When it comes to limousines, Phil Smith has worked around some of the more famous ones.
That would be the limousines used to transport the president of the United States. Smith, owner of Classic Caddy’s Limo Service, is a former U.S. Secret Service agent who spent his early career assigned to former President Reagan’s security detail at Rancho del Cielo, near Santa Barbara, Calif.
“I would go down there with other agents, and we would work the ranch,” said Smith, who was based in San Francisco at the time. “We’d ride horses, cut wood and do a lot of different things.”
As for the limos, “We armored them, and that’s what we used for the president.”
But that’s not what got him interested in starting a limo service featuring vintage Cadillacs.
“All along I’ve just been an old car buff anyway,” he said.
He said most limo services offer stretch or Hummer limos and he thought, “Why not go old school?”
His collection of vehicles includes a 1966 Marlin blue Cadillac limo, and black 1967 and 1973 Cadillac limos.
“The Cadillacs back then, there was no doubt it was a Cadillac,” he said.
They featured big engines, fender skirts and little touches like separate air conditioning and radio controls for the rear of the vehicle. The driver sat on leather while the passenger seats were a broadcloth stretched over “incredibly comfortable” seats, Smith said.
The ’66 limo sold for $10,200 new, “pretty expensive if you think of what dollars were in 1966,” Smith said.
According to Smith, most limos made before the 1980s were factory-issued vehicles that held up to nine people. The limos are about 22 feet long, compared to stretch limos up to five times as long. Stretch limos are modified by cutting and adding panels after the cars come from the factory.
Cadillac eventually cornered the market on limos as other makers dropped out, but produced its last factory limos in 1987, Smith said. He spent about a year assembling his collection, driving one back from Ohio, another from Alabama, and having third shipped from Maine.
Smith said the limos had fairly low mileage and are good mechanically. He said limos of that era require a lot of maintenance, something he’s happy to provide. He and his wife, Dee Ann, who’s a teacher, also own D&P Sales in Goddard, which sells used vehicles and operates a service center.
Smith spent 20 years with the Secret Service, transferring to Oklahoma City to replace agents killed in the 1995 terrorist bombing, then coming to Wichita as head of the Kansas office. He also worked for the Department of Homeland Security before retiring and starting his car-oriented businesses.
He opened Classic Caddy’s in March, just in time for the high school prom season. Some of his first clients were seven high school students from Clearwater.
“They decided it would be really cool to take the ’66,” he said. “They got quite a bit of attention, so they all liked it.”
Inside the car, the prom goers were excited to find a glass divider between the front and back sections.
“They ran it up and down so many times, I had to do a repair on it.”