Long Ride

Finally, the ultimate sport utility vehicle, the kind of ride that says, "I'm from Scottsdale."

The Humvee limo.
Thirty-five feet of sleek seats of black leather, glowing neon strips and an overhead array of pinhole stars in a body that looks like a troop carrier.

Two bars, one at each end, stacked with crystal goblets and linen napkins. And two TV sets, too. A rotating satellite dish will soon be added to the roof. Passengers are pleading for a hot tub above the rear axle.

"I've always loved Hummers," says Frank Sarram, owner of Starlite Limou-sines.

A recent ASU grad with a degree in psychology, Sarram drove a limo to put himself through college. When his psychology career didn't take off as quickly as he wanted, he opened his own limo company about a year ago.

He's hoping the stretch Humvee will set his business apart from all the other limo services.

He bought the original vehicle for about $85,000 and took it to a California coachmaker to be "stretched."

"Very expensive," Sarram repeats when he's asked what it cost. Now, he boasts, it's the largest Humvee on Earth.

It's actually the second Humvee to be transformed into a Hummer for hire. Sarram's coachmaker had already stretched a Humvee for a San Francisco limo company. But that one is several feet shorter, and carries only 10 passengers. Sarram's can haul up to 16 people.

Which is good, considering the cost. Two hundred bucks an hour, three-hour minimum. But split among 15 of your closest friends? Hmmm. Maybe.

Sarram has eight other limos in his fleet, including Mercedes-Benzes and Lincoln Town Cars. Until now, the biggest was a 10-passenger stretch limo that hired out at $65 an hour.

Sarram drove the new limo over from San Diego a couple weeks ago. He got stopped by a puzzled California Highway Patrol officer, who called nearby colleagues on the radio to cruise over for a look before Sarram took off.

The limo has been turning heads in the Valley, too. Sarram and his manager, Jerry Goraj, say they've spent the past week or so introducing the car around by taking their best clients out gratis. Goraj says he passed out 1,500 business cards when he took it to the recent Rod Stewart concert at Desert Sky Pavilion.

This week, it's on display at the downtown Civic Plaza at the Arizona Industrial Exposition; the show's sponsors needed something big to fill a hole when another exhibitor canceled at the last minute, and they saw the Humvee and tracked it down.

Even though it would seem like this Humvee has it all, some customers want even more. Sarram says he's considering the hot tub--it might fit in if he raises the roof a bit--but all in all he thinks it's a bad idea. All that water is too heavy to carry around, for one thing. And what if someone got drunk (not in a limo!) and fell in?

Sarram and Goraj say clients also have been asking to take the Humvee where all good Humvees go: four-wheelin'. Those requests have not been fulfilled. It's hard enough to drive the superlong vehicle on a straight, paved road, they say.

Besides, they don't want to scratch the paint.
"This car is my toy," says Sarram. "I'm proud of it."

Contact Patti Epler at her online address: [email protected]