Visiting the Presidential Vehicles Exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum

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Some truck-based, some car-based, and some horse-drawn. We explore the Ford vehicles that carried our past presidents.

Depending on your age, you’ve either seen presidential vehicles evolve quite drastically, or none at all. The ‘Presidential Vehicles’ exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, brings us the iconic machines that carried some of the most renowned commanders in chief.

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The current presidential limo dubbed “The Beast” is by all means a modern marvel. With eight-inch-thick bulletproof doors, night vision systems, and a pop-up surgical room for emergency blood transfusions or medical procedures, the Secret Service went to great lengths to avoid disaster. As you will see from these exclusive photographs, previous models were — let’s just say — less prepared.

Teddy Roosevelt’s Brougham

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Motorized vehicles began taking over America before Roosevelt’s administration, but it wasn’t until 1928 that the White House commissioned a Ford Model A from Dearborn. Before then, Roosevelt traversed the country in this Brougham, a non-custom built, horse-drawn carriage.

Despite not sporting the Blue Oval, the Brougham (pronounced broam) was given to Henry Ford at the time it was replaced by the Model A.

FDR’s 1939 Lincoln K Series “Sunshine Special”

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The V12-powered 1939 Lincoln K Series was the first purpose-built presidential limo. It’s said that President Franklin Roosevelt had a true love for the car’s convertible top. Despite being 100-percent car-based, features like reinforced suspension, brakes, a siren, and two-way radios were installed by Brunn & Company.

The Lincoln K Series was the first presidential vehicle to feature wide running boards and handles for Secret Service agents.

Eisenhower’s 1950 Lincoln “Bubble Top”

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While its official duty began at the end of Truman’s administration, the 1950 Lincoln is mostly associated with President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Plated as #US-1, “Bubble Top” was really a Lincoln Cosmopolitan heavily modified by the Hess and Eisenhardt Company.

Rumor has it that General Motors gave Truman a hard time during the 1948 election, thus choosing a Ford limo once in office.

JFK’s Lincoln Continental 4-Door Convertible “X-100”

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Of all the incredible machinery found at The Henry Ford Museum, Kennedy’s Lincoln is the most touching of them all. This is — in fact — the very same vehicle in which Kennedy was assassinated. Code-named the X-100, it was built in Wixom, Michigan in January 1961. Like previous presidential vehicles, it was modified by Hess & Eisenhardt of Cincinnati, Ohio with removable steel and transparent plastic roof panels, flashing red lights, a siren, and a hydraulic rear seat to elevate the president.

After the assassination on November 22, 1963, the X-100 underwent “Project D-2” in 1963, which saw the installation of military-grade materials and bullet-proof glass. “Project X-2” in 1967 saw the addition of thicker bullet-proof glass and other accessories. This was the first time (that was made public) a presidential limo featured heavy-duty Ford truck components for reinforcement.

The X-100 served presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter, and retired in 1977.

Ronald Reagan’s 1972 Lincoln Continental

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After JFK’s assassination things changed, and so did presidential vehicles. Reagan’s 1972 Lincoln was outfitted with military-grade armor plating, and PPG’s bullet-proof glass from the moment it was commissioned from Ford’s Special Vehicles Engineering Department.

This vehicle at the Henry Ford is the same one that carried President Reagan to the hospital, after being shot by John Hinckley on March 30, 1981.

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Photos via: [DrivesWGirls]

Jerry Perez is a regular contributor to Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Corvette Forum, and 6SpeedOnline, among other auto sites.

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