One clue to the car’s identity was its tag, GG 300, which has been visible on televised news reports for weeks. By the way, the car had been fitted with the grille from a 1962 Continental in addition to the enhancements needed for a presidential parade car, so a number of readers guessed the 1962 model.
Chosen randomly from the correct entries was the name of Glenn Widner, of Keysville, Ga., who identified the car and its significance, and added: “We are still asking why and what if, and movie makers and book writers have made lots of money.
“It’s one of those times when you know exactly where you were when you heard the news. I was 16, just starting study hall in S.G.A. High School in Sardis, Ga., about 1 p.m., when a teacher made the announcement. Suddenly, the upcoming basketball and baseball seasons weren’t so important anymore.”
Widner wins a gift from The Augusta Chronicle. Here are the other readers identifying the vehicle. We had to trim the comments for this page but have posted them in full online:
AIKEN: Raymond Richards pointed out that the 1961 Lincoln had the 1962 grille and the code name SS 100X and that it was the “vehicle in which JFK was assassinated.”
AUGUSTA: Walker Mobley Jr. wrote: “This is a good one! It appears to be a 1963 Lincoln Continental with some type of ‘bullet’ attachments added to each side of the stock front bumper. This is just a guess as the car shown may have been modified for a special assignment or specific reason, (as in the presidential limo).”
Norman Lewis wrote: “This week’s What Is It? caused much futile research. I finally realized the car is the specially modified Lincoln Continental convertible that President Kennedy was in when he was assassinated in Dallas. I would guess it is a 1962. The two amber lights below the headlights and above the bumper were the key identifiers.”
Dr. Dalton E. Brannen wrote: “This is the 1961 Lincoln Continental in which Kennedy was shot in 1963.”
Carolyn Ogles wrote: “Could this possibly be the model of the car or the actual car that JFK was riding in when in Dallas?”
Also from Augusta: Willie Thomas, John Hayes and Dave Brinkman.
CANTON, GA.: David Anderson wrote: “This is instantly recognizable as a ’60s Lincoln Continental and most likely recognizable to everyone as the Kennedy presidential limousine. The car is actually a stretched and customized 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible, plucked right off of the assembly line. The car was then stretched and customized by Cincinnati, Ohio, coach builder Hess & Eisenhardt, including replacing the dated 1961 grille and bumper with 1962 parts to give it a more current look.
“The car was also painted a dark Metallic Midnight Blue instead of the usual limousine black. In full sun, the car was reportedly stunning and glistened from the suspended metallic pieces in the paint.
“As delivered to Hess & Eisenhardt the car would have sold for a little more than $7,000 at a Lincoln dealer. After the customization, the car was worth more than $200,000 and, a little fact I just learned, is that Ford retained ownership of the car and leased it to the government for $500 a year.
“For all that was spent on the customization, none of it included any safety or bulletproof protective measures – it was basically one of the nicest, most expensive limousines ever made, and Nov. 22, 1963, would forever change the way the public would be able to see the president. The car was quickly whisked away that same day back to Washington, where the best techniques available in 1963 were used to collect forensic evidence.
“Since there was no backup presidential limousine, as a practical matter the car could not simply be preserved and ‘mothballed’ for however long any investigation might take. It was therefore sent back to H&E for repairs and installation of protective measures. This was done in approximately six months versus the nearly four years it would have taken to design and build a replacement.
“In the interim, President Lyndon Johnson borrowed Herbert Hoover’s limo. This hurried refitment has only served to fuel the ongoing cover-up conspiracy theories.
“When returned to presidential service, the car now had a permanent steel roof, titanium bullet-proofing, five-layer bullet-resistant glass (all stationary), and aluminum-lined tires that were the precursors to today’s run-flat tires. It was also now black after President Johnson balked at it remaining that unique ‘Kennedy blue.’
“The car remained in service until 1978, changing only slightly over the years. Johnson successfully got the right rear window altered to roll down so he could wave at the crowd, and Nixon had a hatch cut in the roof so he could stand up and wave at the crowd; however, never again would the president ride in a completely unprotectable open-top car. Upon its retirement, the car was returned to Ford, which donated it to the Henry Ford Museum, where it remains on display today.”
EVANS: Pete Schiffbauer certainly recognized the car because it had been his suggestion a week earlier to feature the vehicle to run on the Nov. 22 anniversary: “What a clever idea to put the Continental to include with the historical event!” He went on to say that on that day 50 years ago, “I was on duty at Fort Benning, at Lawson Army Airfield, and somebody came by and told me the president had been shot. In my excitement, I backed a truck into a sophisticated surveillance aircraft and did $100,000 damage.”
PJ Rodgers said: “It’s one of the most recognizable automobiles in American history. It’s the Lincoln Continental limo in which the 35th U.S. president, John F. Kennedy, was riding when he was shot and killed and Texas Gov. John Connally wounded on Nov. 22, 1963 – 50 years ago. I can remember the day as if it were yesterday.”
Wayne Wilke wrote: “That 1961 Lincoln Continental is the most recognizable car ever made since it is the car that JFK was riding in when he was assassinated 50 years ago.”
Jeff Brown wrote: “You can tell it is Kennedy’s car by the license plate, because the car was licensed as GG 300. The Secret Service called it the X-100 when referring to it. (Today is) the 50th anniversary of the assassination.
“After the assassination, the car was completely rebodied by Ford Advanced Vehicle and Hess & Eisenhardt. It was put back into service and was used by Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter before being retired in 1977. It is now in the Henry Ford Museum. The one in the museum has a different front bumper (no fog lights built in to the bumper) than the one Kennedy was assassinated in.”
Jerry Paul wrote: “Interesting; you threw us a sharp curve, I think. My guess is JFK’s 1961 Lincoln Continental limousine with a 1962 grille.”
Bill Harding wrote: “The Secret Service purchased a 1961 Lincoln four-door convertible, which had been customized by Hess & Eisenhart, of Cincinnati. Code-named the SS 100X, the front of the car had been modified with the grille, head lamps and bumpers used on 1962 models. After the assassination, the limousine was returned to Hess & Eisenhart, where it was repaired and retrofitted with full armor and a fixed roof. Used by the White House for many years, the car is now on display at the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.”
HEPHZIBAH: John Williams.
LOUISVILLE, GA.: Robert L. Holbert wrote: “It was a convertible that had a removable bubble-top which the Secret Service wanted to put on. But Kennedy said no, he wanted the crowds to see him. Incidentally, the bubble-top was not bullet-proof but it might have deflected the bullets. Ironic that the 50th anniversary would fall on a Friday. Sad and traumatic day.”
MARTINEZ: Cheryl Cook wrote: “That GG 300 tag on the front cinched it for me, plus the fact the anniversary is here. Hard to miss the Zapruder film at some point on TV this month. I was in the seventh grade and at school when we were told and I’ll never forget my teacher telling us that it was a perfect time for the Russians to attack because we had no president. Of course, we got out early, and I, along with many classmates, ran all the way home!”
Christopher March Sr. wrote: “The car is the 1962 Lincoln continental bubble-top limousine for President Kennedy. This was one of the fourth generation (1961-69). It has a 300-horsepower engine.”
Lloyd B. Schnuck Jr. wrote: “The 1961 Lincoln Continental presidential limo, SS 100X, that Kennedy assassinated in. It is in the Henry Ford Museum.”
Joe Bert said: “You have picked a very historical automobile. They had the special parade convertibles, and in 1963 that was President Kennedy’s automobile of choice and tragically, 50 years ago (today) that’s what he was riding in in Dallas, and the rest is history. That Lincoln had four doors in the convertible model and the front two doors opened up routinely and the back two doors opened suicide-style. And it’s just an awesome car.”
Jim Muraski wrote: “I believe this to be the presidential convertible that John F. Kennedy was riding in when he was assassinated in Dallas.”
NORTH AUGUSTA: Ted Wasserlein wrote: “After researching the license number, I will go with the Lincoln Continental JFK rode in when he was assassinated.”
Also, Ronnie Atkins.
PERRY, FLA.: Larry Anderson wrote: “This week’s auto is a piece of American history. It’s JFK’s presidential limo. In fact, the pic you have, is it in a motorcade (Dallas)? Armor plating increased the weight to over 7,000 pounds. But the Lincoln’s 430-cubic-inch engine was strong enough to handle the weight. What’s so sad is all the armor plating in the world didn’t do any good with the top off. I know everyone in my generation (boomer) remembers where they were that day. A terrible day in history, and let’s all hope it never happens again.
“Someone asked me a long time ago to name three things that kind of defined or was something that my generation remembered from the ’60s. I would say that it would be Kennedy’s assassination, The Beatles on Ed Sullivan and, of course, the Vietnam War.”
WARRENVILLE: James Covar said: “That is the 1961 Lincoln Continental that President Kennedy was in the day he got killed in Dallas in 1963.”
WATKINSVILLE, GA.: Joe Arp wrote: “The car appears to be the Lincoln Continental that JFK was riding in when he was shot and killed 50 year ago. Do you remember where you were when you heard the news? I was in Mrs. Weeks’ freshman English class at West Fannin High School in Blue Ridge, Ga. I remember Mrs. Weeks’ tearful announcement to the class, and that school was dismissed early that day.”
WAYNESBORO, GA.: Ken Huff.
NO CITY LISTED: Sonny Tucker said it was the “1961 Lincoln Continental convertible known as SS-100X.” Bernie Oliphant said the Continental had suicide doors and some came with a hard top. Also, Jerry Miller.