The History of Presidential Limos

Greg Zyla
Following a recent trip to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mi., I’m moved to write about the Presidential Limos, and the history and make-up of these vehicles.
The first Presidential limo was a 1939 Lincoln V12 convertible used by Franklin Roosevelt, although following the assignation of John F. Kennedy in 1963, convertibles were no longer used. The second was a 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan, utilized by Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, followed by Kennedy’s Continental, Lyndon Johnson’s same Continental with a bullet proof bubble top and then Richard Nixon’s 1969 Lincoln. Next came a 1972 Lincoln, which served four presidents in Nixon, Ford, Carter and Regan, followed by President George H. W. Bush in a Lincoln, and then George W. Bush and Bill Clinton in Cadillacs.
The newest Presidential Limo is dubbed “Cadillac One,” and is actually a 2009 GMC full chassis with a Cadillac body. Power comes from a GM Twin Turbo diesel V8 that delivers just 7.5 miles per gallon. The estimated cost of a new Presidential Limo is now close to $400,000. (See attached drawing for more info).
Presidential Limos are amazing works of protection and innovation. The full size Lincoln that Reagan used and Obama's GMC/Cadillac weigh 13,000 pounds with passengers, much of it thanks to full military body armor, both underneath and above. The doors weigh as much as a Boeing 757 cabin door and all cars are sealed against biological attack. Shotguns are housed underneath the seats and oxygen is available if there is a gas attack while the doors are open.
In the trunk, several quarts of the President’s blood are stored and all limos (there are usually two) 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 them, pull the trigger and the bullet will not go through. Additionally, if you remember last year, President Obama’s Cadillac got hung up in the center of a small “hump” exiting Buckingham Palace while in the United Kingdom, this because of the car’s 6-ton mass.
The Henry Ford Museum has on display the original 1939 Lincoln, the 1961 Continental sans bubble top and the 1972 Lincoln. Of note concerning the Regan Lincoln, it turns out that his attempted assassin, John Hinckley Jr., was not a great shot. When Hinckley Jr. fired, the bullet that entered the President’s body was his third shot, which first sideswiped the Lincoln’s bullet proof metal and then entered the president’s armpit as he was shoved into the Lincoln. The bullet found its way through a three inch opening between the Lincoln’s “suicide” style open rear door, and is explained in detail at
If you are in Detroit, make it a point to visit The Henry Ford Museum, as it houses not only the aforementioned Presidential cars and many other manufacturer vehicles, but also features thousands of non-auto related nostalgic items including everything from the first ever Oscar Mayer Weinermobile to era dated collectibles. Then, a trip to Greenfield Village located adjacent to the museum is a must. Ford literally purchased many homes of people that impacted his life, including the birthplace of Thomas Edison (his best friend) to a favorite high school teacher. The plentiful houses were transplanted to Greenfield Village, reconstructed and are in 100-percent working order. There are restaurants on site along with rides in original Model T’s or horse drawn carriages.
Both the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village share the history of the eccentric billionaire, and zeroes in on how he spent his money “remembering the past.” Plan a full day to enjoy it all.
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