“Once you do stand-up, you don’t want to go back.”
No, we’re not talking about comedy, but rather an emerging trend in luxury transport that’s bringing us ever taller, more capacious, more pimpdillyicious limousines. The quote came from a Ford designer, Tim Stoehr, predicting an increase in interest in limos based on big vans like the new Transit. Of course, these are nothing new; up-fitters have taken quite kindly to the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, and apparently Ford is chomping at the bit to get in on the action, too. So Ford enlisted the help of the largest Ford dealer in the world, Galpin Auto Sports in Van Nuys, Calif., to help design and build its first super-lux Transit concept, dubbed the Skyliner.
Unlike the glitzy behemoths seen pulling drunk coeds from bar to bar on Hollywood Boulevard on any given Saturday night, there’s not much special happening on the outside of the Skyliner Concept—no windshield header, side airbrushed romance novel graphics, no billet grille insert, no LED-lit ground effects—more or less, it’s just a Transit with a few gloss black accessories, two-tone silver paint, and some sweet, custom-designed 20-inch wheels.
Nothing on the outside quite prepares you, then, for what you encounter once you open the passenger sliding door and walk inside: hardwood floors, white padded leather walls, and a white lacquer floor-to-ceiling bar (of course) that could be perfectly at home on a Virgin American 757. Four VIPs can sit in a quartet of Galpin-designed Klingon thrones can arranged around a motorized folding table, conference style, or which can face forward to catch a movie or DirecTV. From a comfort standpoint, we’re not sure we’d want to be in those seats for a shotgun trip from L.A. to San Francisco — the cushions are too long and only the fronts feature motorized legrests — but as far as custom fabricated seats in a concept car go, they’re pretty cool. Entertainment is provided by a projector-style display with drop-down 52-inch screen and audio supplied by a Focal Utopia surround sound system with more hard drive storage than the Cray supercomputer. A trio of iPad Minis, one mounted between the third-row seats and two docked to the pillars for second row occupants, control all said goodies, as well as the motorized window shades and LED mood lighting.
The driver is perched on his or her own up front, in a (more comfortable) conventional bucket seat, surrounded by a white lacquer cowling that swoops around from the back of the bar into the space where a passenger seat might be on lesser Transits. There is no privacy divider, but we’re sure that, for a price, one could be fabricated. The dashboard appears pretty stock except for its padded, contrast-stitched leather wrap with that we’re certain will never see duty on workaday Transit vans. At his command is the Transit’s most powerful gas mill, a 3.5-liter turbocharged V-6 with 365 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy, well, doesn’t freakin’ matter.
Chances for in-house production are nil, though according to Ford spokesman Mike Levine, “There is an opportunity in the full-size van segment for an ultra luxury vehicle that doesn’t exist today in the Ford lineup. So this is just a concept to highlight what could be done.” While it’s a concept that will never make it to the production line, it will make it to at least one auto show, the 2014 New York Auto Show this month.
If a stealth luxury chariot with a Ford badge and 81.5 inches of head clearance is the one thing that’s missing from your car collection, we’re quite sure that Galpin Auto Sports, which has been building custom vans since their heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, would be happy to whip something up to fill the void. How much, you ask? Well, no one at Ford or Galpin would venture a guess, but with Sprinter vans similar to this regularly commanding from a quarter million bucks up to $500,000, it certainly wouldn’t be cheap. And for that kind of dough, we might at least want a bubble window or two.