Answered By: Archives & Library Staff @The Henry Ford Last Updated: Feb 29, 2016 Views: 79
President John F. Kennedy was riding in the 1961 Lincoln Continental Presidential Limousine when he was shot in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. However, the vehicle looks far different now than it did that day. After the assassination, the midnight-blue, un-armored, open convertible was radically changed. A permanent roof, bullet-proof glass, and extensive armor-plating made the car much more secure. Wearing sedate black paint in place of the distinctive blue, the car served Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon as front line transportation and remained in the White House fleet as a backup through 1977.
Prior to the arrival of the limousine at The Henry Ford and after the assassination of President Kennedy, modifications were made to the vehicle. That is why the automobile we see today does not look like the one seen in photographs with the President. Below are some details about these modifications. You can also find more information on the automobile by visiting our website at: http://www.thehenryford.org/research/kennedyLimo.aspx or watching the History of the kennedy Limousine video at: http://collections.thehenryford.org/Collection.aspx?objectKey=380699
A committee was formed (originally comprised of thirty people) of six people representing the Secret Service, Army Materials Research Center, Hess & Eisenhardt and Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company. The White House approved a plan for a revamp of the X-100 around December 12, 1963. Work was completed May 1, 1964 and extensive testing was performed in Cincinnati, Ohio and Dearborn, Michigan before the car was delivered to the White House in June. Costs have been estimated to exceed $500,000 and were shared by Ford Motor Company, some Ford suppliers and the federal government.
Basic elements of the revamp included:
- Complete re-armoring of rear passenger compartment
- Addition of permanent non-removable top ('greenhouse') to accommodate transparent armor
- Replacement of engine with hand-built, high compression unit, providing approximately 17 percent more power
- Addition of second air conditioning unit in trunk
- Addition of certain electronic communication devices
- Reinforcement of some mechanical and structural components, e.g. front wheel spindles and door hinges, to accommodate additional weight
- Complete re-trimming of rear compartment, eliminating damage resulting from the assassination
- New paint treatment, "regal Presidential Blue Metallic with silver metallic flakes that glitter under bright lights and sunshine" (May 1,1964 report by Willard C. Hess of Hess & Eisenhardt)
We hope this information is helpful to you and thank you again for your inquiry.
- My father was the manager of the Lincoln T-bird Development Department at the time Kennedy was assassinated. The White House contacted Ford Motor Company and requested a team to convert the limousine to a bullet proof hardtop. My father, John R. Elwell, Sr., was selected to form a team, do the design work and manage the reconstruction in Washington, DC. He was on the White house lawn when the finished product was presented to President Johnson who grinned broadly upon seeing the vehicle. I have a photograph of my father at a garage in Washington, DC standing next to the vehicle. I'm disappointed his name is never mentioned. I have other anecdotal stories about the reconstruction.
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Benson Ford Research Center
The Henry Ford
P.O. Box 1970
Dearborn, Michigan, USA 48121-1970