There are stretch limousines, and there are stretch limousines that stop you in your tracks and leave you questioning the nature of good sense. “Wait… was that a Toronado?” Sure was. The Oldsmobile-based American Quality Coach Jetway 707—appropriately named, considering it is almost as large as a Boeing 707—turned things up a notch (or 10) when it came to chauffeured transportation.
Exaggerations aside, the over-the-top, 28-foot-long Jetway 707 airport limo was a jaw dropper then, and it’s a jaw dropper now.
“I love these things. They’re so outrageous,” says Dave Kinney, longtime collector and publisher of the Hagerty Price Guide. “They really stood out. There was another door, and another door, and another door—they just never stopped.”
Built from 1968–70 utilizing lengthened 1968 Oldsmobile Toronado chassis, the Jetway 707 rides on a 185-inch wheelbase (stretched from the Toronado’s 119-inch WB), has eight doors, seats 12–15 people, and was the first stretch limousine known to feature twin rear axles. Jetway also have a raised roof with integral skylights (think Vista Cruiser) and an enclosed cargo area with a hinged door. AQC claimed the limo had 100 square feet of storage space, but Kinney remembers it wasn’t enough in practice.
“There wasn’t a lot of space for luggage, which isn’t great for an airport limo, but they were perfect for a basketball team or a band or something like that—which is actually how a lot of them were used later on,” Kinney says. “The Partridge Family missed out.”
According to coachbuilt.com, soon after the Toronado’s 1966 introduction, coachbuilder Cotner-Bevington planned a line of custom hearses, ambulances, and limousines based on the Toronado’s front-wheel-drive chassis. But Divco-Wayne Corp., the parent company of Cotner-Bevington and also Miller-Meteor, which built premium Cadillac professional cars, nixed the idea of a coach based on the flashy Toronado. So Waldo J. Cotner and Robert Bevington sold their stock in the company and formed their own independent firm to manufacture the Toronado coaches. The first vehicle produced by the Arkansas-based American Quality Coach Company was the Jetway 707.
Cotner and Bevington obviously had a problem with calling it a stretch limo, even though that’s exactly what it was. “Not a ‘stretchout,’ but a jig-built, carefully crafted coach… the only coach specifically designed for this many passengers in individual, foam-upholstered, bucket seats,” AQC’s brochure explained. “Featuring an easy-in, easy-out, flat floor… front-wheel drive… tandem rear axles… extra headroom… 100-cubic-foot fully enclosed baggage space. Exterior colors to match your fleet, your choice of interiors with coordinated carpeting.”
As luxurious as the 707 may have sounded, it simply didn’t sell. AQC stopped production after completing only 52. One source estimates that the number was more like 150. Whatever the number, there are not a lot of them left.
“From what I remember they had rust problems, plus the build quality wasn’t great,” Kinney says. “But they weren’t meant to last 30 years.”
On the positive side, Toronados—and, in turn, Jetways—have plenty of power. Each was equipped with a 455-cubic-inch, 375-horsepower Rocket V-8, which Kinney points out is the same engine used in GMC motorhomes in the 1970s. And then there’s that unmistakable styling.
“When I was a kid in Arlington, Virginia, a place down the street from where I worked owned six of them, and they’d stop traffic even then,” Kinney remembers. “I rode in one once in about 1975, and it was disappointing because it was old and rattled and wasn’t in the greatest shape at that point. But I still love them. Always have.”
Hagerty reader Walter Trealout got our wheels turning when he emailed grainy photos of a white Jetway 707 that he spotted near Belle River, Ontario, about 21 miles east of Detroit. Kinney estimates that a Jetway 707 limo in #2 (Excellent) or #3 (Good) might be worth as much as $25,000–$35,000. He says a fully restored example could go for “two or three times that of a standard Toronado,” which has an average #1 (Concours) value of $34,400. “The question is, who is going to spend the $150,000 it would take to restore one?”
We discovered just a small sampling of sales, all coming in 2015. Barnfinds.com wrote about a rundown Jetway 707 listed for $3000 on eBay, and the same story mentioned a Jetway listed for $20,000 on Canada’s Kijiji classified site. This 707 sold for $7000 several years ago—“probably a big mistake,” the seller admitted in the comments section.
As obscure as the AQC Jetway 707 is, one found its way onto the big screen in 1976, making a cameo appearance in the political thriller All the President’s Men. A black 707 can be seen in the background as Dustin Hoffman (who plays Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein) uses a pay phone to speak to a confidential source.
Sticking to party politics, this limo gets Kinney’s vote. “If I had a garage that was big enough, I’d love to own a Jetway,” he says. “It was the party bus before there was a party bus.”