1969 Lincoln Lehmann-Peterson Presidential Limousine
The 1960s was a tumultuous decade. The civil rights movement was at its height. A war was escalating in Vietnam. Riots and demonstrations were common at universities across the country. The ‘60s also saw the assassination of our 35th president, John F. Kennedy, in 1963, and the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Real or perceived, the innocence of previous decades had come to a close.
After that fateful day in downtown Dallas, Texas, when President Kennedy was gunned down while riding in the open-top presidential limousine, transporting the president changed forever.
History of Lehmann-Peterson Coachbuilders
In 1962, a fledgling limousine company built its first limousine in a small garage on Harlem Street in downtown Chicago. Although based on a 1963 Lincoln Continental, the limousine was cut in half and stretched 34 inches. This prototype limousine was designed and built by two businessmen: George “Skip” Lehman and Robert “Pete” Peterson. Upon completion of their first limousine, the founders of the company proudly added their plaque, which read, “Executive Limousine by Lehmann-Peterson.” With a reputation for quality builds, impressive vehicles, and lasting warranties, Lehmann-Peterson soon reached success in its new industry.
Lehmann-Peterson to Supply Limousines
Impressed with the design and strength of the 1963 Lincoln Continental Limousine prototype, the Ford Motor Company reached an agreement with Lehmann-Peterson. Over the next six years, Lehmann-Peterson produced limousines for use by government officials, business executives, and numerous celebrities. The company even built a 1964 popemobile.
Following the assassination of President Kennedy, the use of open-air presidential limousines came to a rapid close. In 1964, Ford performed “The Quick Fix” on this limousine in order to continue to offer it for presidential use.
According to experts in presidential transportation, “The Quick Fix” involved swapping the convertible parade car in which Kennedy rode with a limousine made of titanium, anti-ballistic materials, and bulletproof glass. In their 2002 book, Stretching It: The Story of the Limousine, Michael L. Bromely and Tom Muzza describe the revised vehicle: “The top was fixed to the car now and included a 1,500 pound roof-mounted bulletproof glass, which unto itself cost $125,000.” Vulnerable areas were rebuilt with rare and difficult-to-acquire titanium. The authors also noted that “all told, the 1,600 pounds of additional steel armor, the bulletproof glass and other anti-ballistic materials added up to an incredible 9,500 pounds. The entire project cost more than $1 million, making the car not only the most sophisticated but the most expensive yet built.” This original Kennedy Presidential Limousine went on to be used by President Lyndon B. Johnson until it was eventually replaced in 1968. However, the limousine remained in service and performed less-important duties until 1978. It is now on display at the Henry Ford Museum.
The partnership between the Secret Service and the Ford Motor Company eventually led President Johnson to order one of the 1968 redesigned X-100 parade cars with a new bubble-glass top and five of the 1968 Lehmann-Peterson Model 90 Lincoln Continentals, which would transport the chief executive, ambassadors, visiting dignitaries, and high-ranking members of Congress throughout the remainder of his term. Due to the 15-month build time on these cars, the August 1968 delivery was postponed until October 1968 so that the new 1969 trim could be added.
The End of an Era
In 1970, Lehmann-Peterson produced only a handful of Executive Limousines before Ford, for various reasons, terminated their relationship. The business closed its doors. Moloney Coachbuilders absorbed the company’s assets and continued to make limousines based on the Lehmann-Peterson design. In 1986, Moloney Coachbuilders changed ownership and became Scaletta Moloney Armoring, which continues to produce customized vehicles that meet the unique protection needs of people throughout the world.
The Midwest Dream Car Collection Limousine
The Midwest Dream Car Collection acquired this 1969 Lincoln Continental Lehmann-Peterson Limousine in 2018. A true piece of American History, the vehicle is believed to be one of the five Model 90 Lincoln Continentals that President Johnson took delivery of on October 1, 1968. To our knowledge, this car was not officially used by the president; however, it is outfitted with numerous Secret Service modifications. The limousine was likely used by statesmen and dignitaries during the remainder of the Johnson administration and then by the Nixon administration following the January 1969 inauguration.
Prior to becoming part of our collection, this car was owned by South Dakota businessman Paul Miller, who acquired the car in 2002 from the Rockefeller Limo Stable in Virginia. With the exception of the Secret Service and those who built the car, anyone who knows more about this vehicle than Paul Miller does would be hard to find. During his years of ownership, he went through practically every square inch of the limousine. Miller and his good friend mechanical genius Tom Kruzel rewired the Lincoln and found many features that still remain a mystery. “When the car was rewired from the headlights to the back seat, the wire literally filled a 55-gallon drum stuffed tight,” Miller said. “When we got to the back seat there was a 3-inch conduit that must have had a hundred strands of wire. We’re not too sure what it was all for because many things had been stripped from the car.” Also, according to Miller, most of the Lincoln’s protective and weighty features were removed in a 1990s overhaul. However, the limousine retains its 460-cubic-inch engine; modified cam and carburetor; and C-4 transmission. This vehicle still weighs in at a stout 8,700 pounds.
Miller was fascinated by the technology and armament that had been employed to protect a president. He remarked, “When you think of what Kennedy was riding in when he got shot and the level of security they went to after his assassination, it was pretty minimal. It was like one step-up. Since then, it’s overwhelming what they have done with the security in the private limousine for the president.”
The Auto Editors of Consumer Guide. “1963-1970 Lincoln Limousine.” HowStuffWorks, HowStuffWorks, 6 Nov. 2007, auto.howstuffworks.com/1963-1970-lincoln-limousine1.htm.