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Nixon’s Limo Makes Its Final Stop at Museum

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It’s been all over the world--32 countries, to be exact--shuttling American presidents and foreign dignitaries to and from historic meetings. And though it has been retired from service for nearly 20 years, President Richard Nixon’s limousine made one final journey here Monday.

Accompanied by a roaring police detail and a pair of blue-suited Secret Service agents perched on the rear bumper, the 1967 Lincoln Continental was delivered to the steps of the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace.

Not that this car, equal parts tank and sedan, needs that much protection.

With more than 4,000 pounds of armor plating, bulletproof glass and a bubble top thicker than the protective cockpit of an F-16 fighter, it was at the time one of the safest vehicles ever built--and the most expensive.

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It cost the Ford Motor Co. an estimated $500,000 to build the car. The company leased it to the White House for $1 a year.

Dozens of presidential history buffs and some car lovers endured blazing midday heat Monday for the chance to peek at the interior or sit in the seats that carried Nixon and three other presidents to important destinations.

The limousine was originally designed for Nixon’s predecessor, Lyndon B. Johnson, whose preferred mode of transportation was a Continental sedan. He liked white convertibles, but concerns for protocol and safety dictated that this car would be a black hardtop.

Nixon inherited the car when he was inaugurated in 1969. It was passed on to presidents Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter, who used it for quick trips around the nation’s capital and state visits to destinations abroad.

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Ford Motor Co. restored the limo to its original splendor earlier this year and decided to donate it to the Nixon Library because the 37th president took it with him on some of his most historic journeys, including his first trip to China and several trips to the Soviet Union. The vehicle will remain on display in a garden next to Nixon’s boyhood home until a permanent, indoor location at the Nixon Library is chosen.

With security concerns heightened in the aftermath of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the limousine was built to be the ultimate getaway car.

Outfitted with a 340-horsepower V-8 engine, it can travel 100 mph despite weighing a hefty 11,000 pounds.

Special steel discs inside the tires will allow the car to travel 50 miles per hour even if all four tires are flattened by gunfire.

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“It has no weapons so it can’t shoot back,” one Ford executive said. “But it can certainly get away.”


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