IT IS A LITTLE known fact that JFK’s blood-soaked stretch limo was rebuilt from scratch, used by two future presidents, and is now on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Michigan.
Public interest in the killing has been reignited by the release of archive papers relating to the murder, including what happened to the presidential vehicle after Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald on 22 November 1963.
The $7,347 Lincoln Continental was originally leased by Ford to the White House for a token $500 a year and had $200,000 worth of modifications made by custom coachbuilders Hess & Eisenhardt.
The decision not to use the limousine’s plastic bubble top on the day of the assassination was not seen as a life-or-death mistake because it was not bullet-proof.
Kennedy’s Lincoln, dubbed the “Death Car” by the American tabloid press, was rebuilt after his murder and was actually used by vice-president Lyndon Johnson in his inauguration in 1965.
The limo was stripped down by a team of engineers from Ford, Hess & Eisenhardt, the Secret Service and the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company and improved beyond all recognition.
The vehicle upgrade included titanium armour for the car body, bullet resistant windows and aluminium wheel rims, so the car could speed away if the tyres were blown out by would-be assassins.
The roof was also reinforced two years later after the 6ft 4in Johnson dented it by standing up as he attended a public engagement.
The limousine was then used throughout president Nixon’s administration and the first year of president Carter’s term of office in 1977. The vehicle was retired in the same year and donated to the Henry Ford Museum where it can still be seen today.