November

John F. Kennedy Presidential Limousine

Object: John F. Kennedy Presidential Limousine

Manufacturer: Ford Motor Company and Hess & Eisenhardt Company

Place: Dearborn, Michigan and Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Date of Creation: 1961

The Henry Ford, Dearborn, Michigan, USA

EMu user since 2010

John F. Kennedy Presidential LimousineThis is the car in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Kennedy’s death marked a pivotal moment in American history. In that instant, the relative calm of the post-World War II years was shattered and “The Sixties” as we understand them – civil rights legislation, the Vietnam War, the counterculture – began.

The car, code named X-100, began life as a stock four-door 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible. Hess & Eisenhardt modified it for presidential use by extending its length, adding foot stands for Secret Service agents, and creating removable roof panels. The modern limousine perfectly complemented the forward-looking young president who promised to lead his country into a “New Frontier.”

After the assassination, officials examined the car and removed any potential evidence, and then ordered that it be rebuilt and returned to duty. Surprising as it seems, the decision was practical. New president Lyndon Johnson needed a vehicle, and modifying the X-100 was faster than building an entirely new limousine.

John F. Kennedy Presidential LimousineThe $500,000 project produced a true armored car. Titanium steel plating reinforced the doors, body panels and floor. Bullet-resistant glass filled the windows. Filters on the heating and cooling systems protected from poison gas. The now-permanent roof, with large bulletproof windows, provided a reasonable compromise between safety and visibility. The updated vehicle served Presidents Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, and then returned to Ford Motor Company at the end of its lease.

Ford Motor Company donated the car to The Henry Ford in 1978, where it is exhibited today. Fifty years after Kennedy’s assassination, the limousine remains a powerful link to one of history’s most dramatic turning points.

Acknowledgements

Exterior Image: From the collections of The Henry Ford (THF91101) Photographer: Mark Harmer

Interior Image: From the collections of The Henry Ford (THF91094) Photographer: Mark Harmer