Stretching It: The Story of the Limousine
I readily admit my bias: I like looking at limousines, whether a stretched Lincoln Towncar squeezing through New York traffic or a classic Rolls-Royce Phantom beside a stately mansion. I enjoy being chauffeured. Looking at photographs of these cars and reading about them is something that appeals to me, and this book does not disappoint. Both authors have a background in the “for hire” business. Bromley worked for a limousine company in Virginia and Mazza ran a small limo service in Philadelphia and is senior editor of Limousine and Chauffeured Transportation Magazine and develops training material. Perhaps the only negative aspect of the book is that because they attempted comprehensive coverage of a wide-ranging field, the book occasionally feels a bit scattershot, a tad unorganized; but this is understandable and can be excused.
After the acknowledgements and the introduction, the reader is given a brief factual history of the birth of the limousine. As the book progresses, the history expands to cover all the major eras, up to and including the long stretched cars of the early 2000s. The book is generously illustrated, and for the most part, the photographs are well selected and attractive. Each turning of the page offers something delightful, curious, elegant, classic, rich, sometimes even tastefully chic. Photographs of limousine construction, factory photographs, advertisements, detailed shots of interiors and automotive portraiture—the old and the new—abound. Whether discussing classic 75 Series Cadillacs, the Ghia Imperials, presidential limousines, cars from the classic era such as Duesenbergs or Hispano-Suzias, or a stretched 1957 Chevrolet, Bromley and Mazza’s enthusiasm shines through.
Stretching It is more than a history of the cars. The book also explores the history of the chauffeur and the history of the commercial limousine service. The reader is instructed on the proper etiquette as a cosseted passenger, and the book is filled with anecdotes about the cars, those who have constructed them, those who hire them out, and those who use them. Celebrities and VIPs are mentioned throughout the book—a random sampling: Franklin Roosevelt, Emperor Hirohito, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Elvis Presley, Major Bowes, Greta Garbo.
A glossary is provided to help the reader through the tangled, sometimes contradictory terms related to limousines—cabriolet, for example, or phaeton. “To sleep with one eye open” is a Chauffer Sleep and a Limousine Liberal “loves the limousine but feels guilty about it.” The glossary is fairly extensive and sometimes written tongue-in-cheek; the authors, although obviously committed enthusiasts, keep everything in perspective and are not without a sense of humor.
The book is indexed and a two-page bibliography is provided, and these are always welcome. So, if you share with me a similar positive bias, leaning towards an appreciation of and an attraction to the world of the limousine, Stretching It will be a valued addition to your shelves.
Copyright 2012, Bill Wolf (speedreaders.info).