By Larry E. Nazimek
If you’re a pilot, you’ve probably been stuck in traffic where you subconsciously applied back pressure to the steering wheel, as if you were trying to climb above the traffic.
If you’re sitting in the cockpit of the Limo-Jet, then you will definitely get that feeling. We’ve all heard of efforts to make a reliable flying car, but in this case, it’s a driving airplane, and a fantastic one at that.
The dark candy-apple red Limo-Jet is a Lear 35 converted into a limousine, but to compare it to your average limousine is like comparing a nuclear bomb to a firecracker: It’s a lot more.
Frank DeAngelo is the builder and owner, and Dan Harris is the inventor. It got started with DeAngelo’s limousine business, Exotic Coach, which features customized limos: not the types that would make trips to and from airports or drive to funerals, but the types that drive executives, conventioneers, bachelors, and bachelorettes. The Limo-Jet is owned by DeAngelo’s company, Jetsetter Inc.
A Learjet was not the only airplane that had been considered. “We originally looked at a Hawker, but its size and shape were not limo material,” said DeAngelo. “This is the one and only Limo-Jet; there is no other like it in the entire world.”
The project has taken some 12 years to complete; everything on this vehicle was done for the first time. The front-end suspension/steering was a particularly difficult task. One can easily see the tubular members that had to be designed, measured, cut, and welded precisely. The result, however, is that it handles so smoothly that it can be steered with only one finger. It is powered by an eight-cylinder 8.1L Chevrolet Silverado 2500 engine. It’s 42 feet long and 8 feet wide, and it rides on 28-inch wheels.
The cockpit seating of a Learjet is somewhat cramped. For the Limo-Jet, the two seats have been replaced with one larger one, with an aircraft-style shoulder harness. It has seating for eight passengers, so no special license is needed to drive it.
“We originally looked at a Hawker, but its size and shape were not limo material.” —Frank DeAngeloThe engine nacelles are still in place, but the engines have been replaced by speakers. The “business ends” have red lights to give the visual effect of having real jet engines.
There are eight taillights made to look like thrusters, as one might see in a TV spacecraft. Of course, the anti-collision light on the top of the tail is still in place. To add to the aerospace vehicle look are what appear to be air intakes on the rear bottom of the fuselage. The wings have been removed, but that doesn’t mean that the Limo-Jet is narrow enough to make it street legal. The horizontal stabilizer is still too wide, so it folds, like the way Navy planes fold their wings.
The Limo-Jet is not taking bookings, but it is being taken to car shows, where it is always the center of attention.
Larry E. Nazimek is an airline transport pilot and aviation writer living in Chicago.