It’s the most famous Lincoln Continental in the world, and for the worst of reasons. On 22nd November 1963, President John F Kennedy was shot and killed while riding in the back of this ’61 Lincoln in Dallas, Texas.
In the aftermath of shock that went around the world, you might presume that the car would quietly disappear, hidden forever in a secure warehouse or secretly crushed, watched over by men in black to ensure that curious workers didn’t try and salvage a piece.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, the stretched Lincoln was indeed spirited away by the Secret Service – but to be modified, fitted with a permanent steel roof (after Kennedy’s assassination, no US President would ride in a convertible again), with bulletproof glass. It would go back into the White House motor pool and be used for another thirteen years. Among those who rode in the car in which Kennedy died were Lyndon B Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.
Why? Sadly, it seems to come down to cold hard cash. Although Ford leased the Lincoln to the government for a paltry $500, the work required to turn the stock convertible into a coach built Presidential vehicle, 41 inches longer than stock, did not come cheap. To replace the car would have cost $1.5 million in modern terms. Instead, just five months after JFK’s death, the Lincoln Continental was returned to active service, where it remained until 1977.
Not only was the automobile retro-fitted, while it was being enhanced with more security features, the backseat upholstery was being carefully cut into sections as special gifts or tokens for Ford executives and others. Today, amongst collectors of Kennedy or Presidential materials, occasionally a hand-palm sized piece of the two-toned leather seatcover will be found. Those sections with the non-cleaned / dark, rusty brown colors smudging the light blue or dark blue leather, (now, 50 year old blood and body tissue splatters) are more valuable and desireable.
Like the bloody pillow from the Peterson Boarding house’s rented bed (held in a Chicago museum) or the corner of the bloody bedsheet (that was preserved for over a century only to be greedily chopped into pieces smaller than a postage stamp within the last decade and sold to hundreds of Lincoln fans) or even the purported burial cloth of Christ, (housed in a secure location in Italy), many people want a relique – it is just a matter of taste, money, reverence, freakish ideas and history.
Thank you so much for that extra information – I can’t say that I am surprised, human nature always veers towards the macabre.
In September of 1964,I was 7 yrs old.I witnessed President Lyndon B. Johnson in a motorcade in Providence RI,standing with arms outreached and waving to the crowds that lined both sides of Waterman Ave..I believe it was the same Lincoln Continental that was in Dallas.
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So I’m sure that someone out there knows where it is now.
Ah, it’s right where I took the modern photos – in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
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