People of a certain age are all too familiar with the Lincoln Continental of the early 1960s. Not because they once dreamed of riding in or owning one, but because of what happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy were riding in a navy blue ’61 Continental limousine, along with Texas governor John Connally and Connally’s wife, Nellie, when shots rang out in Dealey Plaza, killing JFK and seriously wounding the governor. What many people may not know is that the Kennedys were chauffeured in two different Lincolns on that fateful day—the blue one, of course, and a white Lincoln that transported the couple and John Connally to Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth earlier that morning.
The blue Continental is on display at The Henry Ford Museum; the white one—technically, it’s painted Ermine White—will cross the block at Bonhams’ American Presidential Experience Auction on October 14 in New York. Its pre-sale estimate is $300,000–$500,000.
“The Kennedys were as close to American royalty as we’ve ever had, so anything related to JFK is historic and valuable—just look at the monumental sale of Jackie’s stuff after she passed away,” says Dave Kinney, publisher of the Hagerty Price Guide, referring to Sotheby’s $34 million auction of her estate in 1996. “On the other hand, even with the Kennedy mystique, some people may not want something so closely related to JFK’s death. I think it’s more of a museum draw.”
The four-door convertible was less than three weeks old when it chauffeured the Kennedys. Built on November 3, 1963, it was on loan from Lincoln dealer Bill Golightly and served as an official vehicle, designated as “Limo One.” It is powered by a 430-cubic-inch V-8 engine.
Golightly sold the car to David Pelham, of Dallas, in 1964. Three years later, Pelham sold it to L.H. Hough for display in the Museum of American Tragedy. John Reznikoff bought it in 1998 and sold it for $318,000 at RR Auction’s “Camelot: 50 Years After Dallas” event in October 2013.
On the morning of November 22, 1963, the Kennedys were transported in the Golightly Lincoln from their hotel to a breakfast event, then chauffeured to Carswell Air Force Base. After a short flight to Dallas, they were picked up in the official presidential limousine, SS-100-X, which would carry them through downtown Dallas to another scheduled event. They never arrived, of course.
It was a definitive moment in American history, one that for many permanently connected the Lincoln Continental with JFK’s assassination.