I mentioned this last year, on the 49th anniversary of Kennedy’s death, but I wanted to bring it up again on this special occasion. My car fetish knows few bounds, even though it’s limited to most anything pre-1980. That includes the vehicle Kennedy was riding in that fateful day: a 1961 Lincoln Continental X-100. It was a 4-door convertible, and X-100 was its Secret Service code name.
Ford Motor Company assembled the car at its Lincoln plant in Wixom, Michigan in January 1961. Hess & Eisenhardt of Cincinnati, Ohio customized the vehicle to function as a presidential parade limousine; literally cutting it in half, reinforcing it, extending it 3½ feet in length and making numerous other modifications. Ford Motor Company and Hess & Eisenhardt collaborated on engineering and styling. It debuted at the White House in June 1961. The car remained the property of the Ford Motor Company, which leased it to the Secret Service for $500 per year.
The car, equipped at the Lincoln plant, would have retailed for $7,347. Custom built, it cost nearly $200,000.
Special features on the limousine included:
- Removable steel and transparent plastic roof panels
- Hydraulic rear seat that could be raised 10½ ” to elevate the president
- Massive heating and air conditioning system with auxiliary blowers and 2 control panels
- Dark blue broadcloth lap robes with gray plush lining and hand-embroidered presidential seals in special door pockets
- Four retractable steps for Secret Service agents
- Two steps on rear bumper for additional agents
- Flashing red lights, siren
- Blue Mouton rug in rear
- Indicator lights when door was ajar or steps out
- Two flagstaffs, two spotlights
- Auxiliary jump seats for extra passengers
- Two radio telephones
- Interior floodlights
I have a replica of this car by Yat Ming, which is part of its “Presidential Limousines” collection. Yes, it’s made in China, but I love it anyway. And, I know owning such a thing sounds macabre, yet the vehicle is an indelible, albeit tragic, part of our nation’s history.