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‘Stretching’ – The Truth
From Hummers to Beetles, there's more to limo hire than meets the eye
The limo scene is not something I’ve ever known much about, to be honest. Yes, we’ve all seen the stretched Lincoln town cars and super stretched Hummers on a Saturday night with assorted limbs of hen do participants sticking out of the back windows and sunroofs, but I’ve never really seen the attraction.
Why would you want to travel to Frankie and Benny’s on the Doncaster ring road in something that resembles a 40 foot phallus on wheels, with a laserquest interior and a hardcore rave soundtrack designed to induce a migraine within a mile and a half of your departure point? Maybe I’m getting too old for it all, but I’ve never fully understood the appeal. I suppose it’s all about attracting attention and having people gawp open-mouthed at you as you try and negotiate your mini-skirted self out of the rear doors of your elongated carriage, with a bottle of WKD in one hand and a doner kebab in the other while desperately trying to maintain whatever modesty is still intact. That would appear to be what limos are all about in this country, but surely there’s more to it than that?
We know that American Presidents, Russian Tsars and ’80s soft rock bands used to favour stretched limousines, as a way of transporting themselves and their hangers-on in style. The privacy of a smoked glass partition ensured what goes on in a limo… stays in a limo, but how did they ever become popular in the UK, and who first thought they’d be a good idea?
You’ll notice that I’m asking two questions that I clearly know the answers to, because we actually tracked down the founding father of the UK limo scene at his yard in Knottingley, West Yorkshire, on the outskirts of Wakefield. The man in question is Russ Tate, who first saw super-stretched limousines in Florida while on a family holiday in the mid-’80s. Nobody else was hiring out such beasts on this side of the pond, and so Russ bravely and wisely decided to import one, and the rest, as they say is history. At the height of Russ’s limo hire business, he had eight super-stretches and the company was going from strength to strength. Other companies jumped on the bandwagon and started importing them, and at one point there would have been hundreds of stretched limo hire companies the length and breadth of the UK. These days that number has dwindled somewhat as the popularity of stretched limos has fallen significantly from its peak in the mid-’90s. However, there are still plenty of limo hire companies out there, all over the UK, although surprisingly few of them who wanted to talk to us!
I’m certainly not saying that the limo business is a murky world, but it does seem odd that out of the eight large limo hire companies I contacted, three of them had the same mobile number and none would allow us to come and film with them. Normally when I seek out contributors for our films, people are only too happy to showcase their business for free, but I can only assume that perhaps all of the limo firms were busy on the days that we were in the area? Maybe they were all at a national limousine operators’ convention or getting their specialist MOTs done that day? I’m not sure.
What we did manage to do is spend some time in the birthplace of super stretch hire in this country, with Russ Tate who started it all and with Richard Egglestone of ‘Egglestone Limousines’ in Wakefield, who by contrast to some of the bigger operators I spoke to, couldn’t have been more helpful. These two straight talking Yorkshiremen didn’t share a mobile phone number, and were more than happy to show us around their unique vehicles and tell us their story. On top of kindly giving up a large amount of time for us and being extremely hospitable, Richard Egglestone (who also owns a beautifully restored ‘A Team Van’ and a ‘Trotters’ 3 wheeler, although they’re probably for another film!) introduced us to a friend of his called Scott Fenton. Scott runs a small private business in the area called ‘All Luv Dub’ hiring out his collection of classic VWs, including an absolutely stunning stretched Beetle. The Beetle stretch was converted in Indonesia of all places, and spends most of its time transporting happy couples around on their wedding day. Like Richard and Russ, Scott was a gentleman, and while his stretched Beetle might not be what most people picture when they think about stretched limousines, the film would have been poorer without him and his very special car.
The world of stretched limos in this country is an odd one, and while this project wasn’t the easiest to research and organise, we went to great lengths to find out plenty of stuff we never knew before. Some of it is in the film, although much of it we sadly couldn’t include for obvious reasons.
As always though, it turned out to be an enjoyable and educational experience thanks to the generosity of our contributors Russ, Richard and Scott who kindly gave up their time, and allowed us to capture a little snapshot of the limo business in the UK in 2017, which is all we really wanted to do.
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