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A look back at JFK's limo

As America remembers its 35th president, John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated exactly 50 years ago on November 22nd, 1963, we at decided to take a look back at the limousine he was travelling in on that fateful day.

Based on a 1961 Continental 74A convertible, which originally retailed for $7,347, this Lincoln SS-100-X was modified by Ford Motor Company’s Advanced Vehicles Group along with Hess & Eisenhardt of Cincinnati, bringing its actual cost to more than $200,000.

The presidential limo came in a special midnight blue livery, and its wheelbase was stretched by 584 mm for a total of 3,962 mm. It included two radio telephones, flashing red lights and a siren, four retractable side steps for Secret Service agents, two steps on the rear bumper for additional agents, as well as a hydraulic rear seat that could be raised 10.5" to elevate the president.

Under the hood was a 430 cu. in. Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln (MEL) V8 engine rated at 350 hp. During the tragic events of November 1963, the car sported a new grille and ''sombrero''-style wheel covers like those of the 1957 Lincoln Premiere.

There were also steel and transparent plastic roof panels. However, since they often made for a suffocating interior on hot days, they could be removed. That gave Lee Harvey Oswald a direct shot at the president, who was fatally struck by two separate bullets.

After the assassination

You would think that the limo was immediately stored or put on display in a museum following the assassination of JFK, but actually, Hess & Eisenhardt of Cincinnati took it back and made significant changes, including a permanent, non-removable roof, bulletproof glass, titanium armour plating, and special wheels that prevented punctures. An advanced radio communication device that connected with the White House was also fitted.

Work was completed on May 1st, 1964, and the Lincoln SS-100-X went on to serve four other presidents (Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter), logging 80,000 km on the ground and over 1.5 million km being flown to and from its destinations.

It was retired to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. in 1978. Now sitting alongside four other presidential limos, the famous Lincoln is one of the biggest draws among visitors.

While it was used by five U.S. presidents, the Lincoln SS-100-X always remained the property of Ford, which leased it to the Secret Service for the nominal price of $500 per year.

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