- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2003

Some cars leave the factory and go directly to a shop that transforms standard cars into "professional cars." These cars undergo alterations that specialize them for a life of work as ambulances, hearses or limousines.
Twenty-five years ago a 1978 Cadillac Sedan DeVille was sent to Armbruster-Stageway Inc. in Fort Smith, Ark., to be made into a six-door limousine with three rows of seats.
In the livery trade, a car like this is known as a "24-hour car." In the daylight hours it can serve any number of uses in transporting large numbers of people to airports, funerals or business meetings, but when the sun goes down and the middle seat is removed and a bar is installed, it becomes a car for those with partying in mind.
This Cadillac's early history is shrouded in mystery; however, in 1992 the car with nine seat belts was sold to a retirement home for use in transporting residents. The odometer at that time showed 32,000 miles. A decade later it was donated to Takoma Park Academy as part of their fund-raising campaign. That's when Randy Denchfield first saw the car.
"I like Cadillacs," he says, "and I found it unique."
He kept his eye on the car until the private school had an auction in October 2002, where he was the successful bidder. "I've always had an inkling to have a limousine," he acknowledges.
The car obviously has been well cared for and had been driven only 60,000 miles in 25 years.
After the first gasoline shortage of 1973, Cadillac decided to downsize the entire lineup. The task was accomplished in the 75th anniversary model year of 1977. The new smaller, lighter and more fuel-efficient cars were new from the road to the roof. A painted pinstripe extends across the trunk lid in an effort to make the car appear wider.
Because everything was new in 1977, the 1978 models had very few changes. A total of 21 exterior colors were offered as well as 16 vinyl roof colors.
A standup crest-and-wreath hood ornament stands above the chrome-plated Cadillac script nameplate on the left side of the hood face, above the bold egg-crate grille.
Cadillac built 88,951 Sedan DeVille models in 1978. Each one, with a base price of $10,924, rolled out the door on a 121.5-inch wheelbase with an emission-choked 425-cubic-inch (7-liter) V-8 engine producing 195 horsepower.
At the Armbruster-Stageway facility the black Cadillac was cut in half behind the front seat, and a section wide enough to accommodate two more doors was added. With the three pieces of the car welded together, a removable center seat was installed and upholstered to match the rest of the black interior. "It's a luxurious people-mover," Mr. Denchfield says.
The two new doors match the other four doors in appearance, but Mr. Denchfield points out that the windows in the new doors are stationary. The gross vehicle weight is 3.25 tons.
When the newly stretched Cadillac left the Armbruster-Stageway factory, it had a new, very long, black padded vinyl roof covering with a coachlight near both rear doors. Under the car was a 42.5-inch-long additional section to the drive shaft to accommodate the new 164-inch wheelbase. "This car provides a special feeling of unspoken elegance for the passengers," Mr. Denchfield says.
Separate air-conditioning vents on the rear package shelf help to pamper the passengers of the limousine.
Both front and rear chrome bumpers are protected by black rubber strips. The distance between the bumpers is 21 feet, 3 inches.
The speedometer registers speeds up to 85 mph and although 83 percent of Cadillac buyers in 1978 ordered cruise control, this car has no such option. The well-designed Cadillac is as roadworthy as its standard-size cousins.
"It's a lot of fun," Mr. Denchfield says of his unusual antique. He's always looking for trips he and his family can take in the car.
"We've been having a ball with this car," he says.

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