Steamboat Springs Tim O'Brien is so passionate about cars that he went out and purchased one of the biggest he could find. Now, he's putting his 1999 Chevy Suburban stretched limo to work for his new company, Black Diamond Limo. He's available to ferry passengers in style to and from the airport, and to all of the nicest spots in town.
O'Brien's new car is so long that if Broncos running back Clinton Portis sprinted from the front bumper to the tailpipe, he would be given credit for a first down. Make that 39 feet long.
"I've always loved cars and this was the ultimate vehicle to me," O'Brien said.
O'Brien hired professional driver Jeff Carrell to get behind the wheel of one of his limos. The two men will make a big impression on their clients, decked out in "Texas tuxedos" topped off with black cowboy hats.
O'Brien has been in the car business before. He previously owned an auto glass business and a body repair shop. His newest venture is easily the most fun. In addition to the stretched Suburban, O'Brien acquired a 2001 stretched Lincoln Town Car.
The smaller limo holds six people in grand style, but it's ideal for two couples, O'Brien said. The white limo last saw duty in Beverly Hills, which might explain the Waterford crystal decanters and cocktail glasses that are among the appointments in the bar. The Lincoln is also equipped with a television and Playstation to fend off boredom among the passengers.
"This is more the traditional limo," O'Brien said. "Limos are defined by three items. They have a fixed TV, a phone and a beverage bar."
Another significant difference between limos and taxis comes in the form of O'Brien's license from the Public Utilities Commission. It forbids him from driving to Yampa Valley Regional Airport and getting in queue with the taxis prospecting for fares. All of O'Brien's fares must be pre-arranged. He has joined Steamboat Central Reservations so that arriving vacationers can make their limo arrangements in advance.
O'Brien says he is sensitive to the impression limos will make in unpretentious Steamboat. That's why he chose predominantly white cars black limos look more sinister, he feels.
Although the cars are white, O'Brien couldn't resist using the name Black Diamond for his company, an obvious reference to top-of-the-line ski slopes.
During his first winter of operation, O'Brien has chosen to make his limos very affordable for airport runs, $45 a head roundtrip, which is comparable to a taxi fare. The stretched Suburban (which sold for $90,000 when it was new) can be hired for $75 an hour, with a two-hour minimum.
The big Suburban's last tour of duty was in Washington, D.C., raising the possibility that it formerly transported foreign diplomats to White House receptions. O'Brien said he'd be happy if, in its new life, it transported local families to weddings and special evenings on the town.
The big car is made more special by a mirrored ceiling that glows at night with embedded pinpoints of light that suggest constellations of stars. During the daytime, O'Brien likes to keep a Steamboat video running to heighten new arrivals' sense of anticipation.
O'Brien is hopeful a portion of his business will be generated by Steamboat hosts and hostesses who want to bring their guests to their homes for special parties. The availability of a limo to run back and forth between a party and the homes of guests eliminates worries for everyone, O'Brien pointed out. And the stunning limos set the stage for a big night out.
Black Diamond Limousines can be reached at 846-2639.