Probably the hardest part in choosing the best presidential limousines, is that you have to make sure the president is safe inside and at the same time people can still see him. The first presidential limousines didn’t really take this into consideration, not until 1939.
1939 Lincoln “Sunshine Special”
The first presidential ride that featured security features. The “Sunshine Special” was a specially built limo for the Secret Service’s fleet.
They used a Lincoln K-Series chassis as the base that is powered by a V12 engine. The Sunshine Special name was from the fact that the top was basically open due to security reasons. It was specially built after the fact that Franklin Roosevelt had been attempted to assassinate in 1933 while he was on the back of a very exposed Buick convertible giving a speech. The open top of the Sunshine Special was for the wheelchair-bound Roosevelt, it was convenient in getting him in and out of the car.
It has a long 160-inch wheelbase, an armored body, and large rear-hinged doors that was made by coach builder Brunn from Buffalo New York. The Sunshine Special got updated in 1942 with a new front end, more armor-plates and improved bulletproof glass replaced the old ones. When Roosevelt died in 1945, it remained as the presidential limo until 1950. The Sunshine Special is now a part of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan
It is rumored that President Harry S. Truman has a personal grudge against General Motor products because he was not allowed to use them while he was still campaigning in 1948. When he won the presidential race, he made sure it would be Ford to replace the Sunshine Special.
A stretched 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan that had a wheelbase of 145 inches was purchased from Ford with a small lease fee. A Large “bubbletop” was created and installed in 1954 when President Dwight Eisenhower noticed that he would not be seen during a rain when the top would be up. This earned the name “Bubbletop” which served the Secret Service until 1965 and is now in the Henry Ford Museum.
1961 Lincoln Continental SS-100-X
This is the car where John F. Kennedy was in when he got assassinated in November 22, 1963. It reminds us of the tragic day.
A brand new Lincoln Continental four-door convertible was used as a base. Hess and Eisenhard from Cincinnati extended the car of a total of 33 inches from the front and rear doors to add more space to the passengers cabin to make the car a true limo. A metal hoop behind the drivers head rest was placed to give the President something to hold on while standing inside the car during motorcades like what Kennedy did while he was in Germany in the summer of 1963. The rear seat was also adjustable to raise and give the people a better look at the President. It was powered by a stock 430-cubic inch Lincoln V8.
After Kennedy was assassinated, the Lincoln SS-100-X was upgraded and fitted with more armor and a permanent bulletproof hardtop to serve again in the presidential fleet. Although a new Lincoln was the official car in 1967, Presidents Johnson and Nixon still used the SS-100-X. In 1977, the SS-100-X retired into the Henry Ford Museum.
1972 Lincoln Continental
Ford Motor Company took more than 3 years to build this Lincoln. The serial numbers indicate that it is a 1970 Lincoln but the style was from 1972. This very limousine save both lives of Presidents Ford and Reagan from assassins.
During 1975 in San Francisco, an assassination attempt done by Sara Jane Moore. President Gerald Ford was secured into this 13,000 lbs. Lincoln by the Secret Service. 6 years after, the Lincoln looked like a 1978 model became a safe zone after John Hinckley tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan.
This Lincoln has a 460 cubic inch V8 engine under the hood. This Lincoln was the last presidential limo that comes with a roof opening.
During a 1975 assassination attempt by Sara Jane Moore in San Francisco, Secret Service agents pushed President Gerald Ford into this massive 13,000-pound Lincoln and to safety. Six years later, and now decorated to look like a 1978 model, the Secret Service used this car again as a safe haven after John Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan.
1983 Cadillac Fleetwood
After the Lincolns were able to serve for decades, the Cadillac was given the opportunity to make a presidential limo for the Secret Service in the early 80s. Two 1983 Fleetwoods made by Hess & Eisenhardt first appeared in 1984. The Fleetwood was stretched for 17 inches and the ceiling was raised 3 inches and was powered by a 500 cubic inch Cadillac V8 engine. Although it does not look great, the Fleetwoods gave the president excellent protection and visibility. 2 3/8th inch thick bulletproof glass was used for the large greenhouse kept cool by the air conditioning system.
One of the Fleetwoods was used in the 1993 Clint Eastwood movie “In The Line of Fire”. The other one is now part of the Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
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