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59 Chevrolet Airport Stretch

This 1959 Chevrolet Biscayne Airport Limousine (stretched by Armbruster Stageway) was found in a barn in Texas in rough but restorable condition. To enter it as the first antique stretch vehicle into Land Yacht's fleet of antique limousines, some improvements and modifications had to be entertained, not to mention a complete restoration as well. It was decided that a fairly current drive train would be installed, as the relatively original drive trains in Land Yacht's other vehicles made for more frequent maintenance, parts location difficulty and the attendant high cost. They do make 'em better today! Bullet proof Chevy small block 400 powerplant (with throttle body injection,) 700R4 overdrive tranny, front power discs, add on ABS, etc. The drivers... uh! excuse me.... chauffeurs and the maintenance people will be happy. I won't mention those of us who will have the fun of designing and assembling it!

First completely disassemble, taking care to box and mark every part, taking note of those missing, and then store everything in a safe place so as not to lose anything. You may think this is common sense, but it is surprising the number of shops who spend money on parts they have misplaced. Here the frame is off to the sand blaster. Why not dip it? For frames it is six to one, a half dozen to the other. The sand blaster is a mile away, the dipper in another state: no brainer! At least with sand, we can bring it inside and do nothing for quite a while, as with acid, we have to do something right away. I see why AS used this vehicle to stretch. The frame is basically two box structures connected by a center tube. Stretch the tube and you're done with the frame! This frame, having operated commercially for a large part of its 35 year life, now can tell us where we must reinforce it, (they didn't have stress analysis computers in those days.)

Notice the four doors on this side of the body, they all operate. On the other side, two are dummies. Since we are making a luxury limo, two doors per side should be sufficient. Here we are at the sand blasters again. Sand blasting is quicker (and cheaper) and since we have to make extensive rust repairs to the sheet metal of the body, it is the better choice. (Phew! Got out of sending it to that expensive dipper again! But some day I'm sure I'm going to be forced to say: "Here's one for the Dipper!")

About 50 percent of the floor (trunk included) had to be replaced. Here you see the spare tire wheel well. Most body panels are available in repro for this year car, and they are decent. Those of you who have worked with repro stuff know that some of it is terrible. Most of the exterior body panels and inner fenders were pretty good rust-wise and dent-wise. The body stretch is simply two doors per side, both a combination of front and rear doors and straight sheet metal on the roof and floor.

We decided that the rear doors, which are quit small and whose opening is 50% occluded by the seat left too small an opening for a woman in a large dress, (bride!) We added a forward piece from one of the middle doors and moved the door post forward. Since the two center doors were being removed , this posed no dilemma. The left side rear door, the "street" side in limo parlance, would be used infrequently, thus we left it alone.

Here's what it looks like on the car. The panel fitted in front to replace the remainder of the center door is just a piece of sheet metal, albeit a much thicker gauge than anything found on vehicles today, (if you can find any metal!) The middle window post will be removed and a single large window will result. Thank God (and the Virginia Legislature) for limo tint!

Here is the frame, completely repaired and reinforced where applicable and primed in two-stage, metal etching, epoxy primer: about the best anticorrosion method we can come with. The human in the picture is placed there to give you a sense of scale. This vehicle in modern limousine terms is equivalent to a 85 inch stretch. The largest stretches that are still single wheel, single rear axle today are 180's! This vehicle will qualify as a small to medium sized stretch.

Engine: Small block Chevy 400, factory cam and pistons, no Hot Rod here, plenty of power for the application. Chevy 700R4 Transmission for strength, the overdrive and most importantly, the TCC (torque convertor clutch,) to keep cool on long high speed runs!

Slap her on there! Note the color of the frame matches what the body color will be, Peach!

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