The first Lehmann-Peterson limousine was built in late 1962 or early 1963. Meanwhile, Skip Lehmann and Bob Peterson's friendship grew and they decided to go into business together.
Lehmann-Peterson and Company was formed in 1963. (Its shop at 2710 N. Sawyer Ave. in Chicago would be the company's home throughout its lifetime.) With Lehmann's money and salesmanship skills, plus Peterson's superior mechanical ability, they began a quest to win approval from Ford Motor Company to provide Lincoln-based limousines.
The limousine body style was in one of its periods of retreat at Lincoln in the early 1960s. Long-wheelbase formal sedans and limos had been cataloged from the marque's beginning in 1921 through 1942. Then for 1959 and 1960, professional-car builder Hess and Eisenhardt, of Cincinnati, Ohio, was commissioned to convert limited numbers of those years' production Continentals into formal sedans and divider-window limousines, albeit on the standard 131-inch wheelbase.
Luxury-market rivals Cadillac and Imperial had no such lengthy interruptions in their limousine programs, however. As the 1960s began, Cadillac was turning out almost 1,000 Fleetwood Series 75 limos a year while Imperial was selling tiny handfuls of very expensive Italian-built Crown Imperials.
To get Ford's attention, Lehmann and Peterson made an unannounced visit to corporate headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. When they rolled up in Morella Lehmann's modified Lincoln Continental, they were met at the front of the building by an official whose perhaps predictably skeptical attitude was along the lines of, "Right, you want to build our limousine for us."
The pair was told to drive around to the rear and wait by a garage door. After the limo pulled up, a crowd of 40 to 50 Ford Motor Company personnel quickly gathered. Soon an agreement was reached that allowed Ford to extensively test the car for the equivalent of 100,000 miles.
Ford research showed that any car stretched more than a few inches would suffer greatly from metal fatigue. The Lehmann-Peterson experimental limo was lengthened by a full three feet in the center section, which Ford engineers believed to be a weak point to begin with. Thus, the engineering department gave the car an acid test whenever possible.
Years later it was learned that even top executives joined in on the torture tests. At lunchtime, they would jam the car full of people and speed it over various test-track road surfaces, finally launching it off built-in rises, all in an attempt to break it. It didn't.
To read about the first 1963 Lincoln Limousines made by Lehmann and Peterson for Ford, continue to the next page.
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