CityPress - - Business & Tenders -

SA Lim­ou­sines in Al­ber­ton takes five to six months to build a limo.

It be­gins with the cus­tomer dis­cussing his or her re­quire­ments be­fore bring­ing in a ve­hi­cle for con­ver­sion. A team of 22 then strip it to a bare shell.

“We mark it and cut it in half with an an­gle grinder – it’s as sim­ple as that,” says Don­ald Cameron, the com­pany’s co-owner.

But it is not that sim­ple at all, as Cameron con­cedes that you need to know ex­actly where to make that cut.

And, be­fore new sheet metal can be let in to lengthen the ve­hi­cle, a steel frame is fab­ri­cated and put in place to strengthen things.

Body ex­ten­sions are bent to shape and a CO2 welder is used to stitch it to­gether.

With weld­ing out the way, panel beat­ing, fil­ing and fin­ish­ing be­gin.

The bare shell is then prepped for paint­ing and sent to the spray booth, emerg­ing in the cus­tomer’s colours of choice.

“Once it is fin­ished, it [the ex­ten­sion] looks like the rest of the car – it looks orig­i­nal,” says Cameron.

Re­assem­bly takes a month and can be fid­dly.

It is nei­ther prac­ti­cal nor eco­nom­i­cal to buy in all the spe­cial­ist parts it takes to trans­form a stan­dard sedan into an ex­tra-long limo.

So, most of the parts are made and fit­ted in-house, in­clud­ing:

Length­ened brake pipes and fuel lines; Seat­ing and up­hol­stery; and Re­plac­ing the stan­dard pro­pel­ler shaft with a five-piece 4.2m to 4.5m leviathan.

Then there is all the cab­i­netry, au­dio­vi­sual equip­ment, smoke ma­chines and lights – lasers, LEDs and mir­ror balls – nec­es­sary to trans­form the ve­hi­cle from a re­spectable ride to a party on wheels.

Up to 1 000m of ca­bling needs to be in­stalled, plus a cus­tom-made con­trol panel for the driver.

“You don’t even want to know,” says Cameron of the ef­fort it takes to get it all work­ing prop­erly.

The com­pany, which has been in busi­ness for 28 years, builds limos from just about any make or model of car, he says.

The Hum­mer H3 is “very pop­u­lar” at the mo­ment, but the Chrysler 300C – with its wide good looks and “awe­some” han­dling – is his favourite car for the treat­ment.

At the time of writ­ing, there were 28 ve­hi­cles on his shop floor, in­clud­ing 15 hearses and four limos.

Con­ver­sions cost up to R380 000, de­pend­ing on spec­i­fi­ca­tions, with no short­age of or­ders for cus­tom ve­hi­cles, par­tic­u­larly since changes to the law banned the im­port of left-hand drive ve­hi­cles.

“When we started, peo­ple said it would never work. Since then, we have put plenty on the road.”

– Matthew Hat­tingh

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