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In 1963, Robert “Pete” Peterson met George “Skip” Lehmann in Chicago. Peterson had been a chief mechanic on Indy 500 racing teams and was an experienced fabricator. Lehmann had a large inheritance. Together they decided to get Lincoln into the limousine business and in doing so invented what we know today as the stretched limousine. By the early 1960s, Cadillac had a virtual monopoly on the American limousine trade, either through professional car companies that built their limos off of Cadillac platforms or in directly selling the Series 75 Fleetwood limousines that the Cadillac division of GM built itself in a Detroit factory. In a way the factory built Cadillac limos were an artifact, a holdover from when Fleetwood was a coachbuilding operation that supplied custom Cadillac bodies.
Cadillac may have had had a near monopoly on the U.S. limo business, but Lincoln had something Cadillac didn’t have, the beautiful and classy new Continental introduced for the 1961 model year. Operating under the name of Lehmann-Peterson, Skip and Pete took a 1963 Continental, cut it in half and gave it a 34 inch stretch. It’s possible that was the first stretch job on a unibody car, something that’s fairly common today. You can get just about anything stretched nowadays.
Lehmann and Peterson drove the new limo to Dearborn to prove its roadworthiness. Ford execs were skeptical about the structural integrity but they were impressed enough to keep the car for testing. After 40,000 miles, an agreement was reached between Ford and Lehmann-Peterson in early 1964, with the “Executive Limousine by Lehmann-Peterson” being revealed to the public (and livery trade) at the 1964 New York Auto Show. Over the next six years the company would go one to build and sell about 600 Lincoln based limousines. Customers included Jackie Gleason, Spencer Tracy, The Supremes, The Rolling Stones, Sophia Loren, Jerry Lewis, Robert Vaughn, Victor Borge, Senator Robert Kennedy, Aristotle Onassis and they even built a “Popemobile”. Lehmann-Peterson also built a presidential limousine used by Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. For a while their cars were sold through Lincoln dealers as the “Lincoln Continental Executive Limousine”.
It’s not known why, but in 1970 Ford ended the agreement. According to Coachbuilt.com one of the last cars they converted was a 1969 Lincoln Continental sedan that they gave the front and rear fascias from a Mark III, essentially making a four-door Mark III. Coachbuilt.com doesn’t say so but apparently they also converted it to suicide doors since the car, shot at it was leaving the Eyes On Design show, features doors that all open from the middle.
Other cars in this video are: 1955 Lincoln Capri Convertible, 2001 Porsche 911 Turbo, BMW M Coupe (aka the Clown Shoe), 1936 LaSalle, 2012 Subaru WRX STi, and a 2012 BMW 335 I coupe.