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Luxury Limousines

Royalty, heads of state, captains of industry, and other VIPs were well served by the most luxurious saloons of the 1960s. As was standard in the US car industry, updated versions of American limousines appeared annually. In Europe, however, cars of this class endured for many years almost unchanged. Mercedes-Benz, Rolls-Royce, and Jaguar/Daimler all made super-luxury limos that survived from the 1960s to the 1980s or 1990s. The hand-crafted wood and leather interiors of these cars assured a comfort and class that was fit for royalty: Queen Elizabeth II always preferred cloth seating for her state limousines.

Lincoln Continental, 1961


Engine7,046 cc, V8
Top speed115 mph (185 km/h)

The Lincoln was one of the most influential and best-built American cars of the 1960s. Not only did it carry a two-year, 24,000-mile (39,000-km) warranty, but also every engine was bench-tested and each car given a 200-category shakedown. President John F. Kennedy was shot in a ’61 Lincoln Continental.

Suicide doors

Rear-hinged “suicide” doors were adopted to provide better access to the rear seats. They also gave the Continental an air of classic luxury. Both saloons and convertibles had four doors.

1960s splendour

The Continental’s interior was all about opulence and absence of effort. The thin-rimmed steering wheel was power assisted, as were the brakes, while the mirrors had remote adjustment and the transmission was, of course, automatic. Chrome and aluminum trim together with walnut veneers (on some cars) completed a look of elegant sophistication and glamour.

Roof mechanism

Convertible Continentals had a complex electrohydraulic system to raise and lower the roof. The rear deck lid was hinged at the back, and opened up to allow the roof to fold down underneath before closing again.

GAZ Chaika, 1959


Engine5,522 cc, V8
Top speed99 mph (160 km/h)

A Russian-built copy of a 1955 Packard, the Chaika was built until 1981. The car was strictly for party officials, academics, scientists, and other VIPs in the 1960s who were approved by the Soviet government, and was used by Fidel Castro, Nikita Khrushchev, and the KGB.

Bentley S3 Continental, 1962


Engine6,230 cc, V8
Top speed113 mph (182 km/h)

The stately Bentley S3 sired the coach-built Continental, most of them bodied by H.J. Mulliner in aluminum and with sportier lines. Lighter, and with more power, these cars were quicker than the steel-bodied saloons. The four-door version was known as the Flying Spur.

Mercedes-Benz 600, 1963

Engine6,332 cc, V8
Top speed130 mph (209 km/h)

From 1963 until as recently as 1981, Mercedes offered this large saloon for VIPs to travel in. The cabin was insulated and the car reached speeds of up to 120 mph (193 km/h). A long-wheelbase version with six doors was available, but only 2,677 Mercedes 600s were built.

Cadillac Calais, 1965


Engine7,030 cc, V8
Top speed120 mph (193 km/h)

Every Cadillac was a luxury car; this model featured curved side windows, remote-controlled exterior mirrors, power brakes and steering, and, of course, automatic transmission. The similar but even more lavishly equipped De Ville model added electric windows and electric seats, with air conditioning and leather trim as optional extras.


It is a quote. The Classic Car Book – The Definitive Visual History 2016

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