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Historic Cars: President John F. Kennedy's 1961 Lincoln Continental Limousine ss-100-x
Published 10 months ago
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President John F. Kennedy's 1961 Lincoln Continental was originally a stock car, built in Wixom, Michigan, and retailing for $7,347 (equivalent to $63,628 in 2020). The federal government leased it from the Ford Motor Company for $500 (equivalent to $4,330 in 2020) annually, and then commissioned Hess and Eisenhardt to modify it for presidential use—with a pricetag of $200,000 (equivalent to $1,732,071 in 2020). The convertible was painted "Presidential Blue Metallic", with silver metal flakes embedded within it; it was given the Secret Service code names of SS-100-X and X-100.

The most sophisticated presidential state car yet built, the dark-blue car included a "heavy-duty heater and air conditioner, a pair of radiotelephones, a fire extinguisher, a first-aid kit, and a siren. The car was 3.5 feet (1.1 m) longer than Lincoln's because Hess and Eisenhardt had added a "middle row of forward-facing jump seats that folded away when not in use. The exterior featured improved, retractable standing platforms and handles for Secret Service agents, and flashing red lights recessed into the bumper. Unique to the X-100 were three sets of removable roofs (a standard soft top, a lightweight metal one, and a transparent plastic one) and a hydraulic lift that raised the rear cushion 10+1⁄2 inches (270 mm) off the floor. Both of these feature sets were designed to make the president more visible to the public, but they also increased the president's vulnerability (the assassination of John F. Kennedy)

After the assassination, the "Death Car" (as named by the Associated Press), was redesigned in an operation named "The Quick Fix". Hess and Eisenhardt, the Secret Service, the United States Army Materials and Mechanics Research Center, PPG Industries, and Ford engineers all collaborated to strip the limousine and improve everything. In an effort to prevent "ghoulish collectors" from obtaining the discarded car parts, they were destroyed. For an estimated cost of $500,000, the car was painted black and featured "improved telecommunications gear, a more powerful engine and flat-proof tires made of rubber-coated aluminum." The fuel tank was protected against explosion by a "porous foam matrix" that minimized spillage in the event of a puncture. The passenger compartment was protected by 1,600 pounds (730 kg) of armor, and the three removable roofs were replaced by a fixed glass enclosure that cost more than $125,000. The glass enclosure was made of 13 different pieces of bulletproof glass ranging in thickness from 1 to 1+13⁄16 inches (25 to 46 mm), and was then the largest piece of curved bulletproof glass ever made. Titanium armor was added to the body of the car, the standard windows were made bullet-resistant with sandwiched layers of glass and polycarbonate vinyl, and prototype aluminum run-flat tires were added. A hand-built V8 engine provided a 17% increase in power, needed due to an 25% increase in weight to 9,800 pounds (4,400 kg).

In 1967, the convertible was modified again with an upgraded air conditioning system, an openable rear-door window, and structural enhancement to the rear deck. Despite successive presidential state cars being built and delivered to the White House, the X-100 continued to be occasionally used by Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter until it was retired from service in early 1977. As of March 2021, it was publicly exhibited at The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

The license plates (DC plates, "GG-300") were removed from the X-100 when the vehicle was upgraded after the Kennedy shooting; when they were auctioned in 2015, they sold for $100,000 (equivalent to $109,182 in 2020).
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5 months ago
Beautiful car.... sad that Kennedy had his last ride with it though.
118 models | 22.3k views