SO, THE President’s coming to town, and we’ve had a few nut-bars suggesting they might want to kill him while he’s here in good ol’ gun-lovin’ Texas, so what kind of car should we use to parade him through the streets of Dallas? Armoured maybe? Nah, let’s go with a convertible.
We’re all familiar with what happened next that notorious day in 1963, but what you might not know is that the special stretched blue Lincoln Continental convertible was put straight back into service, once they’d cleaned the brains out, and served another 13 years in the Presidential motorcade.
And just in case you think that Americans are simple, we’ll have you know that they painted it black, so no one would notice, and upgraded it with bulletproof armour before giving it to Lyndon B Johnson to drive around in (apparently he never felt very comfortable in it). It carried every President after that, up to Gerald Ford (1974-77).
The reason they kept in active service what has become an iconic piece of American history – and is now on show at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit – was entirely pragmatic. It would have taken too much time, and money, to get a new one.
The car codenamed X-100 by the Secret Service was fitted with all kinds of then-exciting equipment, including a radio telephone, and the rear seat could be raised by hydraulics. The total cost was about $US200,000 – quite a bit more than the $US7300 asking price for the standard car at the time – and that works out at around $US1.5 million (about $A2m) in today’s dollars, according to The Henry Ford.
Surely it wouldn’t have cost that much more to get one with a roof?
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
After the car was armoured – tragically after the horse had bolted – the total replacement value grew to about $500,000, or $US3.8m today. It is, of course, priceless now.
The car’s original windshield, complete with bullet holes, is still held in the National Archives in Washington. And we still don’t really know whodunnit.