Thursday, December 2, 2010
Lincoln has a long history of providing official state limousines for the U.S. President. The first car specially built for Presidential use was the 1939 Lincoln V12 convertible called the "Sunshine Special" used by Franklin D. Roosevelt. It remained in use until 1948.
A 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan called the "Bubble Top" was used by Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and once by Johnson. It was retired in 1965.
The Lincoln limousine made famous in Dallas was a 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible, custom built by Hess and Eisenhart of Cincinnati, and known as the SS-100-X. The Secret Service had the car fitted with a 1962 grill for aesthetic reasons. It was in use from 1961 to 1977, having undergone extensive alterations which made it an armor-plated sedan after Kennedy's assassination. A 1969 Lincoln was used by Nixon and a 1972 Lincoln used by Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush. A 1989 Lincoln was the last Presidential Lincoln as of 2004. Cadillac supplied Presidential limousines in 1983, 1993, 2001, and 2004.
The John F. Kennedy limousine also included a "Plexiglas" bubble top to be used in the event of inclement weather. The 1961 vehicle was notorious for its inadequate cooling of the rear of the passenger cabin while the bubble top was in place, particularly in sunshine. In order to prevent excessive heat and discomfort to the passengers, the top was often removed prior to parades, as was the case in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
Though it was always assumed that President Lyndon Baines Johnson had the car destroyed after the assassination of President Kennedy, the 100-X was turned over to the Secret Service, Army Materials Research Center, Hess and Eisenhart, Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, and Ford Motor Company for retrofitting of armor plating, permanent sedan roof, new interior, improved air-conditioning system, electronic communications equipment, bulletproof glass, a new paint treatment, as well as cosmetic alterations to remove damage incurred during the assassination, among other changes. The car is also on display at the Henry Ford Museum.
The Johnson Administration also used three 1965 Lincoln Continental Executive Limousines. Two limousines for the President and one for Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, as well as a 1968 "stretch" Lincoln to be used in Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas. This vehicle is on display at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum.
The 100-X was modified again in 1967. Later, under President Richard Nixon, the large one-piece glass roof was replaced with a smaller glass area and a hinged roof panel. It remained in service until 1977 and resides in its final configuration at the Henry Ford Museum.
President Nixon ordered a 1969 model limousine, through Lehman-Peterson of Chicago. This vehicle also had an added sunroof so that Nixon could stand upright when appearing before parade-goers if desired. This vehicle was equipped with several features, such as retractable hand grips and running boards, options later copied by Hess and Eisenhart. This car is now located at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California.
In 1974, Ford supplied a 1972 Continental model which was stretched to 22 feet (7 m), outfitted with armor plating, bullet resistant glass and powered by a 460 cu in (7.5 L) V8 engine. This limousine was used by Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, and is on display at the Henry Ford Museum. This model was also altered a number of times during its history, including a full body redesign in 1979. This was the limousine that Reagan was about to enter during his assassination attempt in 1981.