Home » Used Limousines Are The Most Valueless Cars In Existence. But Could They Be Family Cars?

Used Limousines Are The Most Valueless Cars In Existence. But Could They Be Family Cars?

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Let’s say that you have a lot of kids and need to buy a reasonably priced family car. Your options probably boil down to a minivan, which is arguably the optimal choice, or a three-row crossover utility vehicle. Crossovers can be great for people who don’t want to be seen in a minivan, but crossovers compromise room for the sake of style.

What if you could have a car that offers the cabin space of a minivan, but doesn’t look like a minivan, and is dirt cheap? You could use an old limo as a family car, right? Sure, but that’s probably a bad idea.

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Vidframe Min Bottom

On paper, limousines and minivans share several similarities. A minivan seats seven; a good limo seats seven. A minivan is available with rear seat entertainment; limos are available with rear seat entertainment. Minivans have room for people and things; limousines have room for people and things. This isn’t as far-fetched of a comparison as you might think.

Stretch Out

Fleetwood Limousine Doors Open

When you see a limousine roll by, your brain might conjure up images of bachelorette party (I think that’s what they’re called in America), debauchery, and prom night promises. I see a great vehicle for a road trip. Think about it: Not only does a limousine afford you all the space and comfort you and the people you like enough to spend hours in a car with could possibly need, it does everything with a sense of style. Lowbrow style, but style nonetheless. A minivan can seat seven, but a limo might seat even more, and each passenger essentially gets a first-class seat.

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Brougham Limo Tv

Alright, so let’s say it’s been a long day, and any semblance of peace and tranquility is lost. If you buy a limousine with one of those privacy screens, you can just put the partition up if the rear compartment’s going to be a PvP-enabled zone anyway. Let the passengers work it out amongst themselves, or what have you.

If you’re lucky, you might even be able to buy a limousine with a cathode ray TV and a fridge in the back. Think of how many Capri Suns you can fit in a limo’s fridge! The TV won’t interface with a PS5, but retro games are still in, and hooking up a SEGA Genesis or an original PlayStation would provide hours of entertainment.

How Cheap Are We Talking?

Fleetwood Limousine 1

When I mentioned limousines don’t hold their value, I really meant that they depreciate like Trojans. Here’s a 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood Limousine with 32,000 miles on the clock that sold on Bring A Trailer this Monday for $5,000. It doesn’t have a minibar or a partition, but we’re talking about a massive amount of leather-lined Cadillac for $5,000.

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09 Town Car Limo 1

Too old? Here’s a 2009 Lincoln Town Car limousine with 56,000 miles on the clock that sold on Bring A Trailer last month for $9,000. Again, no minibar or partition, but it does have a funky middle seat that can face either forward or rearward, enabling conversation-style rear seating or stopping fights, depending on the vibe of the day.

Cadillac Brougham Limo 1

I know what you’re thinking: This is brilliant/stupid, but where are the limos with minibars? Well, here you go. This 1990 Cadillac Brougham limousine features a proper minibar and a rear-compartment VHS player, along with a partition and a sunroof. Best of all, it only has 41,000 miles on the clock and sold on Bring A Trailer for just $11,350. Think of the luxury! Cheesy soap-opera-villain luxury, but still luxury.

Craiglist 00 Town Car Limousine

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Oh, and if you’re not looking at cream-of-the-crop low-mileage examples, you can hop on Craigslist and find a used limo for much cheaper than that. Here’s a 2000 Lincoln Town Car that’s done 159,000 miles up for sale in Palmdale, Calif. for $4,000. It has a minibar, it has a partition, and it’s pretty much ready for your next road trip.

99 Lincoln Town Car Limousine

If you truly need a lot of seats, don’t panic. Just get an even longer limo. The Craigslist ad for this 1999 Lincoln Town Car claims it’ll seat eight in the back, which makes it an alternative to a full-sized passenger van. Probably not a good alternative, but an alternative nonetheless. It’s on Long Island for an asking price of just $3,500, and while it may have 175,000 miles on the clock, it’s substantially more stylish than a full-sized passenger van.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong With A Used Limo?

Fleetwood Limousine Interior

Let’s preface this by saying that modern minivans are quite good, even if the Pentastar V6 in the Dodge Grand Caravan is known for valvetrain issues, and getting the water pump, timing belt, valve adjustment, and transaxle fluid done in a Honda Odyssey can be costly. We’re talking about a genre of vehicle that’s generally reliable and able to provide family transportation day-in and day-out.

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As for limousines, they’re generally based on robust full-size body-on-frame sedans, so they’re fairly reliable and cheap to fix – but they will need fixing more often. The biggest day-to-day problems with a limo will likely be revealed under a blacklight, and a lingering smell of Prosecco may make have you stocking up on tree-shaped air fresheners. Oh, and limousine fuel economy, to use a technical term, sucks. At least all the gas station stops will give you ample opportunities to buy more air fresheners.

Fleetwood Limousine Profile

Now for the big elephant in the room: Limousines are all effectively cut-and-shut builds: You cut a car in half, weld in a new middle section, install whatever interior accouterments are required to achieve the luxury objectives at hand, and presto: you’ve got a limo. Easy – but very tricky from a crash-safety perspective. This wasn’t as much of an issue 20 years ago, but only because most other cars on the road had all the structural integrity of a jellyfish. It’s not that limousines were built better, it’s that everything else was a whole lot worse. Is a $10,000 used Toyota Sienna safer? Almost certainly. That’s the real tradeoff we’re looking at here.

Should You Buy A Used Limo As A Family Car?

09 Town Car Limo 2

Probably not. And to be fair, you probably weren’t even considering it – but since you’ve read this far, there was a kernel of sensibility there, at least. It may have even been worth considering in the “hold my beer” parenting era when it was socially acceptable to transport an entire birthday party in a single car, seatbelts optional, assuming each passenger even had a seat of their own. But in today’s safety-concerned, judgement-heavy, now-we-know-better world, having a used limousine as a family car just isn’t a brilliant idea. Pretty much any comparably-priced minivan will be safer, more economical and reliable, and far, far easier to park.

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What could you actually use an old limousine for in 2024? Well, outside of a mid-’20s eight-roommate-situation road-trip party car, or perhaps some sort of shenanigans involving a reciprocating saw and the volume of Lake Michigan in Pabst Blue Ribbon, or starting your very own one-man limo service on a budget, I can’t see many opportunities for these things. They’re weird cast-offs of the automotive kingdom, sentenced to rot in backyards and behind industrial units until they return to the earth from which they came. Shame, that.

(Photo credits: Bring A Trailer, Craigslist Sellers)

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Stig's American Cousin
Stig's American Cousin
21 days ago

These look like something Sifu Seagal would purchase and use in his direct-to-whatever money laundering movie scheme he does this month and think he’s the coolest person in Romania or Bulgaria while riding in the back. And then he’d blow it up with whatever is left from the catering budget that went towards explosives. Translation: these limos have potential. I want one.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
26 days ago

Wow, now you’ve got me wanting to get one- especially the one for $3500…I like the body style of the 1990 better though- that is a classy look…I want it! These would even be good for camping out of the weather

Scott Wangler
Scott Wangler
26 days ago

Hearse’s depreciate lots too!!!!!

Joe Nuttall
Joe Nuttall
26 days ago

I bought a 2011 Caddy limo last year as family car. It was great for day trips when we had my 3 kids, my kid’s friends, and/or the in-laws with us. Plenty of room for us all and a MASSIVE trunk too. My wife and I loved it and my kids loved being driven around in a limo. It was too big for my garage though, so it was parked on the street, where it was totaled in a hit and run after 9 months.

Joe Nuttall
Joe Nuttall
26 days ago
Reply to  Joe Nuttall
Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
26 days ago
Reply to  Joe Nuttall

That was really awesome to read… right up until it wasn’t :-/ Ouch.

Last edited 26 days ago by Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
26 days ago

I’ve wanted to buy one of these for years. I test-drove one awhile back similar to the Fleetwood in the opening picture. Nice car, but it was missing a few pieces of hard to find trim and the AC didn’t work. Later I found another, older Caddy similar to the blue one pictured for only $2K on FB. They had dropped the price from $5K and it was sold before I could make it out for a test drive.

The safety concerns are valid. I was able to see the results of a limo-accident up close when we laser-scanned the remnants of a stretch that was t-boned resulting in the death of several occupants. What absolute crap vehicle construction. It looked like random pieces of rebar had been welded in as reinforcement and the whole thing had the feel of a nice blanket stretched over a moldy couch. The craziest part was that it was apparent whoever did the conversion was too cheap to spring for a few cans of rubberized undercoating. It wasn’t that old and there were heavy amounts of rust everywhere, especially around the poorly executed welds. Obviously, not all conversions are done to the same standard, but this one showed just how bad they could be.

With that in mind I’ll certainly crawl under one of these bargain-boxcars before actually purchasing it, or just stick to one of the older Cadillac limos where they were still built on the factory floor such as my neighbor’s ’64 Fleetwood Series 75.

Last edited 26 days ago by Boulevard_Yachtsman
Spikersaurusrex
Spikersaurusrex
26 days ago

One of the reasons these are so cheap is the limited utility, yet you say you want to buy one. What do you want to use it for?

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
26 days ago

I like Cadillacs… a lot. In general I’ve always just liked big cars. Not really sure why, I just like the feel of floating down the road on four fat, preferably white-walled tires while sitting on a comfy couch not too far off of the ground – I prefer the Broughamization of traveling, if you will. As to limos (and hearses), they just seem to be Cadillacs that are even more Cadillac, if that makes any sense.

As to the utility portion, I have a truck and an economy car(s) for when those things are needed. However, taking the family on a road-trip, or even just going out for ice cream can be special occasions, thus encouraging the use of a special vehicle. And a big ‘ol limo is definitely a special-occasion vehicle.

Last edited 26 days ago by Boulevard_Yachtsman
67Mustang
67Mustang
26 days ago

When I was in grade school (70’s), a girl in my class had a limo as a family car, it was a mid 60’s? Caddy.
If I recall, her (father?) had a Harley Davidson tattoo on his forehead.

Angry Bob
Angry Bob
26 days ago

I wish I could get a minivan with a partition. A soundproof partition. Then my children could flog each other senseless while I drive in peaceful bliss.

I drive a boring SUV
I drive a boring SUV
22 days ago
Reply to  Angry Bob

Get a Lexus LM

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
26 days ago

Do they not call them bachelorette parties in the land of the nice maple syrup guzzlers?

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
26 days ago

No Hummer H2 limos for the families of assholes?

Matt McCracken
Matt McCracken
26 days ago

Thomas, its clear that you take after your Biblical namesake. To doubt the the fact that limos are an amazing way to shuttle a family around is possibly as preposterous as when the Apostle Thomas doubted the reality of the Risen Lord standing right in front of him.
We bought a 2008 Cadillac DTS “6-pack” several years ago and its is hilariously awesome. Two caveats. First, we have about as short a limo as you can get as its only stretched 42″. Second, we live in a rural area 60 miles outside of Austin where the propensity of vehicles are big trucks/SUVs and thus the infrastructure supports larger, longer vehicles. Driving a limo in a congested city would be miserable but where we are, its quite fun. Further, due to the limited stretch and we have the larger doors for the executive DTS, ingress and egress is easy but I could see it being an issue in longer limos.
The magic is the simple fact that the passengers in the back are all together facing each other and interacting. Basically, its a 300hp fort. Trips have the same intimacy as a late night gathering around the kitchen island. To hear my daughter and her friends giggle the whole way to gymnastics or my son and his buddies hooting and hollaring all the way to soccer practice makes dad as happy as a dog getting a treat. And what makes me even happier, is raising the partition and not hearing them at all. About the 3rd time my kids ask to do such and such or want buy this or that, the partition goes up. To be able to pile my wife and her friends in the back and truck them down to Fredericksburg for an evening and feel the air shocks,and the wine, lift all their troubles away is very satisfying. And yes, in Texas as long as there is a petition, open containers are allowed in the back. Try to get hooched up in the back of your precious little Chrysler minivan, Thomas! Further, with a larger alternator and two batteries, you can run just about whatever electronics you want.
Then there is the attention. We have a ’66 cherry red Mustang convertible and a 2009 Jaguar XK convertible and neither garners the attention of the limo.
Are there negatives, yes. But not necessarily the ones mentioned. Gas mileage is surprisingly ok. We can get 24/25 on the hwy. My dad just rented a Chrysler Pacifica and could only get 25mpg on the hwy. The Northstar motor is a wonder and by 2008, they had all the kinks worked out. 70mph at 1900 rpm, torque is a wonderful thing. I assume the Lincolns do not fare as well with the 4.6. All seats do have seat belts and everyone is buckled in at all times. I can’t speak to the safety issue and I pray that I never will.
Ours does have some HVAC gremlins and we have dumped a couple grand into fixing that. If you are buying one, be sure to check for rust where the stretch is. The metal is likely not treated the same as what comes from the factory. Get a CA limo if you can, that’s what we did. They have plenty. Eventually, the tranny is going to $hit the bed so budget for that. And getting insurance on it was a bit of a challenge that we didn’t account for.
BTW, these things sell cheap b/c most cities do not allow “cars for hire” to be more than 10 years old. Not sure how ride-sharing will impact this long-term but for now, it seems they giving them away. We paid $13,500 for ours with only 45k on the clock. And we have loved every minute of ownership. Yes, the safety issue is a concern and maybe there is a .05% chance something terrible happens b/c of riding in a limo versus a 8000 lb SUV. On the other hand, there is a 100% chance my kids and their friends will remember how awesome it was to ride around in the back of our limo.

Matt McCracken
Matt McCracken
26 days ago
Reply to  Matt McCracken

And I forgot to mention, Cadillac puts much larger brakes on their professional cars, so we can stop faster and safer than anything short of a Corvette.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
26 days ago
Reply to  Matt McCracken

This rules.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
26 days ago
Reply to  Matt McCracken

Hello Matt McCracken. Are you by any chance related to Phil McCracken?

Matt McCracken
Matt McCracken
26 days ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

Unfortunately, no. Did I consider naming my first born male Philip, maybe, but that was quickly shot down.

BigThingsComin
BigThingsComin
26 days ago
Reply to  Matt McCracken

I went to school with a Phil McCracken. He was always Phillip to his face.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
26 days ago
Reply to  Matt McCracken

Id bet the 4.6 Lincolns do just fine. If you’ve ever driven a Panther car, you know that they will go 60-90mph faster than anything else, and without cracking 2500rpm. Very very torquey.

Matt McCracken
Matt McCracken
26 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Yes, you’re right. I was just referring to fuel economy as I think the 4.6’s are a bit thirstier, yet a heckuva lot more reliable than the Northstar. I’ve had two Panther Town Cars in the family and they are a wonderful.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
26 days ago
Reply to  Matt McCracken

Ahh. Yes, a bit thirstier, you won’t be getting 24mpg considering they can maybe barely do that stock. I would expect like 20 highway, which isn’t bad.

Dingus
Dingus
26 days ago

I tried to get the wife sold on one. The approach was to buy her a runabout like a Fiat 500 and the limo would be used whenever we have to move people around. I thought it’d be fantastic to roll up to the school for pickup when it’s our turn to drive all the neighbor kids home from sports stuff. She wasn’t into it.

I found that the best ones were former funeral home cars. Typically, you have the hearse and then a smaller limo that was usually a six-door with two rear rows for the immediate family of the deceased. They’re not quite as long as some of the stretched out versions, but still plenty of room for many people. Kind of worthless in the regard that the trunk is still the same size. Hard to fit six people and all their stuff in a trunk that is good for maybe four. Not sure about adding a roof box, but I guess if you’re going for the absurd, may as well go all in and have two inline roof boxes.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
26 days ago

Not too far from where I live, there was a high profile limo crash that killed an entire wedding party. 17 passengers, the driver and two pedestrians. Brutal. The cause was brake failure, but the spectacular way that the structure failed ensured that not a single person in that crash had any chance of survival. It was pretty horrific.

I know many of us have some lower standards for acceptable safety performance here, but in something as lumbering and unavoidable as a stretch limo, I wouldn’t be so excited to put my family in one. Though the thought exercise is fun.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
26 days ago

Uh….. Did you look at the pictures? That thing hit that parked car FAST. The whole front 1/3 was crumpled up. If it was a stock not-stretched Excursion, the front two rows of passengers would have still been wadded up.

That combined with 0 occupants wearing a seatbelt is why it was so fatal. If they had been wearing seatbelts, at least 5 people in the way back would have walked away.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
26 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

There’s so many reasons this accident happened, some of which were because the owner was a scumbag who kept ignoring/dodging inspections (among other things), but some were because modifications made to limos tend not to be comprehensive enough. When you modify something to be twice it’s original weight and expect it to still be safe with the same number of wheels and brakes, bad things can happen. Not to mention the massive structural failure. Sure, at that speed, just about anything would crumple. And the no seatbelts sure as hell didn’t help. Had they been in your typical passenger van/party bus (one of many horrible things that got them into this tragedy is that they originally had a party bus rented, and it broke down before their event so they scrambled and ended up on this piece of shit) they wouldn’t have ended up in that pile of twisted metal.

Obviously not all limo conversions are created equal, and that one was the limo conversion from hell (please don’t rent such a thing from just anyone, people). But these sorts of conversions definitely involve some serious compromises that I wouldn’t exactly be excited to use one as a family vehicle.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
26 days ago

The wikipedia article specifically mentions that that Excursion was rated to tow 11k lbs. While that limo was very heavy, it was still waaay under the factory rated GCWR that it is designed to be able to stop with those four wheels and brakes.

I still don’t know where you’re getting this idea of a major structural failure. Like I said earlier, the whole back half stayed intact, and I really really don’t think a stock Excursion would have crumpled up any less.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
26 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

The way the thing is folded in half in all the pictures doesn’t give me a whole lot of confidence that it was modified well.

It’s speculation, but I guess my point is, you can’t really guarantee how well these aftermarket conversions are done. The Schoharie crash is literally the most extreme example (possibly ever). That particular limo, under all accounts, was cobbled together in a seriously irresponsible way, and shouldn’t have even been on the road. If someone is considering one as a bizarro family vehicle, you’d better be doing a hell of a lot of research to make sure the conversion was done responsibly.

Are limos cool? Yeah. Would I recommend someone use one as a family vehicle? No.

Jim Stock
Jim Stock
26 days ago

Most people cannot park and turn corners in a crossover, I hope they do not buy things this long. Imagine a limo trying to back out of a Costco parking space.

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
26 days ago

Inexplicably, they are “popular” in Europe as party-o-mobile. Don’t ask me how the drivers manage to squeeze through the narrow and convoluted streets.

I saw one Lincoln Town Car limousine taking up three parking spaces on the street in Munich. How was he able to bag three spaces often (as street parking in Munich is difficult) and be able to navigate through the residential streets is beyond me.

Brau Beaton
Brau Beaton
26 days ago

All I see is a bunch of cars that are just a Sawzall away from being the world longest El Camino!

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
26 days ago

I think the main problem for stretch limos, as passenger, is the low ceiling height. A higher roof, allowing passengers some minimal dignity as they move about the cabin, would be nice. Like add 18″-24″

Jon Benet
Jon Benet
26 days ago

Wanted: GMC Hummer EV Stretched Limo.

I don’t really want one. I just want to see it do the Crab Walk across 3 lanes of traffic.

Last edited 26 days ago by Jon Benet
Luxobarge
Luxobarge
27 days ago

I remember being a kid, driving home from school with my dad, when he turned off our usual route to drive slowly past a yard with a used limo for sale. He gave it a once over and explained he was just thinking about a new way to move the whole family around. (We had a Chevy Astro van that just seated our blended family of two adults and four kids comfortably.)

A few weeks later we were informed my stepmom was pregnant with my youngest sibling.

It took me a long time to put these two events together.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
26 days ago
Reply to  Luxobarge

It took me a long time to put these two events together.”

And don’t forget about the events that led to the pregnancy…

😉

Luxobarge
Luxobarge
26 days ago

I sincerely doubt either the limo or the Astro van were involved in that, but like hell I’m going to ask.

Bill
Bill
27 days ago

I knew a large family who had a Mercedes 300 W123 LWB for the school run. I was lucky enough to join them some mornings. Absolutely stunning car, I appreciated it back then but even more now as I have never seen one since!

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
27 days ago

What could you actually use an old limousine for in 2024?”

I could see a used limo being useful for large extended families.

And the type of limo I’m thinking of are the 4-6 door ones with 8-9 passenger seating where every seat still has a seat belt. Not the stupid-long ones that fit 15+ passengers and none of the seats have seat belts.

When it comes to limos, I’m less worried about crash safety as they are no less safe than most vehicles from the 1980s or earlier. The bigger issue is how some of them are run on the cheap and owners skimp on maintenance and repairs. And of course there are the stupid-long and stupidly designed ones where none of the rear seats have seat belts.

If I had one of those more normal limos 8-9 passenger limos with 4-6 doors, I’d make sure it had the heavy duty brakes, heavy duty suspension and heavy duty cooling for the engine and transmission.

If it has those attributes and it’s properly maintained, it could be a great alternative to the huge 3 row SUV.

PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
27 days ago

It’d be a brilliant family car, just for the slide up partition. I’ve lost count of the times that my wife and I have said we wished normal cars came with them! The rear seat entertainment would be a boon on road trips. Who says a family hauler needs fuel economy, manoeuvrability, acceleration or crash safely?

Last edited 27 days ago by PajeroPilot
Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
27 days ago

I REALLY don’t think that limos are necessarily unsafe, and I think it’s weird that Thomas and so many commenters do.

Cutting and welding a frame to change wheelbase is a very normal, common, legal, and generally accepted to be safe modification. Especially on commercial trucks, which often have to have their length changed to accommodate different beds, which commonly changes throughout a truck’s life.

Really, it’s not dissimilar to how many manufacturers make different wheelbase versions of pickups. Many pickups, especially Dodges, have separate frame sections that are welded at the factory.

Of course, if it’s poorly built, and some limos definitely are, then that’s a problem. So I’d closely inspect a limousine before buying it. But I’d give that advice for non-stretched vehicles too.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
26 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

The problem is the vast majority are poorly built, and when you get into more recent years, you’re looking at stretched unibodies, which is a very different animal from cutting and splicing a chassis

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
26 days ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

That’s true, but also totally irrelevant to this article, which definitely isn’t talking about anything that new.

Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
27 days ago

I’ve always wondered, how do you work under one of these? Extra-long grease pit? Some kind of double lift bay? I’d imagine if you picked it up at its center point it would snap like a day-old baguette.

Bassracerx
Bassracerx
27 days ago

JACKSTANDS AND A ROLLY CART!

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
27 days ago

You can pick it up at its center or at the corners, on a lift or just jack stands. They’re not actually French bread lol

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
26 days ago

OBVIOUSLY you’d lift it using a crane that you’d have to rent…

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
26 days ago

Roll it on its side.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
27 days ago

When I lived on the upper east side of Manhattan in the 1980s, I’m pretty sure that stretch limos were used as a form of after school daycare. The streets would be swarming with them in the afternoons and every so often one would stop and the door would open and there would be a bunch of 10 year-old boys in their private school uniforms sitting in a circle on the floor with their neck ties tied around their head like headbands. Sort of a lord of the flies vibe. Those kids are probably all running hedge funds now.

Last edited 27 days ago by Hugh Crawford
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