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High-stylin’

Seasonal limo service is ritzy, glitzy, and provides all the glam of Hollywood’s heyday.

John O’Neill and his wife “B” are ready to launch a seasonal limo service in their restored 1934 Packard Town Car limousine. TLC Restorations in Milton restored most of the car’s exterior and fine details, but O’Neill also found many original pieces online.

John O’Neill and his wife “B” are ready to launch a seasonal limo service in their restored 1934 Packard Town Car limousine. TLC Restorations in Milton restored most of the car’s exterior and fine details, but O’Neill also found many original pieces online.

Photograph by Shawn Harper

(page 1 of 2)

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Rarely can someone in Wisconsin get a taste of Hollywood in its heyday, but John O’Neill and his wife Mary Beth “B” Johnson are making it possible for those who can appreciate it.

After retiring years ago — Mary Beth was an occupational therapist with Verona Schools and John was a correctional officer at Oakhill Correctional Institute in Oregon — the fun-loving local couple is preparing to launch a new venture, The Ritz Limo.

This is no ordinary limo service.

O’Neill’s 1934 Packard Town Car limousine is the star and rightly so. It is, he explains, a model that was known to transport movie stars and millionaires. Comedic legend Charlie Chaplin reportedly owned one, as did actress Jeanette MacDonald. Now locals can take a spin, too.

But why now, when they could be enjoying retirement?

“The most honest answer,” O’Neill answers, “is that I think it will be fun. I had enough years at a job that wasn’t all that much fun, and I’ve had this idea in the back of my head for a long time. We’re very interested to see what the reaction will be.”

Gauging from the ogling the car received at a recent wedding show, it could be significant.

When O’Neill located this vehicle, it had been in a Minnesota barn for decades. Undeterred and still interested, he checked on the car’s title, which was printed on a 3-inch by 4-inch card signed over in 1941. The DMV found it to be free and clear.

Back home, O’Neill discovered that it was in worse shape than originally thought and would have to be completely rebuilt.

Six years later, the Packard — a “resto-mod,” or restored and modified in car lingo — has a new drive train, modern suspension, disc brakes, steel belted radials, and wire-spoke wheels. Conveniences such as air conditioning, backup cameras, and side-view mirrors were added, but all modern controls are hidden from view.

Because of its weight, the limo was fitted with a big engine that generates 550 horsepower. “More than my Corvette,” O’Neill laughs. “It’s probably faster than a lot of new cars.”

The enclosed passenger cabin accommodates two people, or two more if rear jump seats are removed. Passengers communicate directly with the chauffeur using a vintage wall-mount phone, or they can lower the privacy window with the flick of a switch.

(Continued)

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