Home » This Weird Limo Tried To Combine The Speed Of An Oldsmobile Toronado With The Cabin Of An Airplane

This Weird Limo Tried To Combine The Speed Of An Oldsmobile Toronado With The Cabin Of An Airplane

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The limousine is a fascinating part of American culture. Seemingly everyone, from the rich to teens on prom night, love arriving in style in a stretched-out car. The vehicles themselves are the most fascinating, as just about everything has been turned into a limo from K-cars to Smart cars. Royce Kershaw Sr. took a look at his airplane and his Oldsmobile Toronado, then wondered what the two would look like combined and stretched out into a limo. The result is the one and only Kruise-Aire, a weird fiberglass vehicle that’s part RV, part limo, inspired by a plane, and is capable of going over 100 mph. The Kruise-Aire is for sale as part of a massive estate sale that includes all sorts of vintage vehicles including a century-old steam locomotive.

The 1968 Kershaw Kruise-Aire is for sale right now at Auction By Pearce. A little over a day remains in the no reserve auction with bidding currently sitting at $13,750. This was a vehicle that was sent to me by multiple readers. Thank you for the tip Bill, Alex, and Shawn! You guys know exactly what gets me excited in the morning.

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When the winning bidder picks the Kruise-Aire up from Montgomery, Alabama warehouse it’s sitting in, they’ll be getting what sounds like one of the coolest recreational adaptations of the Oldsmobile Toronado that isn’t an Airstream or a GMC Motorhome.

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The Tycoon Behind The Build

As WSFA 12 wrote on February 9, sitting in Montgomery, Alabama is a warehouse filled to the brim with the sorts of vehicles many Autopians dream about. The collection of over 40 cars includes the 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood limo used by five different governors of Alabama, a De Tomaso Pantera, a minty Ford Thunderbird, and various railroad equipment. Oh yeah, you can buy a self-propelled passenger railcar and a steam locomotive from this auction. Both of them are over a century old!

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Don’t worry, I won’t continue without letting you take a peek at both of those pieces of rail history. This is a 1913 Baldwin 2-6-0 Mogul that was built for the W.T. Smith Lumber Company.

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Royce Kershaw Jr. thinks this locomotive is the subject of the song The Old Log Train by Hank Williams Sr. A restoration on the locomotive was partially completed around 15 years ago. Bidding is at $30,500 with 22 days to go. That bid is really just a down payment before transportation and restoration. Shipping a piece of rail equipment isn’t as simple as coupling it to the back of a freight train. It has to be in good enough shape to be shipped, along with other requirements, so it may be “easier” to disassemble parts of the loco and ship the whole thing on railcars.

Be sure to check out the 1923 Edwards Model 10, a Chevy gasoline V8-powered passenger railcar that was built for the Washington & Lincoln Railroad and later ran on the Birmingham & Southeastern Railroad until the mid-1960s.

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This one might be the easier pick for railfans since it comes with its own trailer. The railcar is noted to be restored and ready to run. As a bonus, you also get a turntable for the railcar! That auction also has 22 days remaining, but a lower current bid of $13,250.

The Kershaw collection includes an interurban, passenger cars, and other rail artifacts on top of a couple of RVs, the cars, a boat, a motorcycle, and even a BMW X3 xDrive35i. Who would own a collection as varied as this, aside from a weirdo like me?

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According to Auction By Pearce, the bulk of the collection was owned by Royce Kershaw Sr. When he passed in 1971, the collection landed in the hands of Royce Kershaw Jr., who passed in 2023. Most of the vehicles haven’t left the warehouse in years. Now, the family is letting the treasure trove of vehicles go.

Kershaw Sr. was able to amass the collection thanks to his successful businesses. Royce Kershaw Sr. founded the Royce Kershaw Company in 1924. In the early years of his company, Kershaw Sr. built and serviced railroad tracks. Kershaw Sr. was also an inventor. Reportedly, when something stopped him in his tracks, he invented ways out.

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An often-noted example of this happened in 1940 when the Royce Kershaw Company faced a labor shortage due to World War II. Suddenly, Kershaw Sr. didn’t have enough people to help lay and remove track. In response, he created the ballast regulator, a machine that distributes the gravel that supports railroad ties.

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Knox Kershaw, Inc.

Kershaw Sr. also created the cribbing machine, which removes railroad ties. These inventions brought Kershaw Sr. wealth and in 1946, he launched Kershaw Manufacturing to develop more railway machinery. By 1956, the Royce Kershaw Company celebrated a milestone of having built or otherwise worked on 4,000 miles of trackage in America.

The Royce Kershaw Company exists today. Knox Kershaw took control of the company in 1983, naming it Knox Kershaw, Inc. along the way. The company is known for its maintenance of way equipment.

The Kershaw Kruise-Aire

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As Hemmings writes, the success of the Royce Kershaw Company allowed the senior Kershaw to take his family on many vacations. Like many Americans, Kershaw Sr. took his family around America by car. By the late 1940s, this led to Kershaw Sr. developing an interest in RVs.

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The RV industry was still in its developmental decades in the 1940s. Back then, the term “motorhome” hadn’t even been invented yet and the market was full of different players trying to figure out the ideal formula for what was then called the “house car.” In a 2014 interview with Hemmings, Kershaw Jr. recalled when his father started becoming dissatisfied with the vehicles on the market back then. From Hemmings:

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“I remember he took the family to Yellowstone in a new 1949 Ford station wagon when I was eight years old,” Royce Kershaw Jr. said. “And the whole time he was measuring and sketching more for a motorhome-type vehicle than he was vacationing.”

Kershaw Sr. disliked traveling by station wagon so much that in the late 1950s, he designed his own RV. That RV appears to be the 1962 Executive Cruiser, which is also up for grabs.

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The Executive Cruiser is a one-off Art Deco-style motorhome that Kershaw Sr. planned to put into mass production. It’s a parts bin special with a Dodge 1 ton chassis, a Ford Econoline front end, a Mopar 413 Max Wedge V8, and an RV interior. Reportedly, Kershaw Sr. never put it into production but did use the one-off vehicle as a motorhome with his family. Kershaw Jr. started tearing down the RV for refurbishment but passed before getting started. Thus, this one is more of a shell of what could be.

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Reportedly, Kershaw Sr. wasn’t satisfied with his first attempt at an RV, so he went back to the drawing board. Years later, Kershaw Sr. was still thinking about RVs when he got inspiration from two unrelated vehicles. Kershaw Sr. bought a luxurious airplane as well as an Oldsmobile Toronado. Eventually, Kershaw Sr. apparently thought that the airplane’s cabin would be great in a road vehicle. He could then combine an airplane cabin with a front-wheel-drive Toronado to make a low-slung luxury limo with decent performance.

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Kershaw Sr. began shopping around Detroit for coachbuilders and reportedly, all of them said no. That’s when Kershaw Sr. ran across Glenn Pray at the 1966 Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club reunion. Pray, revered for his Cord 8/10 replicas, agreed to turn Kershaw’s dream into reality, charging $10,000 ($96,986 today) for the design.

Pray got to work designing the Kershaw Sr. limo and brought Gordon M. Buehrig onboard for assistance. Buehrig is famed for his stunning 20th-century designs, including the Duesenberg Model J the Cord 810. His work also includes the 1935 Auburn 851 Boattail Speedster, the 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II, and the bodies of Stutz Black Hawk Le Mans racers. The Automotive Hall Of Fame also notes that Buehrig had a stint at Raymond Loewy’s design firm, too.

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What Pray and Buehrig created for Kershaw Sr. would be hard to describe today. It’s not a limo or an RV in the traditional sense. It’s closer to a super luxury SUV, but even that’s not really right.

The Kruise-Aire started off as a two-piece fiberglass shell joined in the beltline. This part of the design is like a fiberglass motorhome and it looks like Pray and Buehrig covered up the seam with classy wood trim. Under the fiberglass sits a 1967 Oldsmobile Toronado sourced for the project. As a side note, it would appear that the earlier Toronado that inspired this vehicle is also a part of the Kershaw auction.

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Anyway, the Toronado gave its innovative front wheel drive layout to the project, as well as its optional 425 cubic-inch V8. This was good for 385 HP and 475 lb-ft of torque. Those are gross numbers, of course. The donor Toronado also gave its rear suspension. Otherwise, the Kruise-Aire is also a parts bin special featuring a front bumper from a Chevy Corvette, taillights from a Chevy Camaro, headlights from a Pontiac, grille parts from an Auburn, and a windshield from a GM truck. The vehicle has a wheelbase of 120 inches, or an inch longer than the donor Toronado. And since the Toronado has that FWD layout, the Kruise-Aire had a low and flat floor.

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Royce Kershaw Jr. noted to Hemmings in 2014 that building the Kruise-Aire took a year and even included input from Oldsmobile engineers. That engineering help resulted in heavier torsion bars being used up front. The vehicle’s interior was filled out by Howard Aero in San Antonio, Texas. Reportedly, top speed of the Kruise-Aire was above 100 mph.

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As his limo took shape, Kershaw Sr. reportedly planned on putting the vehicles into limited production. Here’s where the story gets a little weird. The auction listing says Kershaw Sr. passed before the interior was completed. However, the 2014 Hemmings story, which used Kershaw Jr. as its source, says Kershaw Sr. used the completed Kruise-Aire for about a year to show customers equipment in the field. Either way, the Kruise-Aire never went into production and the sole example drove just 738 miles before ending up in the family warehouse.

In terms of features, the Kruise-Aire has a refrigerator, a stove, a monochrome TV, an 8-track, and an intercom system so you can talk to your driver. See what I mean by how this isn’t really your typical limo? It has some bits from an RV, some bits from a limo, and was put together by an aircraft interior outfitter. Another cool thing to know is that despite sitting for all of this time, the Kruise-Aire is said to start and run.

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If you want the weird Kruise-Aire limo, or really any of the historical items from the Kershaw collection, head over to Auction By Pearce. Different items have different ending times, so you may have time to get what you want! The auction for the Kruise-Aire ends tomorrow at 7 p.m. Central Time. The current bid is $13,750, so someone might get a really neat one-off vehicle for not a ton of money. If you want the Executive Cruiser, that one is currently sitting at $7,800 with the same amount of time remaining.

I’m still not quite sure what to call the Kruise-Aire. It was built to be driven by a chauffeur and even has a limo-like entry door, but the Kruise-Aire was also made to be comfortable when traveling like a motorhome. It sort of straddles a few different classes, not unlike another strange creation by a man with dreams, the Mauck MSV 1120S. One thing’s for sure, and it’s that the Kruise-Aire is a strange creation, and I’d love to see it thunder down a highway at 100 mph.

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(Images: Auction By Pearce, unless otherwise noted.)

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ADDvanced
ADDvanced
2 months ago

The absence of a passenger seat is really bizarre; I get that it’s supposed to be operated by a driver, but that just seems like wasted space?

Marco
Marco
2 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

It’s slightly bizarre, sure, but it’s not wasted space at all… That’s where the 425 V8 lives

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
2 months ago
Reply to  Marco

Is it offcenter??? I didn’t catch that.

Marco
Marco
2 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

No other space for it, really! I can only imagine how uncomfortable that was to drive…

AKA Rukh
AKA Rukh
1 month ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

It doesn’t appear to be off-center. It’s under the sideways-hinged cover right next to the driving position, and the air cleaner is right below that brace that goes down the center line behind the auto shifter. Perhaps they just decided that a front passenger seat wasn’t necessary in the prototype.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
2 months ago

It looks great and would certainly be easier to maneuver around town than a regular long car, but I wonder how that layout would affect ride, what with the driver sitting way out over the front wheels and some of the passengers doing the same at the opposite end. I’m sure it’s quite soft and forgiving, being Toronado-based, but I can’t help wondering if the long nose bounces around like the back of a school bus.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
2 months ago

It does make you wonder why most limos are car based; having to basically crawl from one end to the other is dumb. While SUV ones have become ever more popular, it still seems like something like a Sprinter would be the best… and I’m not talking those fancy Sprinter shuttles. I want a proper Sprinter stretch limo.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
2 months ago

Built for taking the family out, but the driver sits isolated up front. It doesn’t do one thing well, it does several things badly. Great design job guys.
(although the scale design model is fun).

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
2 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

An isolated bubble for the driver is perfect for a family car though?

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
2 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Hah! Did you not have the same kind of holidays I did in the 70s then? My dad would have killed for a separate driving compartment approximately 30 minutes into any journey with my brothers and I.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
2 months ago
Reply to  Gilbert Wham

I wouldn’t have had to hear my parents arguing, so there would have been that.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
2 months ago

I read about this on another site a few days ago, but this author did it way better.

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
2 months ago

The Cruise-Air would be fantastic with a modern luxury interior (think Cullinan) , some new exterior detailing, and newer wheels & tires!

The Executive-Cruiser however has such a great art deco tail that it screams for restoration or a retro-rod build.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
2 months ago
Reply to  Rapgomi

No! Barcalounger and Mad Men drinks cabinets 4lyfe, dammit! How could you improve on that 70s-tastic perfection???

Tim Cougar
Tim Cougar
2 months ago

Gorgeous! I love the color and the wood belt.

Idiotking
Idiotking
2 months ago

I was getting worried, Mercedes, I hadn’t seen you write this up for a while, but I knew it would be catnip. Thanks for the deeper dive—the other places I’ve seen it don’t go into any of the history, which is where the interesting stuff is.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
2 months ago

I recall seeing this thing in a car magazine 30+ years ago. The fact that I remember it is only because I recall my dad remarking to my mom that my family should get one, and my mom suggested, for the first time I can recall, that she would make sure the divorce was more expensive.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
2 months ago

Wow! That’s pretty freaking cool!

StLOrca
StLOrca
2 months ago

Obligatory for those of us of A Certain Age–it’s Ark II

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
2 months ago
Reply to  StLOrca

OMG Saturday mornings at like 11:30? On NBC? What a trip that show was. That crazy Morton Thiocol vee-hickle that also appeared on… original BSG?
And Terry Lester, who went on to Y&R and ATWT. Died young.

StLOrca
StLOrca
1 month ago

You are correct, sir! (I did NOT have a crush on Jean-Marie Hon. No, I did not. So don’t think I did. Because I didn’t.)

StLOrca
StLOrca
2 months ago

I do not have a garage big enough for this, otherwise I’d be cruising in it like a pre-assassination Franz Ferdinand.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
2 months ago
Reply to  StLOrca

Someone is living in lucid dreams.

Frankencamry
Frankencamry
2 months ago

I ran into this one linked from a local auction house that specializes in antique tractors. At the time I was going to send the Executive Cruiser, until I saw its condition.

Always fun to see what people with fantastic wealth do when they get annoyed. The entire RV industry stems from people saying “Whatever, I’ll do it myself.”

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago

Great article I missed seeing more interior photos and descriptions. No mention of beds? It’s a limo.

Fratzog
Fratzog
2 months ago

Seeing as the team missed out on that ultravan a while back, this would be a very fitting Autopian mobile HQ

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
2 months ago
Reply to  Fratzog

It would seemingly irritate the fuck out of Adrian too, so they absolutely have to buy it 😀

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
2 months ago

It’s a stretch van limo.

Brett Stutz
Brett Stutz
2 months ago

It looks like the mother of the Brubaker Box

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago

First thing I thought was that this would look completely at home in the kinda forgotten but increasingly charming Death Race 2000.

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
2 months ago

Some interesting design choices. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it. And it looks too low to stand up in. I think it’s the forefather of the modern “Sprinter Executive Vans”, the kind where they kit out a Sprinter to look like the interior of an executive jet. At least you can stand up in those.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
2 months ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

Yes, this is the ancestor of the executive/VIP van, popular in China and starting to catch on here, as well as those party busses you can rent that are sort of airport shuttle busses with prom limo interiors

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
2 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

This is exactly what I was thinking! Currently US limos are being displaced by luxury SUVs, but the mini shape is so much better for passenger space & comfort that that style will boom here as well.

3WiperB
3WiperB
2 months ago

I was hoping you would do a deep-dive on this usual collection. You always do the work to get further into the history than most! I still think that Executive Cruiser would make a great Autopian RV project. Also, hope you had a great vacation/honeymoon!

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