As we celebrate the birthday of our 16th president, Mr. Lincoln would be appalled to learn that Barack Obama rides in an overweight Cadillac called “the Beast.” The long tradition of Lincoln presidential limousines was broken in 1989 with Reagan and Bush the Elder. Cadillac has reigned since—probably because of Secret Service requirements, like rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, that Lincoln cars couldn’t fulfill.
The company was the first to provide specially built cars for presidents, beginning in 1939 with the “Sunshine Special” (above) used by FDR. Truman and Roosevelt used both this car and a 1942 limo (below), the first with protective armor, and Truman’s later transport was a 1950 Lincoln which looked pretty ridiculous with the bubble top in place. Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson used it too.
The 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible (later given a top) was the car in which President Kennedy was shot. This is the most affecting ( I shudder to say “popular”) of all the presidential limos because of that event and the car’s beauty and style. We associate it to an era, and its classic lines convey power and confidence.
Lincoln created a totally new car in 1969 (above) which was used by Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter, and did so again in 1972 (below). That limo remained in service for more than 10 years.
Then the 1989 car, last of the Lincolns, was used in the Reagan and Bush years. Note the two presidential seals inside, as if the occupants had to be reminded whose car this was.
Which of these would you like to have for your ride?