When the first stretch limos arrived way before the Second World War, they were designed and built to carry the wealthy as well as heads of state. Built in tiny numbers, few ever got to experience the inside of these tastefully luxurious vehicles.
How times have changed; now the streets are lined with pink stretched Hummers and 60-foot long pearlescent white Lincoln Town Cars, available to rent by the hour. Taste has gone out of the window, replaced by ostentatiousness.
However, while tacky and tasteless stretch limos are now all too common, there are plenty of more interesting ones cobbled together in garden sheds and back-street workshops. Here we share some of the most bizarre from the wonderful world of the web, with a few extras thrown in for good measure from the archives of Magic Car Pics.
If there's a style of car that's completely unsuited to conversion to a stretch limo, it's the supercar, so what possessed somebody to come up with this confection is beyond us. Thankfully it's not based on a real Ferrari, but it's still unforgivable.
If a lot of you need to get somewhere in a hurry, this stretched Ferrari might just be the answer. Unlike the F40 in the previous picture, this limo was based on the real deal; it's hard to imagine that it was done with the blessing of anybody at Maranello.
Creating a luxury limousine from just about any car would be an absolute breeze compared with trying to come up with anything remotely opulent when you've got nothing more than a Citroën 2CV to work with. Six or eight people on 602cc? No thanks!
The first of several Eastern European delights here, this is something really special. As if painting the car fluorescent yellow and incorporating some of the most bizarre window shapes ever wasn't enough, this Trabant owner has stretched his motor and given it a third axle. Nice.
We don't know who the bloke is, but we suspect he's just sunk a pot of cash into this stretched Riva, with a view to watching the dough roll in via a queue of people desperate to hire his overblown Rusky. The pic is 20 years old; does the car survive?
Messing about with VWs is a disease from which many people seem to suffer, as you can see from this tranche of Vee-Dub specials. Kicking things off is a nicely done early camper, which didn't start out as a 23-window edition, but it seems to have become one. Almost.
For when 23 windows aren't enough, there's always the option of adding a few more by doubling the length of your Camper. And while you're at it, why not graft what appears to be the top of a boat onto the roof, for good measure? Practicality with taste...
While this Golf mk 1 is rather longer than when it left the factory, it doesn't look that much longer. Well, not enough to fit in an extra pair of doors on each side, anyway. One assumes there are four bench seats in there too - which must make it extreeeemely cramped.
Our last Volkswagen and perhaps the barmiest of the lot. While car makers would have you believe the crossover is something new, this shot shows that way back in the 1960s (we think) there was demand for a vehicle that combined the best that the car/bus/convertible/limousine could offer. Or was that the worst?
It's hard to see why Mercedes' special vehicle engineering division didn't build more of these beautifully finished stretch drop-tops. Extensive research suggests that there was just the one taker, who went for the five axles and heart-shaped Jacuzzi on the options list.
You'll have seen this one before; it's the giant Panda created by Clarkson back in 2007. One of three cars created for one of the crazy challenges that are the staple diet of Top Gear, Clarkson's Panda was used to transport Chris Moyles around London - until it broke in half.
If Clarkson's Panda was just that little bit crazy, it was nothing compared with Hammond's MGF which sported the sort of rear wing that would have teenage drivers in Romford wetting themselves with excitement. His passenger was Jamelia, who is still receiving counselling after the experience.
And to round off the Top Gear trio is May's cut-and-shut that took the Alfa 166 V6 and mated it with a V6-engined Saab 9000. One assumes he misunderstood the rules, or maybe elegance was never a requirement. Either way, Lemar was none too impressed as he did a tour of some of London's low spots.
More of a promotional vehicle than a limousine, the Carbonyte Smaaart Fortwo is still worth a look as it's the world's longest Smart. We think. Stretched by nearly nine feet to create a car that's 17 feet long, the Smaaart retained its original 600cc engine yet could still manage 80mph. Impressive, but scary too.
Another Maranello marvel with this extra-long 412, built by Robert Jankel's Le Marquis operation in the 1980s. A Ferrari saloon sounds wrong, but this actually works rather well - even down to the two-tone paint scheme.
Neo-classics were all the rage in the US in the 1980s and into the 1990s, with marques like Clenet and Zimmer flourishing briefly. We're not sure what this one is, but whatever it is, it looks pretty nasty. Still, it's probably marginally classier than an XXL pink Hummer.
The stately Range Rover provides the ideal basis for a limousine conversion, but that doesn't mean you can't go wrong; this eighties abomination by Townley proves it. A raised roof line, extra axle, lengthened wheelbase and a full-length sunroof mark this out as a mobile hunting platform - and it looks hideous.
From the sublime to the ridiculous; a Mini that's anything but small. Called the XXL, this confection was no less than six metres long and packed a Jacuzzi, the weight of which was supported by a third axle. It was built for MINI and made its debut back in 2004.
A rather poor effort we think; this Mini features just the two axles and doesn't appear to be fitted with a Jacuzzi - what sort of a stretch limo is that? Still, the chap standing next to it looks pretty pleased with himself; he's probably just squandered his life savings creating it.
Built by Ultra Limousines, the California Countach was a glassfibre replica that was 5,710mm long - around 1,500mm longer than standard. Build quality was dire while power (if that's the right word) was supplied by a 2.8-litre Ford Taurus V6.
Formula One car
Michael Pettipas spent two years creating his road-legal Formula One limousine. The seven-seater can sprint from 0-60mph in just five seconds and hit a top speed of 140mph; very handy for those hen nights in Birmingham on a wet weekend in February.
No round-up of the world's craziest stretch limos would be complete without this one - the record holder for the longest limo ever made. Featuring 26 wheels, a Jacuzzi, a swimming pool, a heli pad and a length of over 100 feet (30 metres), this is one car you wouldn't want to have to wash too often.
Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit
Rolls-Royce prides itself on being able to offer whatever you want, but we suspect Crewe didn't have much to do with the very tasteful modifications made to this Silver Spirit. Used for the 2004 wedding of the Crown Prince of Brunei, we'd love to know what the resale value of this Roller would be.
Armoured personnel carrier
Limousines tend to be fairly conspicuous, but this must rate as one of the most visible ever. It'll be slow and noisy too, so if you're a target you're not going to get away from the enemy very easily - although the full armour plating should help you stay alive.
You want tasteless? Tacky in the extreme? Then you've got it with this amazing tongue-in-cheek six-wheeled Capri built for promotional purposes. With its Roller grille, pink paintwork and twin front axles it's, er, eye-catching. But how do you get into the back?
Another car built for no other reason than to have a bit of a laugh, this ultra-long Triumph Herald was created by marque specialist Canley Classics. It gained them no shortage of column inches at the time, but sadly the car is now rotting away quietly somewhere in the midlands.