Q: Greg, I am a fan of the Lincolns and Cadillacs that have been used in the presidential motorcades over the years, especially the Continentals and full-size Lincolns. I know these presidential limos have been beefed up quite a bit for safety reasons, but can you tell us more about them? I enjoy nostalgia columns and magazines like Reminisce, too.
Q: Greg, I am a fan of the Lincolns and Cadillacs that have been used in the presidential motorcades over the years, especially the Continentals and full-size Lincolns. I know these presidential limos have been beefed up quite a bit for safety reasons, but can you tell us more about them? I enjoy nostalgia columns and magazines like Reminisce, too. Dolores, email from Pennsylvania.
A: Dolores, thanks to a recent visit to The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich., I can tell you some pretty interesting facts about the presidential limos and even bits of history I didn’t know.
The Henry Ford Museum has on display the 1961 Continental that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in and also the 1972 Lincoln of President Ronald Reagan. Of note concerning the Regan Lincoln, it turns out that his attempted assassin, John Hinckley Jr., was actually a poor shot. When Hinckley fired at Reagan, the bullet that entered the president’s side first sideswiped the Lincoln’s bulletproof sheet metal just above the passenger rear wheel housing. The bullet then entered the president. Thus, had the presidential Lincoln not been built with bulletproof sheet metal, it would have penetrated the Lincoln instead.
As for the presidential cars, they are amazing works of protection and safety, and usually the Cadillac or Lincoln brand although Nixon had a Chrysler Imperial. The full-size Lincoln that Reagan used and the current Cadillac that President Barack Obama utilizes weigh over 13,000 pounds, much of it thanks to full military body armor, both underneath and above. The doors weigh as much as a 757 airplane cabin door, and all cars are sealed against biological attack. Shotguns are housed underneath the seats and oxygen is available.
In the trunk, several quarts of the president’s blood type are stored if a transfusion is necessary, and all presidential limos can fire tear gas from the front along with other ballistic capabilities. (The Secret Service won’t tell us more.) The windows are so thick you can put a high-powered rifle right up against it, and the bullet will not go through if fired. Additionally, if you remember last year, Obama’s Cadillac got hung up in the center of a small “up-down” driveway while in Great Britain, this because of the car’s 13,000-pound mass.
The first presidential limo was a 1939 Lincoln V12 convertible used by Franklin Roosevelt, although following the assignation of Kennedy, convertibles were no longer used. The current presidential limo, dubbed “Cadillac One,” is actually a GMC-based chassis with Cadillac body and is powered by a GM diesel Twin Turbo V8 engine that gets about 7.5 miles per gallon. The estimated cost of a new presidential limo is close to $400,000, and worth every penny. (See attached drawing for more info.)
If you are in Detroit, make it a point to visit The Henry Ford Museum, as it houses not only the presidential cars and other manufacturer vehicles, but also racecars and thousands of non-auto-related nostalgic items including everything from the first ever Oscar Mayer Weinermobile to era dated collectibles. It will take you at least a day to enjoy it all.
Thanks for your letter.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for Gatehouse Media and welcomes reader input at 313 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.