- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2003

STAFFORD, Mo. - As if the Hummer H2 — a hulking, luxurious sport-utility vehicle inspired by the military’s Humvee — wasn’t big enough, here comes the Hummer Limo.

A stretch version of the H2, the Hummer Limo is 16 feet long and 7 feet tall. A typical customized model has hardwood floors, flat-screen TVs, video game systems, fiber-optic lighting, mirrored ceiling and leather seating for 18 persons.

“It’s a party on wheels, and you are going to get noticed,” said Linda Moore, publisher of Limousine Digest. “Right now, it is what’s hot.”

Nine companies in Missouri, New York, Florida and California custom-stretch the Hummer H2s into limousine proportions.

“We stretch Cadillac Escalades and Ford Excursions, but the Hummer is the most popular simply because it’s a Hummer,” said Adin Baban, owner of S and R Coach in Stafford, one of two Missouri companies that make Hummer limos.

The Hummer H2 quickly became the top-selling luxury SUV after General Motors launched it in summer last year. Soon after, limousine-rental companies started ordering stretch versions.

It is difficult to determine how many Hummer H2s have been morphed into limos, because all the work is done by custom builders. But Miss Moore says they are among the most sought-after limos.

Marc Haswell, co-owner of Craftsmen Limousine in Ozark, the other Missouri limo maker, has built 38 of them since getting his first order in July last year; Mr. Baban said his company can’t build them fast enough to satisfy demand.

“If you were to place an order now, it would be the end of January before I could get it to you,” Mr. Baban said.

It takes his crew of 19 full-time workers about seven weeks to create a custom H2 limo. To stretch the Hummer, work crews first tear down the SUV — removing everything from the steering wheel and seats to carpeting and doors. Crews then cut the car in two between the front and rear seats. They add up to 200 inches to the chassis and splice the vehicle back together. They rebuild the floor and exterior. They beef up the brakes, install new tires, and add a second battery and reconstruct the wiring.

Then come the custom features: 12-inch flat-screen televisions, simulated fireplaces, fax machines, video games, wooden bars and crystal bar glasses, even lights that twinkle or change from green to orange to pink.

“In this game, he who has the neatest lights wins,” Mr. Haswell said.

Crews at both companies include specialists in lighting, woodworking and upholstery.

The finished product costs from $95,000 to $125,000, Mr. Baban said.

Mr. Baban and Mr. Haswell have stretched vehicles for celebrities, but most of the H2 limos they build are for limousine-rental companies, the majority of them on the East Coast or in Las Vegas.

The most popular color for the H2 limos is a head-turning white. The vehicles are highly sought-after for weddings, bachelor parties and proms.

Seating 18 persons, they become traveling party rooms, with the chauffeur serving as designated driver.

“They generate a lot of money for us,” said Leon DeMond, owner of Kelly’s Limousine in Belleville, Ill.

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