‘I found the car ten years ago. It was rotting in New Jersey,’ says Mike Manning, who repaired the ride
CBC Radio · Posted: Mar 11, 2022 6:35 PM ET | Last Updated: March 14
There is only one car out there that you can take for a spin, then lounge in its swimming pool, land on its helipad and golf on its putting green — and it’s called the American Dream.
The newly restored vehicle, built out of six 1976 Cadillac Eldorado limos, is a showstopper with 26 wheels and space for up to 75 people. Last week, Guinness World Records declared it the longest car in the world.
The American Dream rose to fame in the late 1980s, when it was first assembled by Hollywood’s favourite car designer Jay Ohrberg. But the limo was so long that it soon became difficult to drive and park.
“I found the car about 10 years ago,” Mike Manning, president of the automotive teaching museum Autoseum, told As It Happens guest host Gillian Findlay. “It was rotting in New Jersey.”
That’s when he decided to buy the rusty and long forgotten car — and dreamt of the day he’d bring it back to its former glory.
Just a decade ago, the American Dream was covered in graffiti with flat tires and broken windows. (Submitted by Mike Manning)
A rough road to recovery
Just a decade ago, the American Dream was covered in graffiti with flat tires and broken windows.
“You’d look at it and say this is junk, just call it up and get rid of it,” Manning said. “But I always knew that it had some value. Not so much the money value, but just a history…. I knew it couldn’t be destroyed.”
He started to restore the Caddy with his students at the technical teaching museum, but ran out of money to support the project. Then the museum lost the lease on its space in Nassau County, N.Y.
Manning couldn’t find another place to store the American Dream, so he gave it up and listed it on eBay.
In 2019, a real estate developer with an enormous car collection bought it — and came up with a plan to pay Manning and his students to complete the restoration process in Orlando, Fla.
Michael Dezer owns the Dezerland Park Car Museum and Tourist Attractions, which is where the American Dream will soon be showcased.
Manning and his students had their work cut out for them. The windshield was broken, the dashboard deteriorated and every panel of the car’s exterior had to be reassembled and bent to the shape of the car, before they could even start on the interior. (Submitted by Mike Manning)
The new and improved American Dream
Manning and his students had to replace a lot of the limo with donor parts from Cadillac Eldorados because, over time, the car had become so badly destroyed.
The windshield was broken, the dashboard deteriorated and every panel of the car’s exterior had to be reassembled and bent to the shape of the car.
His team then redid the roof, all the glass, the interior, the tires and the brakes. Once the body was ready, they got the engine running, fixed the gas tank and lights.
“It was something that was impossible and I felt that I could do it,” Manning said. “People said I was crazy for even trying it, but … you see it and you just don’t want to let it go.’
“You kind of look back on things when you grew up; it’s nostalgia. And once they’re gone, they’re gone. So to be able to preserve something like that was very important.”
Manning went on to explain how the lengthy limo was never really built to be driven around, but as more of a showpiece.
Now that it’s fixed, though, he can confirm that it is ready to ride.
“We drive it basically in a straight line,” he said. “We can drive it, but we have to get it to [somewhere] like an airport … because you need a big turn radius.”
The American Dream actually broke its own record for longest car in the world.
In 1986, Guinness measured the newly built limo to be 18.28 metres (60 feet). The original designer later extended it to 30.5 metres (or 100 feet) long.
On March 1, Guinness recertified the renovated ride at a length of 30.54 metres, just under four centimetres longer than its first record.
Currently, there is a big spot in the Dezerland Park Car Museum waiting for the longest limo to park its wheels.
“I had a very small operation in New York City and people would come see it from all over the place,” Manning said. “I think people will come … it’s something definitely [to] see when you’re down there.”