The go-go '80s are over, and so are the days of enormous stretch limos. When it comes to chauffeured transportation in the '90s, conservative luxury sedans are the new status symbol.

So says Chris Hundley, president of the Limousine Connection, who has guided his company through the recession by adjusting to changing trends in the industry. That meant retiring most of the company's stretch limos in favor of sedans, such as the Lincoln Town Car, that attract less attention from both the public and corporate controllers alike.

"The switch over to Town Cars over limousines was due to image, not cost," Hundley said. "It simply wasn't acceptable for a CEO of a Fortune 500 company to pull up to the office in a stretch white limousine, but they still needed the transportation."

As a result, about half of the Limousine Connection's fleet now consists of Mercedes sedans or Lincoln Town Cars. These cars are bulletproof and fully stocked with amenities, "but no hot tubs," Hundley joked.

Claiming to be the oldest L.A. limousine service under the same management, Hundley founded North Hollywood-based Limousine Connection in 1978 with his father as business partner. Hundley was only 19, but as a child actor with an entrepreneurial bent, he had the capital to start his own company. A lifelong love of cars pushed him into the business.

The company started with one used limousine that Hundley and his father took turns driving. The company's fleet now hovers at 20 cars, which serve around 65 clients a day, seven days a week.

The company rode high through the high-money, high-power '80s. The 1984 Olympics in L.A. provided a major boost when Limousine Connection won the contract with ABC to shuttle around the network's executives.

"We had huge business, political and entertainment figures flooding the city for the Olympics, and they all needed limousines," he said. "Of course, it also attracted everyone and his brother into the limousine business, because they thought they could make a killing."

When the Kevin Costner movie "No Way Out," hit the theaters in 1987, Hundley was inundated with calls from people wanting to reenact a sex scene from the film that took place in the back of a limo.

He drove hard-rock band Motley Cr & #252;e to the Grammy Awards. He said the group had been pretty well trained on limo etiquette before they got to his company, and they behaved themselves in his cars. More or less.


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