More on Barrett-Jackson: JFK Ambulance a Fake?

1963 Pontiac ambulance

A woman named Addison Brown paid $120,000 (or $132,000) on Saturday for a 1963 Pontiac ambulance that was supposed to have carried President Kennedy’s body after the assassination. She was thrilled, she says, to now own “a piece of history,” and “you couldn’t say no at that price.”

Jalopnik has created a small furor in the media by challenging the authenticity of the vehicle and taking Barrett-Jackson, the auctioneers, to task for not performing due diligence. These guys have been challenged before on how they represent cars; their usual recourse is “buyer beware.”

That’s pretty much what they have done here. The more interesting question to me is not whether the car is authentic but what would move a person to buy it. Now, I wouldn’t accuse Ms. Brown of a fatal attraction, but something like that must move those who want to own things associated or involved with such horrific events.

When I was much younger, I had ambitions to someday buy a Cadillac hearse, which I thought would be a good party car. Presumably, Ms. Brown doesn’t want to hold parties in the Pontiac. She has ideas of selling it to the Smithsonian, where others of such grim persuasion can inspect it and think about JFK’s remains lying there.

We may never know whether this ambulance is real or, as Jalopnik says, “a near-perfect fake.” The auctioned car has its own respectable provenance, but whether it was the vehicle that actually carried JFK’s body may never be known. Jalopnik claims that the real ambulance was crushed at the Kennedy family’s request in 1986 and has photos and research to prove it.

1936 Oldsmobile 700If so, where did the auction car come from? Some have suggested that a second ambulance was used as a decoy in November 1963 to divert attention. Who knows? After all these years, the Kennedy assassination still keeps clamoring for our attention.

Ms. Brown would have done better buying the car at right, a 1936 Oldsmobile ambulance that a Hemmings seller has waiting in the Arizona desert. At least its former occupants are now anonymous.

Do you think Ms. Brown is an ambulance-chaser? Or does she have a bona fide historical interest?

—jgoods

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