drivers. The latter effort was a dismal failure, for the customers refused to stop buying them, but Cadillac did succeed in driving almost all of the conversion business to Lincoln. Someone should write a book someday about all the self-inflicted disasters at Cadillac in the 1980s. (Oh, silly us, someone did. That would be Cadillac: The American Standard, which is available from the Ride&Drive Book Rendezvous.)
At any rate, when the dust settled, the cycle had been completed and conversions came to utterly dominate the limousine market, and this situation continues to our own era. The huge majority of these conversions are Lincoln based, although other brands show up from time to time, as well.
In a 1968 issue of MOTOR TREND article - an ambulance built by this firm on a Mercury chassis.
The only other thing I've ever seen alluding to that car was in an interview with Robert Peterson, printed in a limousine trade journals several years ago, and he stated in it that LP has built a few of those
Mercury ambulances. I've always wondered about those cars, what they looked like, as well as where they might have been used, and what became of them.
I can only guess that they were nowhere near as great as Peterson thought they were, from a practical standpoint. Otherwise, they'd have probably been marketed to ambulance operators in some form of
advertising. That seems to be a problem indigenous to coachbuilders, in that they often market something as new and better, only to have it turn out to be an old idea redone, such as Airstream hearses.
Lehman-Peterson limousines weren't that practical, in terms of entry and exit, or seating comfort, compared to a conventional limousine of the day, and if anything, they were the original "sandwich cut"
stretches that have taken over the industry. It's a shame that Andy Hotton wasn't into building Lincoln
limousines in that era, as I'd guess that they would have been far prettier in terms of proportion than those cars from Lehman-Peterson; especially considering how nice those '66 LTD limousines looked. - BDW
For more information please read:
The Continental Magazine, May/June, 1964
Mortuary Management Magazine, 1963 feature article.
A.R. Roalman - Lehman-Peterson (Source unknown)
Thomas E. Bonsall - Development of the Modern Limousine, Part III (Source unknown)
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