Simanaitis Says

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“ONCE THE SYMBOL OF AFFLUENCE, the stretch limo has largely fallen out of favor…,” writes Jesus Jiménez in “The Long Demise of the Stretch Limo,” The New York Times, April 28, 2023. This social phenomenon is worthy of tidbit gleaning. Plus it jogs my memory about the M4, the Morris Major-Mini-Minor.

SWAPPING STRETCH FOR ANONYMITY. “These days,” Jiménez says, “it seems as if hardly anyone is riding in a stretch limo. While the limousine name has stuck, the limo industry has shifted to chauffeur services in almost anything but actual stretch limos, which have largely been supplanted by black S.U.V.s, buses and vans.” 

Gone is specialized transport of pals like Guinevere, an 11-month-old Pomeranian taking a ride in Manhattan in 1987. Image from The New York Times, April 28, 2023.

Limo Lore. Jiménez describes, “The birthplace of the stretch limo is believed to have been Fort Smith, Ark. Armbruster Stageway, a coach builder that started off restoring horse-drawn wagons more than 100 years ago, is credited with creating the first combustion engine limousine in the 1920s. By 1985, the company was one of the leading producers of limos in the United States, making about 1,000 a year.”

Limo Decline. Jiménez writes, “Limo company operators and industry leaders say that the demise of the stretch limo can be attributed to the cumulative effect of a series of blows over several years.The first, they said, was the Great Recession. Then came the rise of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, and a pair of deadly stretch limo crashes that ushered in new regulations in New York State, one of the industry’s most important markets.”

“Over that time,” Jiménez continues, “stretch limos gradually fell out of favor, as passengers opted to travel somewhat less conspicuously in sleek sedans or black S.U.V.s.”

Good or bad, Jiménez notes, “Today, the stretch limo represents less than 1 percent of services offered by limo companies, down from about 10 percent a decade ago, according to the association.” 

But Back in the Old Days…. R&T reported in April 1964, “Coming ‘hard on the heals,’ so to speak, of the super-luxury ‘Grosser’ Mercedes, the correct designation of which is the 600, by the way, the 23-seat Morris Major-Mini-Minor may be interpreted by many of our readers as BMC’s answer to a German challenge.”

A 1965 Mercedes Benz 600 LWB Pullman Limousine. Image from LBI Limited.

“Basically,” R&T wrote, “the Morris Major-Mini-Minor is a stretched version of the saucy Mini-Minor…. It’s not something we could put our finger on, but the car just doesn’t ‘come off’ quite as well as the big Mercedes. Our design consultant, Strother MacMinn, finally came to our rescue by pointing out that the M4, as we shall refer to it henceforce, is a bit too long.” 

This image (reproduced from three consecutive pages) and the following from R&T, April 1964. 

M4 Maneuvering. Driving the M4, R&T admitted, “calls for a slight adjustment in technique, unless one has had some training as an omnibus or lorry driver…. Before we got used to its length—264 in. overall, on a wheelbase of 224 in.—we several times pulled one or both of its rear wheels across the curb when rounding a city corner, which, on one occasion, resulted in our paying damages for having demolished a newspaper kiosk.”

“Even by British standards,” R&T wrote, “the acceleration can hardly be termed ‘brisk,’ despite an overall axle ratio of 6.77:1 in direct drive. Perhaps ‘tepid’ would be a better word for it.”

Another M4 Tradeoff. “The trunk remains the same size as on a Mini, which is not too surprising, as the Morris Major-Mini-Minor is merely one Mini chopped across the middle, pulled apart, a 17-seat [sic] extension slapped in place, and the whole affair cunningly welded together.”

Conclusion. “To sum up,” R&T said, “it is obvious that BMC had a rather large family in mind…. Detroit has never seen fit to produce such a car, so once more it has fallen to the British to fill a gaping hole.” ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2023

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