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Some of limo company's cars are classic

June 18, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

Chauffeurs with the Hagerstown-based company owned by Gene Albert Jr. wear period tuxedos as they drive people around in cars that include a 1924 Model A Ford and a 1932 Studebaker.

The limousine world is made up of more than black stretch sedans and SUVs made even bigger than usual, as American Classic Limousines LLC is out to show.

Chauffeurs with the Hagerstown-based company wear period tuxedos as they drive people around in cars that include a 1924 Model A Ford, a 1932 Studebaker and a stretch 1940 Cadillac.

The company also has newer black stretch limousines as well as passenger vans.

But its signature cars - the ones that are parked outside its Pennsylvania Avenue office on nice days and that are taken to car shows - are the classic ones.

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"The cars pretty much sell themselves. You just have to get them out and get them exposed," said Jason Witmer, who became the business' general manager when Gene Albert Jr. bought it last August.

When Albert bought the company, then named Kerfoot Livery Service, it did not have any classic cars.

Some of the classics came from Albert's personal collection, while three 1938-1940 Cadillacs, including two that have been stretched, were purchased from Washington state.

The third antique Cadillac, which has not been stretched, originally was built for officials with the Kimberly-Clark company - the company that makes Kleenex, Scott, Huggies and other brands of personal care and household products, Witmer said.

In that car, a red old-fashioned telephone connects the back portion of the car to the driver.

All three Cadillacs feature plush interiors, new engines, air conditioning, CD players, sunroofs and mini-bars inside, although modest alcohol consumption is preferred, Witmer said.

The even-older cars from Albert's collection, such as the Ford Model A, still are equipped with their dimmer six-volt headlights, three-speed manual transmissions and crank starters. Air conditioning is accomplished the old-fashioned way - rolling down the windows.

For those reasons, Witmer said, he prefers those cars only be used on nice days and not at night.

"You're taking a step back in time when you get in one of those," Witmer said.

For his staff of six drivers Witmer said he purposely sought a diverse group of people, including a woman.

"I gotta give the drivers a lot of credit. They are very, very good. I strive to get the best," Witmer said.

Typically, the company charges $100 an hour and has a three-hour minimum, but Witmer said he will accommodate other customer requests if possible.

"I don't want to lose a job or a client because I (won't) bend a little bit," said Witmer, who oversees the day-to-day operations at the company and also is certified to drive.

He said he drives occasionally, but has no horror stories to share of shenanigans going on in the back of a car.

Witmer has met some well-known people on the job, but declined to name them because of a confidentiality policy.

The company's biggest client is Saint James School, a private boarding school south of Hagerstown that has some students of prominent families, Witmer said.

Later this month the company will use its three classic Cadillacs to drive Miss America around when she visits Hagerstown for a four-day event, Witmer said.

The company prides itself on being Christian-owned and -operated and has all American cars, with one type of car especially in favor.

"Cadillac is an American icon," Witmer, 32, of Greencastle, Pa., said.

Future plans possibly include adding more cars and a secretary to the office staff, freeing up Witmer to do more marketing.

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